Hamblin’s experiment provided the perfect artifice to drive home the central thesis of his book: That the vast majority of products we use on our skin do no good at all in beating back the trillion or so microbes on our bodies.  We can scrub ourselves all day long and the bugs just come back, including the D. folliculorum — mites that live in our pores, feed off our dead skin and die if they eat too much (apparently they don’t have an anus). In fact, we need these microbes as much as they need us—the do everything from keeping acne at bay to modulating inflammation.

Clean takes us on a trip through history exploring the origins of cleanliness (Muslims bathed more than Christians) and soap (not used much until about 100 years ago). Hamblin fuses his deep knowledge of the body along with his story-telling skills to help us find the sweet spot between targeted hygiene and meaningful interaction.

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