The Current

Soap-free for 7 years, Jackie Hong makes the case against lathering up

Meet Jackie Hong who isn't ashamed to say that she's been living soap-free for seven years and her skin is still smooth and supple. The Current asks: How essential is soap?
Reporter Jackie Hong doesn't see the need to use soap so she ditched it seven years ago and has never looked back. (Courtesy of Jackie Hong, photo by Toronto Star/ Tim Finlan)

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Seven years ago, Jackie Hong swore off soap.

Hong is part of a growing number of people — including some skin experts — who say we could probably do with a lot less of the product.

In a recent article, the Toronto Star reporter came clean about her washing routine and it seems to have caused quite a stir.  

"I think the thing that has everybody up in arms is that I haven't used soap in the shower for the past seven years," Hong tells The Current's Friday host Nora Young.  
While some dermatologists recommend using less soap or not at all, washing hands is an exception to ward off infection. (Mariana Bazo/Reuters)

She says she does use shampoo once a month and finds warm water in the shower does the trick to stay clean.

"If I'm sick or I've been in a hospital around sick people … I do use warm water and soap to wash my hands because I don't think there's any doubt that that prevents the spread of disease," Hong admits.

Hong says since ditching soap she didn't notice any change in her skin so she kept going.

"I mean my skin you can see it's not particularly horrific, it's not gross, it's not crackly, it's not covered in sores — it's normal, it's fine," she says. 

"If anything I don't get winter itch, it doesn't get dried out and this might just be because I'm no longer a hormonal teenager."

Dermatologist Dr. Sandy Skotnicki tells Young that she often tells her patients with winter itch to shower less.

"It's not necessary for hygiene," she says. But adds that hands are an exception to ward off infection. 
Can you see yourself or family swearing off soap? (Denise Mattox/flickr cc)

"Washing your body is kind of a leftover thing from the days when you know we didn't have antibiotics and we didn't have showers. And you know pricking your hand outside on a thorn could actually kill you … it's ingrained in us."

Dr. Skotnicki's advice to her patients: everything in moderation.

"So you don't need to soap your whole body. If you feel disgusting … as one of my patients put it very aptly, wash your bits," she says.

"Beauty bars are better because they're 10 per cent real soap, 90 per cent synthetic soap and they're less drying."

Listen to the full conversation at the top of this web post.

This segment was produced by The Current's Sujata Berry and Ashley Mak.