Dr. Al Danenberg ● Nutritional Periodontist
September 18, 2022
In case you missed it, in last week’s blog we looked at chemicals in our personal hygiene products that can be wreaking havoc on our skin and penetrating into our body tissues. Since your skin serves as a protective barrier, efficient and effective personal hygiene habits are a must to maintain that healthy barrier.
Unfortunately, common hygiene products for the skin, the hair, and the mouth aren’t only unnecessary, but they can be harmful because of the toxic chemicals that make up their ingredients. Yet, if you immediately stopped all the chemical products, most likely you would notice some uncomfortable changes.
If you stopped showering with unhealthy soaps and shampoos, your skin and hair will probably feel a little greasy and dirty at first. You may become aware of some body odors, which may not be pleasing immediately. It will take time for the good bacteria that interacts with your skin and sweat to repopulate to a healthy balance. But eventually, your body will adjust if your diet and gut microbiome are healthy.
It may take a few weeks for you to get the surface of your skin in balance. For others, it may take many months. Stick with it. With a healthy gut microbiome and diet, offensive body odors will be a thing of the past. You may not be familiar with your own natural body odors, but they are pleasant and neutral to the senses.
Beware of products that are used in commercial hair and nail salons as well as “health” spas. These chemicals may be highly toxic. However, more health-conscious commercial salons and spas are popping up all over. Be sure to inquire about the products they use. Be proactive.
Let’s talk about specific personal hygiene actions to consider for various areas of your body:
The best way to clean your skin is to use filtered water and a washcloth. Water with a washcloth will rinse away dirt and dead cells without stripping vital oils from your skin. Just a few minutes in the shower is enough to do an efficient job. Longer showers might dry out your skin.
While cleaning your body, don’t forget to clean the “folds” in your skin. For example, the folds of skin around your ears and belly button will harbor potentially pathologic microbes if you forget to clean these hidden surfaces. And don’t forget the folds of skin around the genital areas.
If you want, you could use a mild cleanser instead of just water. One mild-cleanser method is “oil cleansing”, which is done with pure oils and a washcloth dampened with warm water. The oil will lift excess sebum (the oily substance produced by glands on your skin), clean out clogged pores like blackheads and whiteheads, remove dead skin as well as toxic pollutants and makeup, and will help hydrate the skin.
Two perfect oils to use are either olive oil, avocado oil, or both mixed together. In the shower, place the oil on a moistened washcloth and wash your body. Don’t scrub hard. Then rinse. Be sure to have a slip-proof mat on the shower floor so that you don’t slip on an oily surface.
In addition to oil cleansing, you could use “dry brushing” to remove additional dead cells. It is an effective way to remove dead skin cells and dirt from the surface of your skin, while also promoting the production of healthy oils. Dry brushing is simple to do. Use a natural fiber brush with a long handle to brush your dry skin. Be sure to be gentle and avoid any areas of skin irritation.
- Start at your feet and move up your body.
- Brush your skin using wide, circular motions.
- Use light pressure in areas where your skin is thin and harder pressure on thicker skin, like the soles of your feet.
- Brush your arms after you have brushed your feet, legs, and mid-section. You should brush upward towards your armpits.
- After dry brushing, take a shower to help remove the dead skin cells.
- Following your shower, you could apply various natural oils to moisturize your skin (ex: olive, avocado, or coconut oil).
If you are concerned that your skin microbiome may be damaged, you may be interested in Mother Dirt, which makes products to help restore the normal microbiome to your skin if necessary.
Speaking about the skin, here is my take on tattoos. They are loaded with potentially toxic chemicals – and even some heavy metals. Dyes in tattoos have been linked to skin cancer. I wrote about tattoos way back in 2017.
If you want to use a deodorant, I recommend using coconut oil. It acts as a moisturizer as well as a mild antimicrobial. In addition, when you use a small amount, and rub it into the armpit area, it is absorbed quickly and does not leave a slimy or uncomfortable feel. If you want a little more antimicrobial protection, add a “dab” of baking soda to the coconut oil before you apply it to your armpits. This will not stop you from sweating, but sweating is a biological process that is necessary.
Humans are designed to sweat, but a metabolically healthy person will not produce offensive odors. Therefore, a commercial deodorant would be unnecessary.
