While hand washing may be on the rise, other small, daily habits have been, for the most part, cut off during quarantine. What’s the point in shaving your beard if no one’s around to see your freshly groomed face? Does deodorant matter if you’re not leaving the house? Most people have decided that social distancing also means they can distance themselves from certain hygiene habits they used to follow before going to work and school. Among shaving and wearing deodorant, these are the daily habits people have tossed out while in quarantine. And for things you should be wary of, check out the 15 Seemingly Innocuous Habits That Increase Coronavirus Risk.
Sandy Skotnicki, assistant professor of dermatology at the University of Toronto, recently told The Atlantic that scrubbing your body head to toe with soap and water can lead to problems like eczema and other skin conditions. Instead, she says to just focus on your “bits,” which “would be your underarms, groin, and feet.”
If you scrub your whole body with soap, you risk destroying useful bacteria that help your microbiome to distinguish between good germs and bad germs, Robynne Chutkan, MD, founder of the Digestive Center for Women in Chevy Chase, Maryland, told Health. Your body needs certain bacteria, she says, and when you remove if from your skin by washing with soap, it lowers your immunity to certain viruses, putting you are an increased risk of getting sick. “Unless you’ve just finished a mud run, the only places that need daily soaping are your armpits and groin,” Chutkan adds. “The rest of your body does fine with a rinse—even after a sweaty workout.”
One 2018 study published in Science Advances even found a particular strain of bacteria that lived on the skin of test subjects to be associated with a lower risk of skin cancer when compared to subjects who didn’t have the bacteria. Just another example of helpful microbes you risk destroying by constantly scrubbing yourself with soap.
So why should you use soap on your underarms, groin, and feet if it is such a bad idea to use it on the rest of your body? Well, those three areas happen to be home to some of the most sensitive skin on your body and are more prone to things like fungus growth, ingrown hairs that can lead to infections, and are just generally more vulnerable to the development of bad bacteria and potentially harmful infections.