What’s in it for me? Find out how our modern idea of extreme hygiene might be doing more harm than good.

Imagine a world in which everyone stopped showering. Disgusting, right? But wait. What if that world was actually better for our health? 

Believe it or not, after talking to microbiologists, dermatologists, and historians, author James Hamblin has found that we may all be too clean. Of course, we should still wash our hands to stop the spread of infection, especially during a pandemic. But our fixation on almost clinical cleanliness may well be compromising our immune systems.

Why did we start washing ourselves so thoroughly, anyway? Like so many things, the rise of soap coincided with the birth of capitalism. Nearly two centuries ago, clever marketing convinced us that we needed to “fight germs.” Since then, advertisers have only grown more sophisticated at convincing us to buy skin care products. They promise us cleanliness, health, and beauty.

But medics are now beginning to understand the importance of our skin’s natural microbiome – all those bacteria that live on the outside of our bodies. 

Science already knows that a diverse microbiome is crucial for our gut. But it’s also important for the skin. And there’s no way you can build up this diversity if you seal yourself away with soap. 

In these blinks, you’ll learn

  • how soap companies were the first to blend advertising and entertainment with things like soap operas;
  • why the Amish have such low rates of allergies and asthma; and
  • why dogs might be able to detect disease based on changes in our skin microbiomes.