Rinaldo Fowler

Clean - by James Hamblin

Clean - by James Hamblin

ISBN: 0525538313
Date read: 2020-12-06
Recommended for: People who want to learn more about the skin microbiome.
(See my list of books, for more.)

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We live in an austere world. Skin will maintain itself given exercise, nature, reduced stress.

my notes

Existential audit. Consider possessions and habits that could be removed. Caffeine? Alcohol? TV? Internet? Car?
How little do I need? Slowly reintroduce after weighing full costs.

We guard ourselves from other people’s diseases by being disgusted by their behavior or appearance.

Marco Polo. India. Indvidual flasks. “no one would drink out of another’s flask. Nor do they set the flask to their lips.”

Soap operas were literally invented by soap companies.

When switching from regular soap to no soap, there is a transition period. The body swings from dry to oily trying to compensate for the job once done by soap.

Acid mantle. Rough concept that an acidic pH on the skin protects against invading microbes. If true, likely based on diversity of nondangerous microbes. Term comes from century-old German paper.

Can any consumer really be operating autonomously when their access to information is incomplete, and the playing field skewed so heavily toward sellers?

Dichotomy: what science has proven, and everything else.
Four categories: what clearly works, what plausibly might work but hasn’t been studied, what’s totally implausible, and what’s proven to be useless or harmful.

I don't need to sterilize the kitchen after every use. Soap and water after chicken, but not every use.

Biodiversity hypothesis. Hygiene isn't itself bad, the loss of diversity in microbes is. Inflammatory and autoimmune diseases are linked to avoidance of the microbes we evolved to be exposed to. Pathogens and beneficial microbes alike.
Not only from washing and using antibacterial products, but in all the ways we are today isolated and sterile.

Dogs can smell the thousands of volatile chemicals that radiate from each of us.

What if all the soaps and colognes and perfumes we use—no matter how “natural” they claim to be—are also changing and masking signals that serve some purpose? The hundreds of subtle volatile chemical signals we emit may play roles in communicating with other people (and other species) in ways we’re just beginning to understand.

Plants release chemicals after they have been “attacked” by an animal trying to eat them. “Herbivore-induced plant volatiles,” are thought to warn adjacent plants about predators in the area.

The grounding effect of walking into a forest can be in part due to the change in the air that’s hitting our airways and skin. The air we describe as “fresh” might be more than just clear of contaminants—the air pollutants responsible for seven million premature deaths every year—but also laden with chemical signals from plants and animals. Fresh air means more than just the absence of bad things; it means the presence of good. This could partly explain the health effects that researchers have associated with being outside.

Kombucha is tea fermenting into alcohol via microbes.

Primary demand is when you decide you need a car. Secondary demand is when you’re convinced you should buy a Ford.

Exposure to skin microbes does affect allergies.

It is an individualistic approach to clean water—rather than pooling resources and sanitizing water centrally, each person carries around little bottles of a product that can be poured into water before drinking.

Douching: the act of flushing the vagina with water and other products in order to “clean” it.
The fallout from douching may be the first widely recognized instance of the negative effects of hygiene on the microbiome.

The most urgent needs in the domain of human health today, globally, are clean air and water. Close behind are toilets, social connection, exposure to nature, and an active life in a safe environment

The skin is a brilliant product of millions of years of evolution, a superorganism composed of trillions of other organisms that were doing fine before we came along and will do fine after we are gone. The ecosystem does not need to be maintained in any elaborate way that we didn’t already know made our skin look good: sleeping and eating well, minimizing anxiety, and spending time in nature.

Even more reassuring for me has been the discovery that there are good health reasons to spend time in nature, to have pets, and to be social. Our instincts have been mostly right: we somehow know that going hiking is better than walking on a treadmill; that gardening is better than grocery shopping; that keeping house plants does something for us that makes it worth worrying about keeping them alive.