A new study shows you should put down the toilet lid when flushing to avoid coronavirus and other illnesses.
- Slow-motion images show thousands of small droplets and aerosol particles flying up from a toilet during flushing.
- The bacteria in these particles can contain coronavirus and other illnesses.
- Closing the lid while flushing can prevent the germs from hitting your body or face.
Unfortunately, "less is better" is not a catchy marketing slogan.
- For his new book, "Clean: The New Science of Skin," physician James Hamblin didn't shower for five years.
- Soap is a relatively simple concoction; you're mostly paying for marketing and scent.
- While hygiene is important, especially during a pandemic, Hamblin argues that we're cleaning too much.
Doctor hasn’t showered for five years | Today Show Australia<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ec454624aa1aa3d85247410cc5f60f52"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/m1rAD62Wscg?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><h2>An obsession with soap might be creating allergies</h2><p>In the quest to protect our children against bacteria, we might inadvertently create lifelong allergies. An uptick in peanut allergies is indicative of this trend. Our skin is the first line of defense against disease, and it knows how to protect itself. In fact, the organisms and bacteria that live on our skin are doing important work; the more we wash them away, the more susceptible we become to foreign invaders. </p><p>Nut allergies might only be one consequence of overwashing. Allergic rhinitis, asthma, and eczema might in part be caused (or provoked) by too many antibacterial soaps (or soap in general). As Hamblin writes, "Soaps and astringents meant to make us drier and less oily also remove the sebum on which microbes feed." </p><h2>Your skin is crawling with mites</h2><p>Speaking of foreign invaders, skin science verifies an old Buddhist idea: there is no self. As Hamblin puts it, "Self and other is less of a dichotomy than a continuum." In fact, "you" are a collection of organisms and bacteria, including <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3884930/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Demodex</em></a>. A half-millimeter in length, these "demon arachnids" are colorless and boast four pairs of legs, which they use to burrow into the skin on our face. </p><p>Yes, all of our faces.</p><p>While these mites were originally discovered in 1841, it wasn't until 2014 that a group of researchers in North Carolina used DNA sequencing to understand their impact. Though you might recoil at the suggestion, it turns out that these critters potentially act as natural exfoliants. While housing too many of these mites results in skin disease, your face is their home. If not for them you might be even more susceptible to breakouts and infections. </p><h2>Think unchecked capitalism is bad? Thank soap. </h2><p>Soap is chemically simple. Combine fat and alkali to create surfactant molecules. The fat can be animal- or plant-based—three fatty acids and a glycerin molecule create a triglyceride. Combine this mix with potash or lye, apply heat and pressure, and wait for the fatty acids to rush away from the glycerin. Potassium or sodium binds to fatty acids. That's soap. </p><p>You actually pay for scent and packaging. In 1790, the first patent in history was approved for an ash processing method that produced soap. It wasn't an immediate hit; the balance was off. Too much lye resulted in a lot of burnt skin. A century passed before companies convinced Americans regular washing was necessary. Thanks to ingenious marketing—we still have radio-inspired "soap operas" today, though barely—soap became a must-have. A luxury became a common good. </p><p>As with everything capitalism, a little doesn't generate much revenue. Marketers convinced the public that <em>a lot</em> was needed. As Hamblin phrases it, "Capitalism sells nothing so effectively as status. And if a little bit was good, a lot would be better." Soap infected mainstream consciousness. Soon, we needed a lot of everything, all thanks to simple chemistry.</p>
A little baby is reaching out of a bath tub to get at a tablet of Pear's soap. The drawing is entitled 'He won't be happy till he gets it'! (1888)
Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images<h2>The skincare industry is almost entirely unregulated</h2><p>Hamblin tried another project for this book: he launched a skincare line. One day he went to Whole Foods and purchased raw ingredients: jojoba oil, collagen, shea butter, a few other things. After mixing them in his kitchen, he ordered glass jars and labels from Amazon. In total, he spent $150 (which included his company website) to launch <a href="http://www.brunsonsterling.com/" target="_blank">Brunson + Sterling</a>. He then posted two-ounce jars of Gentleman's Cream for $200 (on sale from $300!).</p><p>Hamblin didn't sell any jars, but that wasn't the point. At an expo, he noticed one-ounce jars of SkinCeuticals's C E Ferulic selling for $166, even though that topical acid is no more effective at improving health than eating an orange. Collagen is another hype machine. Drinking collagen does nothing for your skin as it's broken down by enzymes in your digestive tract. Even still, plenty of companies claim it gives you <a href="https://www.elle.com/uk/beauty/skin/a20764288/collagen-drinks-skincare/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">glowing skin</a> even though the charge is rubbish. </p><p>Even more incredibly, Hamblin didn't have to report any ingredients to the FDA. He also didn't need to note its effects or provide evidence of safety. He simply needed to apply for a business license. The FDA can't even make him (or anyone) recall products. The government's safety system relies on a code of honor—and there are plenty of businesses that are less than honorable. </p><p>Marketing and hype. Thanks, soap.</p><h2>Disinfectant decoy</h2><p>The ongoing joke about the happiness one derives from finding Clorox wipes in the supermarket will be with us for some time to come, as the CEO <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-clorox-wipes/clorox-wont-have-enough-disinfecting-wipes-until-2021-its-ceo-says-idUSKCN2501EU" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">announced</a> they won't have enough supply until 2021. That said, do we need to Clorox everything? Probably not, Hamblin suggests. In fact, for Clorox to work, you have to leave it on the surface for about 10 minutes. </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"The product isn't 'killing 99.9% of germs' in the way that anyone actually uses it—a quick wipe-down." </p><p>Hamblin suggests regularly wiping down your countertop with soap and water. Regularly killing germs isn't the healthiest practice. Similar to antibiotics, overuse makes cleaning products ineffective. Hamblin continues, "some chronic conditions seem to be fueled by the fact that so many of us are now not being exposed to <em>enough</em> to the world." </p><p>The takeaway: read beyond what's posted in bright shiny letters on the cover of cleaning products. And consider using them less than you might think you need. </p><h2>Animals smell. You're an animal.</h2><p>The soap advertisements that kicked off modern marketing relied on one concept: B.O. We think of body odor as a given, but that too is an invention. Our feet "smell" thanks to <em>Bacillus subtilis</em>. This bacteria has potent antifungal properties. Shoes weren't available for most of history, a period in which smelly feet bestowed a strong evolutionary trait. As Hamblin writes, we didn't evolve to <em>smell</em>, we evolved in harmony with protective microbes that we just happen to find unpleasant. </p><p>While a number of players in the wellness and skincare industries likely have good intentions, so much of what is sold is unnecessary, and even damaging. The marketing machine makes us feel "less than" in order to sell us products that complete us. As Hamblin concludes, evidence-based companies would take an opposite approach to skincare and hygiene: less is more. As that will never produce million-dollar companies, we continue to sacrifice health in the name of branding.</p><p> --</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a> and <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Facebook</a>. His new book is</em> "<em><a href="https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08KRVMP2M?pf_rd_r=MDJW43337675SZ0X00FH&pf_rd_p=edaba0ee-c2fe-4124-9f5d-b31d6b1bfbee" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy</a>."</em></p>
Humans are woefully unaware of their olfactory sense. That's the reality we've been sold.
- Scent provides valuable information about personality traits and attractiveness.
- Since the 1920s, companies have made us anxious about our odor in order to sell us their products.
- Our disdain of personal smell is related to our fear of aging and death.
