We are all told that being cleaner is better. But is there such a thing as being too clean, and washing too much?
It turns out…Yes, there is, and I found out the hard way. During my teenage years, I developed OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) and it stayed with me for a year and a half. I consider myself lucky in fact, that it only lasted this amount of time. However, by the time I eventually freed myself from the illness, it had already left a permanent mark. My compulsions included wiping my hands with sanitary wipes 25 times on each finger before eating a meal, cleaning my hands for 3 minutes straight and washing after any strange substance touched my hand (even if it was harmless)!
Where has this gotten me today? Well, my hands constantly appear red and inflamed. Even when I’m cold, they never cease to look burnt, irritated and downright unhealthy. They are dry all the time and often crack. They’re usually not painful at all, but they look it and I’m constantly questioned by concerned acquaintances as to whether my hands are alright. But I caused this myself, through the excessive amount of time that I spent washing my hands over and over and over.
But you’re probably wondering how washing with soaps labeled ” Skin friendly,” ” Natural” and “Gentle on Skin” can lead to this amount of damage to one’s skin? The science is fairly simple. Your skin has a natural layer of oils which the body produces. This acts as a barrier to protect your skin from the elements and substances in the environment which could harm you… after all, your skin is incredibly absorbent! The soaps that we use nowadays strip these natural oils along with any germs from your skin. So you’re essentially washing your body’s protection down the sink! Antibacterial soaps are thought to be the most detrimental to your skin, as many contain the chemical Triclosan. Triclosan is a powerful antibacterial chemical (and pesticide)… so powerful in fact that it doesn’t discriminate which particles it targets. In fact, it will readily get rid of all the oils and good bacteria on your skin along with the bad. It’s also worth mentioning that it’s been linked to several major health concerns.
Your body can produce these oils again and replenish the layer. However, in our sanitized modern world we are washing our skin increasingly often, giving the body little time to fix its defenses. We are unconsciously, gradually causing damage to our precious skin… and all in the name of being more healthy.
How to avoid dry skin: So for you to be able to remain clean and germ-free while having healthy skin, I will list the ways I have dealt with my own skin issue. I have also included some that I researched as well, in case the ones I used didn’t work.
- Hand cream: Find a naturally based hand cream. I like to use local producers and was lucky enough to have access to a place called the Herb Pharmacy in the U.K. However, most places carry brands like Dr. Hauscka. If not, seek creams with ingredients that you can pronounce, and that come from plants. I apply mine 1-2 times a day now. But if your hands are already extremely dry, I found that healing only happened when I was applying the cream every 1-2 hours. It really does take a lot to reverse damage like this.
- Healthy Fats: Eating healthy fats is essential to maintaining your skin health, as they contribute to the production of the all-important oils. Omega 3s are probably the most important type of fat for skin health and there are a lot of vegan options for getting your daily dose. Add a spoonful of flax to your smoothie, or make a chia seed pudding (We have plenty of recipes). You could also incorporate more leafy greens, and seaweed is a nutritional powerhouse. Upping my fat intake and choosing my fats carefully was a game-changer in my healing process. I particularly liked adding hemp and flax seeds to things because it’s super easy!
- Take an Oatmeal Bath: I kid you not that I used to bathe weekly in oatmeal… well, kind of anyway. An oatmeal bath is made by wrapping oats in a muslin cloth and putting it to soak in a bathtub of warm water. The oats release a milky white liquid which mixes with the water. The soaked oat water is filled with anti-oxidants and has anti-inflammable properties. This one is less a treatment and more a way to soothe any pain associated with the irritation of the skin. But I can vouch for its effectiveness, at least in my case. For many people I have met, it is a tried and tested home remedy which has been passed down through generations.
Maybe because of this article you will have a closer look at the ingredients in your soap, or perhaps reduce the number of times you wash your hands during the day. For those that already suffer from this, don’t worry. There are many ways to treat this and return your hands to health, using natural methods.
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Photo: Brad Helmink via Unsplash; Toa Heftiba via Unsplash; Drew Hays via Unsplash.