That’s the subject of the latest episode of my podcast “Margins of Error,” where we go beyond the news cycle and tackle the subjects that we face every day.
Let’s face it: We live in a society where passing judgment on others is a favorite pastime. That’s especially true when it comes to how people look and present themselves.
Just ask Dr. James Hamblin, who made waves a few years ago when he decided to stop showering cold turkey. After his experiment, he wrote a book called “Clean: The New Science of Skin and the Beauty of Doing Less.”
“Hygiene practices are one of the last areas where people will openly call one another gross or disgusting,” Hamblin told me. “We’ve made a lot of progress in a lot of other areas, but that is still just an area of just unrepentant judgment, and we need to examine that.”
Yet we seemed to survive just fine. So, I decided to dig into the issue a little more. Why are we bathing so much now, and do we need to? Where do we draw the line between what’s necessary for our hygiene … and what’s just marketing?
According to Katherine Ashenburg, author of “The Dirt on Clean: An Unsanitized History,” humans have a complicated history with bathing dating back to ancient Rome. While the Romans loved their baths, bathing became a dirty word for the next several hundred years.
Perhaps most telling: French King Louis XIV reportedly seldom took a bath. But he got a pass because he changed his linen shirts multiple times a day. Go figure.
Is cleaning too much bad for us?
So what has changed? On the one hand, we’ve learned a lot more about germ theory. We have a lot more accessibility to clean water sources, soap and bathrooms.
On the other hand, marketing has gone into overdrive. You can’t turn around without an advertisement trying to sell you a product to keep you clean. It’s a multibillion dollar industry.
So tune in to this week’s podcast episode, where we’re going to explore how often you really need to wash up and why it’s important to understand the difference between hygiene and cleanliness. Plus, I engage in my own grooming experiment.
(I swear it’s not that gross.)