Humans evolved over a half-million years with body chemistry that produces breast milk for babies that is far superior to any nutrient that can be made in a factory. Mother's milk not only provides food and drink, it is also loaded with vitamins, minerals, antibiotics, enzymes and all kinds of other requisites for a baby's growth and health. Of course, the same thing applies to all mammals.


Then in the 1950's there developed a program ' I don't want to quite call it a conspiracy, but it was not far from that ' between the baby food manufacturers, pharmaceutical distributors and doctors to convince mothers that store bought formula was better for babies. For some unfathomable reason, millions of modern, educated young mothers believed that crock and stopped breast feeding. I know ' my brothers and sister and I were among those babies, and I helped to bottle feed formula to my younger siblings.

Nobody knows how much, if any, the next several generations of babies were stunted by that program. But they certainly suffered some degree of slower development and more illnesses. There was no reason on God's green earth to stop breast feeing. But many people did; and they wasted untold millions of dollars on formula. Thankfully, practically all doctors now advise their pediatric patients to breast feed. The few who don't usually have some nursing problem.

Similarly, humans evolved over a half-million years with body chemistry that produces natural emollients for our hair and skin which are superior to anything that can be made in a factory. Shampoo and soap simply strip off those emollients, and then conditioner and lotions put them right back. But the replacement products are less effective, and at the cost of all the wasted money used to purchase the products. I know ' I have tried the regimen of skipping both sets of products with success.

At some point in my 20's, during numerous beach trips, camping and swimming and surfing outdoors for days on end, I instinctively figured out that the best way to protect my skin from the exposure to wind, sun and salt was to rinse off with fresh water, but to leave the natural skin oils there. To achieve this healthy condition, I had to stop using soap and shampoo. I needed to leave the patina, or sheen of natural emollients, on my skin.

I learned that, like American Indians and most other native cultures - who had no such thing as soap, but kept clean and healthy anyway ' that there are other ways to stay fresh. The sun and wind left me smelling clean, and the scouring of waves and sand, or my own hands scrubbing under the shower, took off any build up of dirt. The only other thing I needed was a fresh water rinse a couple times a day.

And talk about body! My hair had so much body ' as the Spanish say, grueso - that it took a salad fork to comb it.

Back home, with some modifications and exceptions, I learned that the same principles apply. We can all save a lot of money, and reduce a large burden on our sewage treatment plants and garbage dumps, by skipping all the soaps, shampoos, conditioners and lotions; and instead following a practice similar to my beach regimen.

I know, I know, I am truly like John the Baptist: a lonely voice crying in the wilderness. The vast majority of the persons reading this article will blow off what I am saying as the raving of a lunatic. Most persons, particularly women, are so unalterably wedded to their daily ablutions and toiletry regimens that, if I try to discuss this stuff with them, they look at me like I have sprouted two heads. I don't expect a single other soul to practice what I am preaching.

But still. I am not making this stuff up. Besides working perfectly well for me, I have recently read some respectable articles in books and magazines, written by famous outdoor explorers and naturalist researchers, who said the same thing. Leaving your natural oils in your skin has been scientifically proven to be superior to any store bought soap followed by store bought lotion.

So there. Maybe some day, in your nursing home, you will realize how dry and brittle your hair and skin have become. You will start to leave them alone, instead of washing them with soap several times a day. Then maybe you will remember back all those years earlier to this article that you read in Blue Ridge Outings. You will mumble to yourself'as you put your dentures into your mouth'I remember'Bob Laney told me about this'

Doctors, medical researchers and health experts have determined that our skin is a bodily organ, just like our stomach and bladder.  These organs all contain a climate of micro-organisms made up of bacteria and other tiny creatures.  Our bodies were designed and evolved to harbor and use these micro-organisms to protect us and assist with digestion and myriad other functions.  Our skin uses this climate to protect from scrapes and cuts and fight off infections.

Showering or bathing every day using soap and shampoo over our entire bodies kills this layer.  So, it is better not to do so.

This approach raises the question of body odor.  The fact is that all living creatures, whether humans or horses, have a distinct odor unique to each individual.  That odor is how beagles can track rabbits and how blood hounds can track missing persons.  The issue, then, is how much odor is acceptable?

The reality is that our modern human  society has developed an unrealistic expectation that all persons have to smell pristine all the time.  My opinion is that such expectation is unrealistic and unhealthy.  I like to be able to smell my girlfriend, so I don’t complaint about a miniscule amount of odor.  I hope that she does the same.

Bob Laney

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Bob is the site curator and writer of Blue Ridge Outing. Since starting the Blue Ridge Outing travel blog in 2002, Bob has written, recorded and documented countless expeditions in the US and around the world.