August 5, 2019

"David Whitlock has not showered or bathed for 15 years, yet he does not have body odour."

"'It was kind of strange for the first few months, but after that I stopped missing it,' he says. 'If I get a specific part of my body dirty, then I’ll wash that specific part' – but never with soap. As well as germs, soap gets rid of the skin’s protective oils and alters its pH level.... For Whitlock, a former chemical engineer based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, not washing has been a serious science experiment, the success of which has led him to become a trailblazer in a skincare revolution in soap-free, microbiome-friendly and probiotic products. His inspiration came from researching why horses roll in dirt. His conclusion? To top up their ammonia-metabilising bacteria, making the skin less susceptible to infection. Whitlock had hoped that he would naturally acquire this type of bacteria simply by stopping washing. He didn’t – and grew quite pongy. So, he harvested bacteria from the soil at a local farm and fed them with ammonia and minerals. When they turned the ammonia into nitrate, he knew he had what he wanted and started narrowing them down to a single strain that seemed happiest on human skin. After he applied the bacteria he had cultured – the stuff the horses were apparently after – he stopped smelling."

From "'I don’t smell!' Meet the people who have stopped washing/A growing number of people are eschewing soap and trusting bacteria to do the job instead – and an entire industry has sprung up to accommodate them" (The Guardian).

That made me want to copy a passage from Bill Bryson's "At Home: A Short History of Private Life":
“Wash your hands often, your feet seldom, and your head never” was a common English proverb. Queen Elizabeth, in a much-cited quote, faithfully bathed once a month “whether she needs it or no.”... In France, King Louis XIII went unbathed until almost his seventh birthday, in 1608....  The aristocratic Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, who was one of the first great female travelers, was so grubby that after shaking her hand a new acquaintance blurted out in amazement how dirty it was. “What would you say if you saw my feet?” Lady Mary responded brightly. Many people grew so unused to being exposed to water in quantity that the very prospect of it left them genuinely fearful. When Henry Drinker, a prominent Philadelphian, installed a shower in his garden as late as 1798, his wife Elizabeth put off trying it out for over a year, “not having been wett all over at once, for 28 years past,” she explained.

63 comments:

anti-de Sitter space said...

I'd do Sarah and Jackie.

They probably smell all hot and hormone-y.

anti-de Sitter space said...

But, I don't want residual.

Some sorta cleaning gots ta go on.

Rory said...

My German Shepherd's natural smell is similar to baby soap. He's a year without a formal bath right now. Gets rubbed down briskly with a towel when he's wet, or with a damp towel when he's muddy. He does like a good roll in the grass, and doesn't seek out disgusting things to roll in.

Clyde said...

The past is a foreign country, and a stinky one at that. A modern person going back in time would immediately note the odors of unwashed people, the horse excrement in the streets (as well as the contents of chamberpots and general garbage), the untreated sewage in the waterways and smell of smoke in the air (coal smoke during the Industrial Age, wood smoke in ages past). Our time is not perfect, but at least our noses don't face perpetual outrage. Althouse's anosmia would have been considered a blessing back then.

robinintn said...

I don’t bathe my sheltie, although I did hose her down pretty thoroughly the time she went stomach deep in lake mud. She doesn’t smell or have skin problems. I do brush her daily.

Jamie said...

My husband doesn't have body odor. It's kind of frustrating, as I... don't share his good fortune, shall we say.

He showers daily and uses deodorant, but when he's not in a position to keep up with this regimen (camping, transatlantic travel, etc.), he ends up fresh as a daisy anyway. You know that particular scent of "sweat upon reentering a warm space after exercising vigorously in the cold"? The one you get when a bunch of kids come inside after being out in the snow all day? It has been my experience that adults get that too after, say, skiing - but not my husband. Or, stepping into my teenage son's closet, that locker-room funk from his shoes and any clothes that didn't make it into the hamper, even when he hasn't been working up a sweat - those have also always been absent from my husband's belongings and surroundings, and we've been together since our junior year of college, including some weeks in the field without bathing. Me, I felt as if I could strip paint off a drum; he could put on a suit and make a presentation without taking any precautions.

He also has very little sense of smell, so his superpower of Non-Stink is wasted on him, AND he doesn't seem to care that I need the "clinical strength" stuff.

tcrosse said...

