All the most beautiful-haired celebrities have been surprisingly upfront lately about how rarely they wash their hair. Connie Britton, whose hair is so beautiful it has its own Twitter account, says she washes her gorgeous red mane maybe once a week, tops. Amanda Seyfried looks like angels spin her hair out of gold while she’s sleeping, and she says she washes her hair maybe twice a week, using a bit of dry shampoo in between if she thinks it’s necessary. But what works for our hair might actually work for our skin, too, because now some experts are advocating giving up face-washing entirely and letting some helpful bacteria do the work.
In the New York Times today, science writer Julia Scott says she was talked into spending a solid month as a test subject for AOBiome’s “living bacterial skin tonic.” She stopped washing and instead sprayed herself with living, ammonia-oxidizing bacteria twice a day while scientists monitored her skin. Miraculously, none of her coworkers noticed. While her hair got greasier, her skin eventually started getting much better. She writes:
“My skin began to change for the better. It actually became softer and smoother rather than dry and flaky, as though a sauna’s worth of humidity had penetrated my winter-hardened shell. And my complexion, prone to hormone-related breakouts, was clear. For the first time ever, my pores seemed to shrink. As I took my morning ‘shower’ — a three-minute rinse in a bathroom devoid of hygiene products — I remembered all the antibiotics I took as a teenager to quell my acne. How funny it would be if adding bacteria were the answer all along.”
It sounds like the secret to clear skin could actually be coating oneself in friendly bacteria. Huh.
At the end of the month-long experiment, Scott retrieved the cooler full of cleansers and beauty products she’d stashed at the beginning of the trial, but at that point she couldn’t stand the chemical smell of any of them.
“On the last day of the experiment, I opened it up, wrinkling my nose at the chemical odor. Almost everything in the cooler was a synthesized liquid surfactant, with lab-manufactured ingredients engineered to smell good and add moisture to replace the oils they washed away.”
She wound up tossing the lot of them and switching to a basic soap and a fragrance-free shampoo with as few ingredients as possible.
It does make sense when you think about it. Sometimes it seems like we’re all trapped in an endless cycle of scrubbing away the oils in our skin, then trying to get them all back in again with moisturizers. Maybe instead of spending money on another product to fix a problem that might have been created by other products, it would be better to step back and see what happens if we just let
As to what this means for one’s own life, well, I’m probably not going to coat myself in living bacteria any time soon, though yogurt does make an excellent face mask. But Scott’s story has convinced me to start experimenting with washing my face as little as possible. I’ll just have to cross my fingers that I wind up with smaller pores, and smoother, younger-looking skin the way she did. If it works, maybe I’ll even join the no-shampoo movement, too.