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This method I am proposing for improving the quality of your skin is based on the CDC research scientist Martin J. Blaser’s book, Missing Microbes. In that book he discusses the eight hundred species of bacteria that live in our intestines, digest our food, and provide us with defenses against other bacteria that can make us sick. He also discusses the bacteria that live on our skin. For years Dr. Blaser was the CDC’s traveling expert on the serious foodborne disease Salmonella, but as a professional researcher he has participated in the discovery of treatments for many other important disease processes, such as the cause of stomach ulcers being related to the common gut bacteria H. pylori. He has also been prominent in research in the fight against the modern hospital-associated disease C. difficile.

In his book Dr. Blaser also discusses the large number of skin bacteria we have and how they help us fight off diseases that enter through our skin. He discusses how we don’t catch a disease from a single hostile bacteria landing on our skin; that in tests he has conducted it is easy to demonstrate that it often takes thousands of a specific bacteria to colonize our skin or intestines successfully, before they can make us sick.

Here is the problem I am going to offer a solution to: “How do we keep the bad bacteria from colonizing our skin?” Stated another way, what should we do and what should we avoid doing to maintain the healthiest possible surface of good bacteria living on our skin? The brute-force solution of washing our skin frequently with anti-bacterial detergents kills all the bacteria on one’s skin, and that may be a good thing if you are a nurse working in a hospital, because it helps prevent the spreading of disease bacteria from one patient to another. But, a super clean skin puts that person themselves at risk of an infection.

Typically a person living at home here in America washes themselves a couple of times per day with a hand-bar style of soap. These are milder than the antiseptic soaps distributed in hospital settings, and they do kill most bacteria, but hopefully they do leave the good ones, and those good bacteria are able to repopulate themselves in a day or so. Of course if the person washes many times per day the good bacteria are killed off, and the skin is free of bacteria, but without the good bacteria that are normally living on the skin, there is an increased opportunity for the bad bacteria to gain a living space. Thus, when a person with a perfectly clean skin gets a tiny abrasion they are more likely to catch a problem infection than a person with a normally clean skin.

What I am proposing is for normal people living in their normal life situation to wash their usual way a couple of times per day, but to do it with clean tap water, without any anti-bacterial or even mild soap. The idea is to maximize the health of the normal skin bacteria, and thus have a good layer of defense from the good bacteria fighting off the bad bacteria.

A second suggestion is how to get rid of minor skin blemishes, that is, the minor thin surface things that haven’t grown deep into the skin or become inflamed. Apply the normal treatment, a cleanser, even an antibacterial, or a dilute detergent directly onto the blemish, but only the blemish. Apply the normally diluted stuff only to the blemishes with a fingertip, rub it in, let it sit there for a few seconds and rub it again, and then with a steady stream of tap water wash it off thoroughly. The goal is to kill the bacteria at the site of the blemish without bothering the normal bacteria covering the skin around the blemish.

Third, after you have dried off the washed area, your face or arms or anywhere else, take the palms of your hands and massage the just washed skin for a few seconds. The goal is to smear the oils and bacteria remaining on your skin all around the blemish and especially into the area where you have just killed all the bacteria with the soapy washing.

It is easier to do than to describe, but the procedure is simple.

Touch a bar of soap with your wet fingertip, touch the soapy tip to your blemishes, then rinse away the soap under a running tap, and then dry and massage the area.