My husband doesn't have body odor.

I served in the Navy with a gentleman who was quite the opposite. No matter how much he showered, he still smelled like a barn. The fact that he was a senior officer did not help. He had been a submariner, but they took him out of the subs due to his rank odor. It was bad enough on surface ships. As an enlisted person, I didn't have to bunk
or dine anywhere near the guy, so there's that.

wildswan said...

I was over at an woke grocery store checking out their soaps and the person assisting me showed me their special argan soaps. "These are made from something that has passed through a goat," she said, excitedly. "Then they press out the oil." I know no more.

buwaya said...

This is not universal.

In the Philippines bathing was a daily, or several-times daily ritual even in pre-colonial times. They did of course have constant access to water, even if it was just seawater. The people still strive to be well-washed.

Granted, in ancient times they did not use soap, though it is still common to use a certain vine that yields a natural surfactant.

madAsHell said...

You wonder how one would become involuntarily celibate, and yet......here we are!

David Begley said...

Gross! What brought this post on?

wholelottasplainin' said...

Years ago, while trekking for a month in the Himalayas, I would encounter dogs who barked furiously at me---probably because I smelled so foreign to them.

But when I got back to Kathmandu, I had to use my walking stick to fend off local dogs who barked and snapped at me (but not other Westerners)---probably because by then I smelt weird, like someone from the mountains.

rcocean said...

People forget that if everyone takes baths at the same frequency no one smells. Secondly, people in the old days took a bucket of water - and a wash cloth - and washed themselves down every day. They didn't need to take baths. Thirdly, in the summer people would go down by the river or a nearby lake/pond and go for a dip.

The idea that everyone ran around dirty and smelly before 1900 is a myth. B

Gospace said...

I am firmly convinced a good deal of body odor is dependent on your B vitamin intake and whether your body gets rid of excess primarily through sweat or urine. By BO smells just like the B-100 I take on a daily basis.

I am unaware of anyone else ever noting this connection. I aßsume it's because they've never smelled a B100 capsule, or any other multi-B.

DanTheMan said...

An old lady goes to the doctor... She says "I'm passing gas all the time, but it's completely silent and there's no smell at all."
The doctor gives her a prescription, and she comes back in a week.
"Doctor, whatever you gave me made it worse! My farts are still silent, but now they smell terrible!"
To which the doctor replies:
"Well, now that we have your nose working again, let's see if we can't fix your hearing, too..."

Meade said...

Like Napoleon, I have an erotic affinity for my wife’s lovely natural body odors, sublime and complex. When I go to the forest to ride my bike, often I will text Mrs. Meade: “home in 4 hrs. DON’T WASH!”

Yancey Ward said...

Meade likes to roll around in his garden.

dreams said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Vault Dweller said...

While I haven't done anything as extreme as these people, when I was younger I did go about 4 mnoths without washing my hair with Shampoo. The hair was pretty greasy and nasty for about 3-4 weeks, but then after it got basically back to normal. I think it just took a bit for the natural oils to balance out.

dreams said...

I've bought it and used it but it's too expensive, I think.

"This spray restores Ammonia-Oxidizing Bacteria (AOB), a peacekeeper that once existed on our skin but was cleaned away with modern hygiene and lifestyles."

https://motherdirt.com/products/ao-mist

rehajm said...

I thought horses were scratching their back.

Ingachuck'stoothlessARM said...

the White House used to smell like B. O.

dreams said...

"the White House used to smell like B. O."

He stunk up the whole country.

Carl said...

I guess swimming in a chlorinated pool would be right out

Meade said...

Hey Yance, don’t knock til you try it

D 2 said...

washes only specific parts of his body at one time. hmmm

I'm guessing he avoids getting caught in the rain. Or drinking piña coladas.

Fernandistein said...

Whales never take a bath. Or always take a bath.

Ingachuck'stoothlessARM said...

...and how could we forget dear Maya,
since olfactory stimulation best triggers memory..

"Odor: Wet lily trampled by rude outlaw in deep forest"

Ken B said...

These tales always irk me, because people assume washing and bathing are the same. They are not. Bathing meant a pretty complete immersion. People would wash without bathing.

Stu Grimshaw said...

What if he gets poop on his hands when wiping?

anti-de Sitter space said...

