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Is Showering Bad for Your Health?

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Some say staying dirty is healthy. (istockphoto) istockphoto

(CBS) Got soap? Of course you do, but do you use it every day - or are you a member of the growing movement of folks who think the quintessential American shower is unnecessary and even bad for your health

Those people actually exist, and aside from liking the shaggy look and wanting to save water, they might have medicine on their side.

That' s according to a recent New York Times article which found that some bacteria which takes up residence on your skin's surface may actually be good for you.

"Good bacteria are educating your own skin cells to make your own antibiotics," Dr. Richard Gallo, chief of  dermatology at the University of California, San Diego, told the paper. "They produce their own antibiotics that kill off bad bacteria."

Scientists are learning there seems to be a good reason why some patients complain that their eczema - an umbrella term for non-contagious itchy, swollen skin patches - flares up after too many showers.

"It's not just removing the lipids and oils on your skin that's drying it out," Gallo told the Times. It could be "removing some of the good bacteria that help maintain a healthy balance of skin."

It's not just showering too much that can harm your skin, says Dr. Tabasum Mir, a New York dermatologist in private practice. Showering in very hot water and using harsh soaps are added problems.

And then there's the ubiquitous loofah. Loofahs are breeding grounds for bacteria, Mir tells CBS News. "Not only do you scrub off the healthy bacteria, you then hang it up in the shower where more bacteria breed," she says. The next morning you rub that less-than-healthy bacteria back into your pores. "It's pretty gross when you think about it."

Still, experts say there's a difference between bacteria that's yours and yours alone and the kind you pick up on the subway, or from the handle of the cart at the grocery store.

"If it's cold and flu season, you want to get rid of the stuff that isn't a part of your own normal germs," says Elaine Larson, a professor at the Columbia University School of Nursing with a Ph.D. in epidemiology. She cautioned gym-goers, people who take public transportation, and others who come into contact with a lot of strangers should hold onto their soap.

Read more here.

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