Dr. Stuart Firestein: The Limits of Our Sense of Smell<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="a829e082cab0a6b60ca47868b27cfc84"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/IPflaQgs7bo?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>Ashenburg's book begins in the Roman bathhouses. She traces cleanliness rituals throughout time in that context. With the introduction of germ theory, it slowly dawned on Europeans and Americans—while the book is global, she mostly focuses on these geographical regions—that blocked pores were not doing much good in keeping disease away. As the Age of Industry commenced, workers packed into warehouses and on shipping docks began noticing their co-workers' scents. A new industry was born.</p><p>Two, in fact. As Ashenburg writes, "toilet soap and advertising grew up together." Both had long existed, but with the introduction of germ theory into the popular vernacular, these strange bedfellows united. The race to sell began. As everyone now knows, if you can corner a new market, you'll make bank. </p><p>Such was the case when Lambert Pharmaceutical's president, Gerald Lambert, picked out "halitosis" from his chemists' list. He wanted to aggressively market one of his company's oral antiseptics. For the next five years, Listerine's ads were devoted to defining halitosis, telling prospective customers that failed job offers and divorce are due to bad breath. The ploy worked. In 1921, Listerine brought in $115,000 in sales. Seven years later it topped $8 million. </p><p>Around the same time, a copywriter named James Webb pumped out ads for his employer, J. Walter Thompson, claiming that women's armpits stunk. He lost a lot of dates. Yet within a year of that campaign, his client, Odorono—say it aloud—watched their profits increase by 112 percent. As Ashenburg writes, </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"The success of the Odorono ad and the deluge of deodorant advertisements that followed say much about the decade's willingness to broach taboo subjects and its growing intolerance of secretions and smells." </p>
Associate Brand Director of P&G's Secret Deodorant Sara Saunders speaks onstage during The 2020 MAKERS Conference on February 11, 2020 in Los Angeles, California.
Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for MAKERS<p>By 1932, the American author, Sophia Hadida, made a big splash with her book on manners. She coined a new term, Body Odor, which has been embraced as B.O. ever since. An entire market opened up for deodorants, soaps, perfumes, and men's and women's grooming products, all designed to maximize profit thanks to our growing anxiety. </p><p>Which is why I asked that question on social media. Among animals, humans have a woefully poor sense of smell. As bipeds, we began relying on sight and touch while neglecting our olfactory skills. As such, we've evolved with 20 million smell receptors. Not bad, until you consider that your dog has <a href="https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/science-sushi/the-nose-knows-telling-age-based-on-scent/" target="_blank">11 times that number</a>. Smell still guides our life in many ways, including the lovers we choose and the business partners we trust.</p><p>This is a different sensibility than the marketing blitz that began a century ago. Smell informs. Disguising or erasing your scent does the opposite. Thanks to the anxiety peddled by companies pushing their products, we've decided it's better to remain ignorant. With that, we've lost a lot of data about our world. </p><p>Aging is one particularly problematic smell to some. Researchers <a href="https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1999-jul-14-mn-55812-story.html" target="_blank">have long worked</a> on ridding us of this burden. Yet aging shouldn't be seen as a burden. In fact, the insane idea that <a href="https://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/texas-dan-patrick-many-seniors-willing-sacrifice-economy-n1167521" target="_blank">sacrificing our eldest for the sake of the economy</a> is good stems from a longtime existential distress regarding aging and death. Our smell <a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0038110#abstract0" target="_blank">changes as we age</a>, sure, which is called biology. It's useful information, such as <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/per.848" target="_blank">assessing personality traits</a> and <a href="https://www.nature.com/news/2001/010308/full/news010308-10.html" target="_blank">detecting immune system capabilities</a>.</p><p>While everyone smells, women have been especially affected by this marketing phenomenon. Women <a href="https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00242/full" target="_blank">generally have a better olfactory sense</a> than men, but that comes at a cost. For example, Ashenburg writes that the sexual revolution of the sixties was especially confusing thanks to an advertising rush of feminine hygiene products.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Sex is natural and wonderful, but the 'natural you' needs to be sprayed to be wonderful. Sex is natural and wonderful, but it leaves a woman in urgent need of washing, powdering, spraying, and douching. Sex is natural and wonderful, but it means that you can be rejected on the most intimate level."</p><p>There is no easy response to this dilemma. Sitting next to someone of a particular odor on a plane is not enjoyable. Social mores still matter. But we have to wonder why we cover up or disguise our scent so often. It provides valuable information, but more importantly, it's who we are.</p><p>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a> and <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a>. His next book is</em> "Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</p>