I go to Chucky Cheese to use the mallet to smash the moles. Or, I ride my bike in the forest.

Yikes.

Phidippus said...

Seriously, I love you and all Althouse, but you do seem drawn to weirdos.

At least in your online life. Beyond that, I do not care to speculate.

Make of that what you will.

Tomcc said...

There's probably 30 or 40 people who would love to know his methods!

Ingachuck'stoothlessARM said...

I Wore Perfume Made From My Vagina to See if It Would Get Me Better Dates

https://www.cosmopolitan.com/sex-love/a8647411/vagina-pheromone-perfume-experiment/

EDH said...

Blogger Stu Grimshaw said...
What if he gets poop on his hands when wiping?

Who said he wipes his ass?

Meade said...

Yeah, who said he even has an ass? Or poops for that matter.

traditionalguy said...

To each their own. As for me I’ll take a hot showered lady with a youthful body lotion scent. And throw in a teeth brushed and water picked mouth. Call me hard to please.

DavidUW97 said...

Argan oil is just oil from an olive-like fruit on the Argan tree, native to Morocco.
It's a good business, crafty Arabs/Berbers created the market about 15 years ago. Thanks significant other.

Ingachuck'stoothlessARM said...

so...no more "Have her washed and sent to my cabin" ?

Wanna hear a clean joke?
I took a bath with bubbles.
Want to hear a dirty one?
Bubbles is the girl next door!

BuckIV said...

I can't believe she didn't talk about "pongy"

Anne said...

I can go days and days without bathing and have no body odor. I never wear deodorant. The only time I get a (rank) body odor is when I am nervous and sweat—then I smell horrible.

I just went for an eight mile run on the trails near my house. I sweated like a pig (so much for women “glowing”), and my lower legs were dark brown with dust, but I had no odor.

My issue with not using soap is how will I get all that dirt off of my legs after a trail run? Seriously! And...sometimes I brush up against poison oak. Then I have to use detergent-based cleanser to get off the oil.

Meade said...

No Hot Showers: https://www.poison-ivy.org/story/no-hot-showers

Ingachuck'stoothlessARM said...

Argan oil is just oil from an olive-like fruit on the Argan tree

yeah- they made us read that book "Flowers For ArganOil" in hi-school.
That's the one about the dead mouse, right?

Oso Negro said...

I would estimate one out of 20 Germans doesn't bathe at all, but should. Their fragrance rolls through public spaces behind them. And God help you if you have to sit next to their stank ass.

P.S. to Meade - TMFI. Heh.

Anne said...

Meade,
Thank you for the link! All of us who cavort through the wilds of the East Bay parks have become experts in poison oak hygiene. Mostly we use Tech-Nu and cold water. I seem to be relatively insensitive to it—only getting a small patch of it infrequently. Boy does it itch!

I grew up in the Midwest, and poison ivy was indigenous, but I have never seen poison ivy grow the way poison oak does out here. It is like kudzu! It is sneaky, too—in the winter, it loses its leaves, and we unwittingly clamber through it willy-nilly. My fellow runners all dress in protective clothing—tights and knee socks, long sleeves....I get overheated and prefer to risk running practically nekkid as a jay bird.

Achilles said...

How does this guy feel about baby-wipes?

Darrell said...

I get overheated and prefer to risk running practically nekkid as a jay bird.

I hear Meade asking for pictures.

gspencer said...

Wouldn't go near any female crotch that hasn't seen soap & water for more than 4 hours.

mishu said...

It's only a matter of time when someone from the Guardian will proclaim wiping your ass after pooping serves the patriarchy.

Ken B said...

Mishu
It is cultural appropriation. Toilet paper was invented. The inventor’s culture owns the exclusive rights.

Tom T. said...

When someone is so determined to avoid soap that he anoints himself with bacterial paste grown in dirt that horses have rolled in, it's hard not to think that some sort of mental illness is at work

William said...

When I lived in England, central heating was not common. It took a certain amount of moral fiber to bath thoroughly on cold mornings. Nonetheless, sex happened. But not oral sex.

Peter said...

For sixty-five years I ate pretty much whatever I wanted. Then I ran into blood pressure and blood sugar problems and had to eat more healthily. Out with fried foods, junk food, processed food (including deli meats), most red meat. In with non-fried chicken and fish, veggies, fruits, proteins and fibres. Oil, not butter, and lots of spices. Very little dairy and careful with fats and carbs. It made a huge difference to my bathing and deodorant needs.

