Is America's Cleanliness Habit Wreaking Havoc On Your Health?

Is America's Cleanliness Habit Wreaking Havoc On Your Health?
Getty

If you grew up in America, chances are that you are clean to the point of being unhealthy. Think about it: you wake up each morning, hop into the shower and don't think twice. You have a long day and feel kind of gross and wash it all away with a soothing bath. You sanitize your hands before your sashimi dinner. You use anti-bacterial body cleansing wipes in the summer to avoid one of the most damning backstabbers residing within yourself: bacne.

Engaging in these rituals is just another part of being human, right? I mean, doesn't everyone shower daily and wash their hands every chance they get? Well...

Let's look at the numbers: the average American showers 7 times per week, while the other parts of the world, like China, Britain and Japan jump into the steamy room of scrub-a-dub only 5 times weekly. Sure, people in France and Spain shower daily like us, but very seldom do they shampoo or body wash. Instead, think of it as a quick rinse.

What's the problem with all of this perceived cleanliness? Sometimes the naturally occurring oils in our skin and scalp shield us from infection or illness, and when we scrub ourselves overly-clean too regularly, we're stripping ourselves of those essential oils.

"Daily washing is not necessary for most people," dermatologist Dr. Tsippora Shainhouse asserts. "It washes off natural oils, and leaves skin dry and at risk for irritation." She recommends showering every other day to rid yourself of dead skin cells and body odor. The exception to this rule is if you are breaking a sweat for an hour or more per day. 

Okay, so you're down to showering only 3 times per week, and so you wear more antiperspirant because, well... you care about having friends. Here's another catch: if you're using anything but a natural brand, chances are you're subjecting your delicate and susceptible underarm glands to aluminum, parabens and phthalates which are all known to disrupt the homeostasis of your hormones

Are you also the type to brush your teeth twice a day, or after most meals? Beware of doing so after ingesting anything acidic like coffee or oranges, since brushing right after can actually erode your teeth by pushing the acid into your gums and the top layer of your enamel. 

The cleanliness movement may mean well, when in actuality, it's overplayed. Take a cue from the habits of Americans to keep hygienic, with the awareness that if you adopt the habits verbatim, counter to your intuition, your health may be compromised. 

Click here to get alerts of the latest stories