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Why You Don't Want To Be Too Clean

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Regular soap's best for most hand washing needs, rather than anti-bacterial soap.

Dr. Donna Persaud, ​chief of Pediatric Community Medicine at Parkland Hospital System, talks about potential problems from the types of soap we use – especially anti-bacterial soap.

Highlights from Dr. Persaud’s interview:

Are there ways we carry cleanliness too far? “Short answer, yes. Anti-bacterial soaps are a problem because what they’re doing is removing the good normal bacteria which we call normal flora from your skin. Anti-bacterial soap is also drying, and that drying on the skin allows bad bacteria to penetrate. It’s not only the bacteria, but certain levels of your oils are necessary to keep your skin intact and it doesn’t have micro-breakage for the bad bacteria to get in.”

What is necessary and good hygiene? “Before and after going to the bathroom, before and after preparing food, before and after caring for a sick person, or cleaning up, dirty diapers, etc., anti-bacterial soaps do not need to be used in those situations.”

Should we lather up every day? “The other things that has come up is about your lathering yourself too much every day. If you love lathering your whole body, try to go with the more natural organic soaps that are less intense in terms of added perfumes, deodorant, color, etc. In general, the more color, the more perfume-y something is, and it’s got more chemicals in it, it’s probably going to be more drying.”

Showering once a day will do it: “Focus (lathering) on armpits, groin, and the rest of your body, general rinsing is fine. Re-think lathering extensively everyday.”

For more information

Are we too clean for our own good?

FDA: Anti-bacterial soaps may not curb bacteria 

Antibacterial Soap Is a Wash, Study Finds 

Sam Baker is KERA's senior editor and local host for Morning Edition. The native of Beaumont, Texas, also edits and produces radio commentaries and Vital Signs, a series that's part of the station's Breakthroughs initiative. He also was the longtime host of KERA 13’s Emmy Award-winning public affairs program On the Record. He also won an Emmy in 2008 for KERA’s Sharing the Power: A Voter’s Voice Special, and has earned honors from the Associated Press and the Public Radio News Directors Inc.