In Shogun, James Clavell writes how the 17th century Japanese were disgusted by the stink of the English seamen, but the stink disappeared if and when they adopted the Japanese diet.

EDH said...

...the 17th century Japanese were disgusted by the stink of the English seamen, but the stink disappeared if and when they adopted the Japanese diet.

Yeesh, how’d they know what English semen smelled like?

Is this a bukkake thing?

EDH said...

the 17th century Japanese were disgusted by the stink of the English seamen,...

When I was a kid I’d call my aunt”s swimming pool the Seaman Pond because I misheard the Beverly Hillbillies call their pool the “Cement Pond”.

Undoubtably, to their horror, my mother and her sisters must’ve heard me repeatedly say Semen Pond.

Bart Hall said...

In winter I go months without a shower, and I've not had a "bath" in many decades. Hate baths. Disgusting things. I do wash my nether furries almost daily, rarely with soap. Northern furries maybe every fortnight with light natural soap or shampoo.

In summer I may shower twice a day, not for the sweat, but for dust from working in the field. On hot days I've come into the house for dinner and a siesta ... covered with a muddy combination of my own profuse sweat and abundant field dust. I shower, soapless, before eating, and it looks like the Missouri River heading down that drain.

Back into the field when it cools off -- no cab on the tractors -- and I'll shower again once I come in at dark.

Interesting corollary to the odor thing. We eat semi-industrial quantities of garlic, yet our bodies do not smell of it -- mouths, yes, right after a bunch of fresh garlic, but not for long. I suspect that our skin micro-flora includes critters which happily decompose garlic-derived thiols. Our gut micro-biome could also be responsible for pulling the thiols apart before they ever make it to sweat.

We have more bacteria living on us and in us than we do of actual cells that are "us", and thus it should be of little surprise that there are many different possible combos of skin and gut microbes.

It would make for many interesting studies to find out which species we all have in common, like Staph. aureus and which ones vary amongst individuals or groups.

Caligula said...

"Michelle Strutton, a global beauty analyst at the research firm Mintel, says that while probiotic skincare still has a low market share, it has increased more than 300% from 2015 to 2019, “so it is definitely an area that’s worth watching”. For example, the French brand Gallinée uses lactobacillus bacteria “deactivated by heat”, while LaFlore, a US brand soon to launch in the UK, suspends microbes in a “gel matrix”. "

So long as there are products to sell one can be sure there will be people promoting them.

An obvious problem here is that no matter how bad you smell, you probably won't know unless someone tells you. And who do you trust not to tell you a polite lie? Probably not a "beauty consultant" who happens to be selling something.

Unknown said...

You don't need to use water and soap to wash --- using rubbing alcohol on paper towels gets rid of the bacteria that cause the stink much more effectively and conveniently.

Useful when camping or a quick clean up if it's a very hot day and your out and about and need a refresh, or you are in a hurry.

I learned this from a friend of mine who used to smell terrible when using soap, no matter how often he washed, until his doctor gave him this tip. He hasn't bathed in years now and definitely does not smell at all.

Me, I use both methods, a hot shower or a nice long soak are just too much fun to forego.

dbp said...

Gospace said...

"I am firmly convinced a good deal of body odor is dependent on your B vitamin intake and whether your body gets rid of excess primarily through sweat or urine. By BO smells just like the B-100 I take on a daily basis.

I am unaware of anyone else ever noting this connection. I aßsume it's because they've never smelled a B100 capsule, or any other multi-B."

This has been my experience. In the Marines, I knew a guy who was a bodybuilder and he took tons of supplements. He was a clean guy but he always smelled bad. We went on a mountain climbing trip in the Olympic Mountains and it became orders (just about typed odors) of magnitude worse.

Bilwick said...

Makes me think of the Family Guy scene, a spoof of Cinderella, where Prince Charming (Peter Griffin) tells Cinderella (Lois Griffin), "Now let's go home and make love in the era before toilet paper."

PM said...

Funk or not, few things in life are as pleasant as a daily hot shower.

mockturtle said...

I almost never take a bath. [I much prefer showers].

John Lynch said...

Homeless people smell. Make of that what you will.