However, if you still prefer a commercial deodorant product, Pretty Frank is a company you may want to investigate.
Read my 4 Steps to a Healthy Mouth, where I discuss why and how to have a healthy mouth.
You only need water to brush your teeth correctly and effectively. You could add a pinch of Himalayan salt to the water. You also could brush after you dip the toothbrush bristles into a little baking soda, which will neutralize excess acid in the mouth as well as remove superficial stains on the surface of your teeth.
If you’re looking for a commercial toothpaste, one of the best which is healthy and helps balance the oral microbiome is Revitin.
Here is another substance you can use as a toothpaste, but it may surprise you.
Research has shown that raw honey is effective at removing potentially harmful bacteria and preventing tooth decay and gum disease., Honey has over 200 known biologically active substances – yet many more probably will be discovered in the future. While all raw honey is effective, most of the medical research has shown the superiority of Manuka honey because of some of its unique, biologically active compounds.,
If you want to use a mouthwash occasionally, use some coconut oil and swish it around for a minute or so. Then, spit it out (called Oil Pulling). If you use coconut oil as a mouthwash, be sure to spit it out into a napkin or paper towel and throw it in the trash. If you spit coconut oil into your sink, it could clog up the pipes! By the way, raw honey is also an excellent choice for a mouthwash.
In Part 1, I mentioned several caustic elements that are in many commercial shampoos. You may be using some shampoos that include these unhealthy chemicals. There are better choices.
In a moment, I’ll make a suggestion which may surprise you. But to help you transition from a caustic and damaging shampoo to a healthier solution that I’ll describe below, you may want to choose from these more healthy and biologically compatible shampoos:
Now, for the surprise. Here’s a better choice to clean and revitalize your hair – raw honey.
Raw honey is a natural humectant that retains moisture and is loaded with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and other biologically active ingredients. To use honey as a shampoo, simply mix some raw honey into half-a-cup of warm water. Apply the mixture to your hair like you would any traditional shampoo, and then rinse well.
Now, before you doubt me and my extraordinary claims about honey, consider this: the emollient properties in honey smooth out your hair follicles, and when combined with its humectant properties, it locks in shine and can restore the natural luster of your hair. Who doesn’t want great looking, healthy hair?
Use a gentle nail brush to get to those surfaces that can trap foreign matter. Also, cutting nails regularly is an important personal hygiene activity. This will help maintain cleanliness as well as prevent hangnails, breakage, and other potential damage to your nails.
If you use the conventional antimicrobial products to wash your hands on a regular basis, you will severely damage the skin on your hands and around your nails. This has become a problem currently because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the emphasis on antimicrobial hand sanitizers.
You only need to wash your hands for 10-20 seconds with cold or warm water to remove pathogenic species.
Here’s a better idea. Think about washing your hands frequently with raw honey and water. Just like using honey as a shampoo or a toothpaste, honey is a perfect cleanser. It helps to fight infection and to prevent the overgrowth of harmful bacteria. Just lather up and wash for 10-20 seconds. It does not matter if you use cold water or hot water.
If you have vaginal concerns, eating a nutrient-dense diet and maintaining a healthy gut microbiome are important.
If you have an infection called “vaginal candidiasis”, applying only honey to the area or applying a mixture of honey and yogurt has been shown in medical studies to be as effective as, but safer than, using fungicides or other antimicrobial chemicals. Although all raw honey has demonstrated significant healing qualities, I would recommend Manuka honey because of the abundance of published scientific research, which I discussed earlier.
Our human machine is protected to some extent by an external barrier. I’ve discussed some of the barriers that protect us as well as some of the products we place on our body that may or may not help to protect us. Personal hygiene is personal.
I’ll repeat what I said in Part 1: Specific guidelines to avoid toxic elements that could enter the body remain a priority. Anything that disrupts the natural microbiome should always be avoided. Our body functions and thrives by homeostasis – an intricate state of balance. I have given you some of my thoughts, but this is far from complete.
As always, I encourage you to do your own research. Take the time to investigate the ingredients in your personal care items. Experiment and figure out what works for you. Save this blog for reference later. And remember, everything in your body is connected.
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