People do weird things to their bodies, but when a doctor does it it's extraordinary. Dr. James Hamblin did not soap his body for five years — in an attempt to save money and time — but mostly to allow the microbiome of his skin to thrive. Here is what happened to him.
Hamblin started the project when he first moved to a small apartment in Brooklyn, New York, at the start of his medical career. In his book Clean, he explains that part of it was related to cost reduction and time savings. He said he realized that if he bathed for about 30 minutes a day, he wastes almost two years of his life. However, the essence of the project is really biological.
"I reduced a lot in my life, and at the same time, I started learning about the microbiome of the skin," Hamblin said in an interview with Today two years ago.
"Just like the gut microbiome, we have trillions of bacteria living inside us and all over our skin "It has led to some experiments in trying to see exactly what the purpose is of our hygiene, grooming habits and cleaning is, if in fact we’re covered in bacteria all the time, most of which are perfectly healthy and even beneficial to us."
Has this been done before?
Hamblin is not the first academic to conduct such an experiment.
David Whitlock, a chemical engineer in the US has used spray with live bacteria instead of a shower for the past decade refraining from using soap or water. He has claimed that, with this method, he did not need skin cream and it helped heal the acne and eczema from which he suffered.
There are researchers who think that people shower too often and harm their own microbiome, which can potentially beneficial bacteria that play a role in skin health.
There’s even evidence that conditions like acne can be caused in part by a disruption to the normal microbiome of the skin. But of course there are downsides to not showering other than the fact that it’s disgusting and smelly.
Since Hamblin is a doctor, he continued to wash his hands, for the sake of hygiene and because of the coronavirus pandemic.
However, he discovered that the body odor he had when he was showering wasn’t noticeable during the years when he did not shower at all. "My skin slowly became less oily, and I got less eczema spots," he told the Guardian, "I didn’t smell like pine or a lavender bush, but neither did I smell like onions," he said.
Still, would he recommend others to take the plunge and go for a lifestyle without showers?
"I'm not here to recommend this approach to everyone. In many ways it was terrible," he said, "but it also changed my life."