A ‘dirty’ experiment with surprising results

Back in September 2014, I read an article about a woman who started an experiment that was potentially rather smelly. She stopped taking showers and she kept it up for a month. I guess many of you are now going ‘ewwww!’ in your mind. But the results of her experiment were quite astonishing. Yes, it became a stinky experience … for 3 weeks. After 3 weeks the smell apparently went away. The reason being that after 3 weeks she had restored her natural skin micro-biome, which is the collection of bacteria that live on and in our skin. Bacteria in and on our body outnumber our human cells 10 to 1. They are much smaller than our cells though but we still carry about 6kg of them with us.

By washing us with soap and/or shower gels every day we actually launch an attack on that micro-biome, thereby inviting other bacteria to come and live with us, at least until our next shower or bath session.

After reading the article I decided to start my own experiment. I didn’t want to go as far as the woman in the article but I thought eliminating soap from my daily routine would be an experiment that was worth trying. One of the reasons I launched on this was because I was constantly having zits on my upper legs. At first I thought the skin was too greasy but washing them with extra shower gel did not bring improvement to the situation. Thus I started on the opposite path.

I was a bit anxious about it in the beginning I must say. Images of people around me making funny faces caused by my wafting odours did flash before my eyes but you can not find things out if you don’t try them. So I put my fears aside along with the shower gel bottle.

The first two weeks were the hardest. I’d smell my armpits after every shower and after two weeks I decided I’d just do one more shower with soap because, well, to my nose there was more smell there than I deemed pleasant. The surprise was that the shower gel odour was actually worse than the smell coming from my armpits. I found it too sweet and way too overwhelming! Seems my sense of smell had gone through a transition phase in those 2 weeks.

The zit situation on my legs had improved slightly by this time, only to come back right after doing the soap session.

After that, I persevered. I have been showering soap and shower gel free for several months now, while staying in Melbourne during summer.

What are the results?

When coming out of the shower and drying of I do notice there is a slight smell emanating from my armpits … if I stick my nose right into it. I have yet to meet the first person on the street who sticks their nose under my armpits uninvited.

No one has complained about body odour yet. I do ask people because I know it is not something people easily tell someone. When asked I did get the reply I smell nice on several occasions. Even from the ones who do stick their noses under my arms.

The zit problem on my legs has completely disappeared.

Apart from the obvious observations, my change in habits has some other advantages. I save money on soap and deodorants (can’t do this experiment and then mask up the results with deodorant, now can I?), thereby lessening the amount of pollution I bring to the world (every little bit helps). I save on water and time because I don’t need to put on and then rinse off soap (although I sometimes do linger under the shower just because I love the feeling of warm water running over my body). And, when dating, I don’t mask my natural odour (yes, we all have one) with artificial perfumes so that I won’t end up with someone who runs away from me as soon as I start sweating. Although not that extreme, I’ve been in a situation like it once, it is not beneficial to the relationship I can tell you.

Conclusion: the experiment produced positive results so I decided stick with the practice.

If any of you start a similar experiment I’d love to hear from you.

Also published on Medium.

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  1. you can replace the deodorant by vodka (cheaper than alcohol from the pharmacy), if you really do not like the smell of the bacteria under your arms. However, I do not know how much short term damage this does to your skin flora. By the way, did you have a try with soap from the bio-shop or did you use the stuff you can buy in the supermarket? Might also provide very different results 🙂

  2. Thanks for the tips. I came to the conclusion that I don’t need either deodorant or soap anymore though. No matter whether it’s from the bio shop or not, it still has a footprint. Every little bit helps 🙂

    • If you have tips how to get long hair good looking without soap … I am wlling to test things out

      • In the article I read the woman said that after not washing her hair for 3 weeks it actually got less greasy.

        • Hallo Stef, ik heb een gelijkaardige ervaring met het verzorgen van mijn haar. Ik douchte gedurende twee jaar met regenwater (de badkamer was nog niet af) en gebruikte dus geen shampoo , (is met koud water niet uit te wassen). Mijn haar werd erg dun en vreselijk om aan te zien 🙂 . Maar na deze droogte 🙂 zag mijn haar er erg gezond uit en het krult nu als nooit tevoren. Ik blijf nu enkel mijn haar spoelen met water (nu wel warm). Slechts uitzonderlijk gebruik ik een beetje babyshampoo…. Dus ja, de zepen en shampoo’s zijn verdwenen uit mijn leven :-).

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