MadSci Network: General Biology

Re: Is soap and shampo healthy to your body and hair?

Date: Wed Dec 22 00:09:39 1999
Posted By: Artem Evdokimov, Postdoc
Area of science: General Biology
ID: 937759172.Gb

Dear User,

It may or may not be better to wash one's hair and body, but unless you are 
a violent sociopath, you should consider doing so, especially if you are 
planning to participate in recreational socializing with the members of 
opposite sex.

Seriously now...

Generally, soaps and shampoos are beneficial for normal, i.e. fairly oily 
skin. Excessive oil clogs the pores and can cause severe acne, which can 
become a serious problem. As far as hair is concerned, humankind washes  
since time immemorial (for example, ancient egyptians already had very 
sophisticated mixtures and ointments used to clean hair and skin). If the 
skin is dry, and the hair is brittle than perhaps a special, moisturizing 
shampoo and soap would be useful, but the skin and hair should still be 
washed regularly. 

One may argue that prehistoric men and modern tribal people often go for 
months without taking a bath, without apparent ill effects but then one 
should remember that we, unlike the prehistoric men, live in conditioned, 
closed environment and are not exposed to all the violence of Nature. The 
oil which normally protects the skin and hair is not shed, oxidized or 
otherwise removed naturally and has to be washed off lest it menaces our 
health and offends other people. 

In general, modern soaps and shampoos are designed to clean and refresh 
skin and hair without causing excessive dryness. Everyone should use his or 
her own best judgement as to what kind of shampoo or soap to use - and if 
in doubt, consult a doctor (not a hairdresser). At any given time, there's 
always a variety of half baked theories dealing with personal hygiene. 
These theories advocate the benefits of ultra-"naturalism" (e.g. not 
washing or not wearing clothes) or ultra-cleanliness (such as shaving all 
the body hair off and powdering the whole body with antiseptic) but one 
should always take such theories with a grain of soap :)

As a parting word, one should consider a giant sloth, the only known (at 
least to me) case of symbiosis between an algae and a mammal. The sloth 
grows tiny algae in the hollows of the hair, providing a secluded 
environment with sunlight and food - and no competition. The algae in turn 
colors the hair green, which helps to camouflage the animal. As you can 
see, the words "potatoes in the ears" may mean more than idle warning.

Most of the above is a personal opinion, based on personal experience and 
literature research. Hope it helps.


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