Bacteria. Yuck . . . kill it, get rid of it, get it out of my environment, right? It’s a mindset, something we have all been taught.
But, what if I told you that not all bacteria is bad for you? There is actually a plethora of bacteria that populate your skin that is good for you, so much so that without it, your immune system would not be able to properly protect you from infection and disease and your skin would be susceptible to a variety of skin ailments including acne, psoriasis, and eczema just to name a few.
Skin isn’t supposed to be a sterile surface. We all have bacteria in our bodies and on our skin, it’s there from birth. And its there to protect us. The bacteria on our skin change from day to day. Bacteria is different for different people and can be determined by factors such as how we are born, our environment, the people with whom we come into contact, and the products we use on our skin. Scientists know now that it is crucially important that we protect this good bacteria on our skin for our overall health and wellbeing.
It is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain this much needed good bacteria on our skin, these good bacteria are sensitive and can easily be destroyed leaving an abundance of the “bad” bacteria. But it should be noted that the bad bacteria are actually not bad until they no longer have the good bacteria to keep them in check. Exactly like an ecosystem in nature, our skin requires a balance of both good and bad bacteria for it to function properly. We have long been disrupting this finely balanced ecosystem that lives on our skin with the use of antibacterial products, our constant compulsion to always be clean and sanitized, and an overuse of products with preservatives in them.
How do we protect our good bacteria?
It’s no secret, we ARE obsessed with clean. We disinfect our homes, we disinfect our hands, we are clean, clean, clean. It’s time to throw all of our preconceived notions of clean = healthy right out the window. Stay away from anything called “anti-bacterial”. Triclosan, the active ingredient found in many hand sanitizers and other personal care products, is now under safety review by the Food and Drug Administration. Introduced as a pesticide in 1969, triclosan has been implicated in hormonal disruption, skin irritation, and antibiotic resistance. Also skin products that contain any amounts of water, aloe vera, apple cider vinegar, witch hazel, honey, goat’s milk, just to name a few ingredients (there are many more) need preserving. A preservative works by killing bacteria in the product, but when the product is applied to the skin, it also kills the bacteria on the skin.
So get outside! It’s time to take walks in nature, swim in a lake, play with a dog, walk barefoot, and stay away from products that kill bacteria on the skin. Just as nature’s ecosystem must maintain a fine balance with a variety of species that keep each other in check and help the whole thrive, the same is true when it comes to our skin. We must protect all of our natural bacteria in order for our overall health to thrive.