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The lather over The Great Unwashed


The difference between unwashed and over-washed is all in the products—a distinction the New York Times missed.

woman in the showerFor some, a daily shower is a daily grind. “I don’t like to over-dry my skin,” says Alice Feiring, a source in the New York Times article “The Great Unwashed,” as a reason for giving up the American-as-apple-pie morning ablution. “It’s a myth that people need a deep cleaning everyday.” True that!

But don’t go indicting your shower nozzle.

It’s not washing up regularly that causes dryness, so much as the detergent-heavy bathing products that most people use.

Sulfates, a group of lather-producing ingredients used in products like Dove Sensitive Body Wash and dandruff-fighting Head & Shoulders—both mentioned in the Times article—strip skin to a squeaky clean. They’re effective at removing dirt and grime, as well as the skin’s natural oils and good bacteria.

By using sulfate-based shampoos and cleansers, many people scour away the skin’s own ammunition for protecting itself from drying, flaking, and cracking. This can allow bad bacteria (and subway pole who-knows-what) to get in. Particularly in winter, those prone to dryness should stay away from products containing sodium lauryl and laureth sulfates.

Osea body polish without sulfates
Sulfate-free Osea Undaria Body Polish contains wakame seaweed, acai, rice powder, and pumice

Jenefer Palmer, who’s mentioned in the Times article as one of the trendy unkempt, is well aware of the necessity of preserving the skin’s natural oils. As the founder of the natural spa line Osea, Palmer has dedicated the past ten-plus years to formulating products that don’t interfere with skin’s protective barrier or contain sulfates.

The point is, you can shower morning, noon, and night. But you might want to use sulfate-free products that don’t strip your skin. —Melisse Gelula