A Short History of Squeaky Clean Skin & Why It's Not All Great

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How we got to the soap we know but shouldn't always love. 

Ancient Soap

Soap, which has been produced for thousands of years, was an obvious choice for this new paradigm in creating household essentials. If we revived soap in its ancient form, we might be tempted to mislabel it a moisturizer, as historians have found documented ingredients to be mainly fats, oils and salts. 

"...The first recorded use of soap is in Phoenician times, although the use of oil and a scraper, known as a strigil, was a more common way of cleaning the skin in the Greek and Roman eras..."[Ref]

 Figure 1. Ancient Roman soldier taking a bath with ancient soap at their famed bathhouses. 

Figure 1. Ancient Roman soldier taking a bath with ancient soap at their famed bathhouses. 

 


Modern Hygiene Practices (including soap) 

Modern hygiene has prevented so many preventable deaths thanks to the tireless work of many scientists. "The work of Leeuwenhoek, Koch and Pasteur made visible the microbial agents of disease. Snow showed how they could be transmitted in populations."[Ref]

Their discoveries translate into the common practices that have become plain old "common sense" types of knowledge. Washing your hands to prevent the spread of germs. Flushing a toilet. 

gold-toilet.jpg

24 Karat Magic

The pinnacle of modern hygiene, made from solid gold. Formerly on exhibit at the Guggenheim, by the artist Maurizio Cattelan. 

Rebalancing our Understanding of Hygiene

Those made sense. And then modern technology made it possible for  us to take soap one step further, creating soaps designed to kill all microbes on the skin, or completely remove natural oils.

This seems to have been driven by a common trap that many of us fall into, that more is more, and that removing more of everything from our skin will lead to even better hygiene than with regular old boring soap. 

Continued research is beginning to show that there are definite side effects to this approach for hygiene on a daily basis. The growing threat of superbugs, which are strains of bacteria that have evolved to survive antibacterial ingredients, eventually led to the FDA banning antibacterial soaps. 

How this relates to your beauty regime

In general, antibacterial cleansing products are not marketed to people for use on their face.  However, there have been plenty of face-specific products marketed for people with various conditions such as acne that have received bad reviews for not curing their acne, and giving them dry skin.

Even regular facial cleansers that give you a tight-face feeling are likely disrupting your skin's moisture barrier, which is part of your body's way of defending its largest organ. 

Your Skin's Unique Microbiome

The balance of each person's microbiome is unique to them as an individual, and can change over time depending on internal and external events. Your skin's microbiome is basically like a microscopic ecosystem, and different things will affect its balance. Like, applying soap, or getting really sick. Pretty much any event that occurs as you live your day-to-day life. 

This became such a critical part of developing our brand, not only for the cleansing products but for anything applied to the skin. The modern approach to hygiene includes staying clean, but our understanding of what that means for that vast majority of people is shifting to a much gentler approach than before.