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‘I don’t smell ’ Meet the people who have stopped washing (theguardian.com)
57 points by shawndumas 69 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 33 comments

I stopped using soap 6 years ago, but I usually don't tell people because there's still such a stigma attached to it. But the reaction of those I do tell is always the same "Wow, but you don't smell like anything at all!"

Agree! I do use soap occasionally (for "pits and pubes" or if I come back from a few weeks backpacking to get the deep grime out) but apart from that...no need, even after the gym.

I started out without shampoo about 20 years ago after reading a reference, just water and a vigorous scalp rub. My wife thought it was fine though I don't have long hair. And it seems absurd to put detergent in your hair followed by an additional product just to put back the oils removed by the detergent.

Please tell me you wash your hands.

I also stopped routinely using soap in the shower years ago. I shampoo my hair once a week, just because I'm very active and after a week it needs it. But I rarely use soap, other than on my hands.

There was this Korean guy that I used to work with that told me that Koreans have a gene that prevents body odor. The thing was he basically smelled like a high school gym locker room 247. I really didn't know what to say to him.

In general the statement is true, East Asian genetics makes people having less apocrine sweat glands, however it doesn't cancel the need to maintain personal hygiene which probably was the problem with your coworker.

'body odor' was popularised in thee early 20th century as a way to sell deodorant.


As a regular gym goer, what smells is /bacteria/. Fresh sweat doesn't smell bad, old sweat does. Same thing goes for urine.

Wash your body and clothes regularly, you don't need deodorant and it won't save you if you haven't washed your body and clothes.

8 hours of work in a day is enough to make your fresh sweat smell like shit.

No, past work does not change the smell of new sweat.


There's a reference right in my post.

All humans sweat, also that smell could be from not washing his clothes properly.

Underarm BO is a totally separate thing, and he's right that most all koreans and east asians don't need to worry about the bacteria that causes that particular smell.

If you go to korea, you'd have a hard time even finding a place that sells deodorant.

So your old coworker is either in a very small minority group, or just had other hygiene problems that are not specifically underarm BO.

Not exactly a message you want to spread around programmers who already lack basic hygiene.

I don't know where you have worked and I can only pity you for your bad experience but this kind of generalization does no good to anybody.

I have worked for almost 20 years and over that time I met only one individual who had "issues". Most people try their best to look and smell as good as possible.

Ditto. Most of the IT and Dev folks I've dealt with are fairly well paid and rock several certs and degrees. They can afford houses, soap, showers, and other basic life accouterments.

Mind you, they're not always the best put together folks -- flabby 30 something dudes in ill-fitting shirts and cargo shorts, yes cargo shorts in 2019 -- but most of em clearly had a shower recently and brushed their teeth.

can you knock off insulting people for wearing ill-fitting clothes and cargo shorts?

That's just unnecessary.

It certainly doesn't help that my options for shorts seem to be: cargo shorts, "dress" shorts, jean shorts, and athletic shorts. Given those options, I'll take my cargos every single time. I don't look better in the other three, and I'm certainly not going to wear athletic shorts all the time. If I'm not wearing shorts, I just wear regular jeans.

I'm not trying to win a fashion show at work while sitting in my office not talking to clients. I'm wearing clothing that's functional and comfortable. Only random people on the internet seems to actually care about this, and can never seem to explain why they care so much. It usually comes down to some spurious nonsense about "neckbeards."

Agreed. This seems so judgmental and creates a hostile environment for a lot of people.

Maybe if taken wrong(the click-baiting headline), but this is not advocating at all for not showering/bathing.

Body odor can be greatly affected by the foods you eat:



I learned about the effect of eggs when I tried a high protein, low carb diet where I ate 2 fried or scrambled eggs every morning. Within 3 days of starting the diet I developed an unpleasant fishy body odor, especially in my armpits. Normally I would eat 2 eggs once a week, at which level I did not develop the fishy smell. Even washing my armpits with soap did not eliminate the odor. I stopped eating eggs daily and within a couple of days the odor cleared again.

Similarly, I do a 10-12 day self supported pack hike most years. For lunch on these hikes I typically eat some form of processed meat (cacciatore sausage, salami etc) with processed cheese and dry biscuits. On these hikes I can usually swim or bathe in fresh water a few times each day without using any soap. I notice a slow increase in body odor, again mostly from my armpits over the course of the hike. I suspect the body odor may be caused by the garlic from the sausage. The other foods I eat are things I eat regularly without issue. Unlike with the eggs, this odor goes away with the first hot, soapy shower when I get back to civilisation.

Note that in the past I have had girlfriends comment that I had very low body odor compared to other guys they had dated.

So I suspect that successfully switching to a no or very low soap hygiene routine might be challenging for people whose diet and genetics mean they excrete odorous, non-water soluble compounds.

I remember at Carnegie Mellon's orientation for the CompSci majors they handed out soap. Perhaps premature?

Had a colleague that stopped using shampoo. Fortunately he still bathes. He claims that he doesn't smell. I think he's just used to it.

Very similar to my experiences with people who claim they don't smell. They ALL smelled terrible, they just got used to it.

For me, and I assumed most others, the primary goal of washing is to not feel "icky", not smell.

I’m the same. I recently went on a camping trip and didn’t shower for the three days we were gone. I changed my clothes and still wore deodorant every day. I didn’t smell despite the fact that I had been sweating due to the heat, but I definitely -felt- disgusting and longed for the warm shower I’d be taking once I got home.

A skunk can't smell its own stink. Are you sure you didn't smell?

I confirmed with a third party while we were out. So either they were being polite (doubtful) or they also smelled the same and didn’t notice it.

I'm pushing 50 and haven't washed my hair with shampoo or conditioner since I was around 20.

When I tell hairstylists, the reaction is shock/disgust followed by surprise when they can't help but do the smell test, and it doesn't smell, and then with the unprompted admission that I have "abnormally" thick and healthy hair.

I also just use unscented, clear, vegan, glycerin soap on the important bits, but I'm going to experiment with stopping that after reading this article.

Click-baity title? Not using soap isn't the same as "not washing" (i.e. not showering) is it?

The first line of the article: "David Whitlock has not showered or bathed for 15 years, yet he does not have body odour."

Sounds like genetics. People from poorer countries where people don't bathe as often or have deodorant will tell you people can smell quite a bit without soap and deodorant.

Could be but again, from the article: "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."

Anecdotally, the biggest change that made a difference for me was switching to a more natural deodorant (Dr. Schmidt's bergamot+lime) from some of the big brands. I used to be able to smell body odour by the end of the day or go into a panic if somehow I forgot to apply in the morning. The odour has drastically been cut down, even if I did not apply the deodorant.

Apparently, when switching to natural deodorant it's supposed to get worse before it gets better which didn't happen for me.

I've asked my partner who has a pretty sharp nose and she agrees with me.

they still wash, they just stopped using soap

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