Yep, salt in the shower. That is what soap is. See the blog on "What is soap?" if you haven't already been there.
Salt for cleaning
There are actually cleansing salts all around us, in lots and lots of products. Toothpaste, shampoo, all the new non-soap cleansers coming out. In the holistic or preventative medical fields, a lot of "internal cleanse" formulas also rely on salt. Salt water is used to irrigate and purify a lot of our sensitive and complex body parts like our eyes and noses.
Obviously, salts have a lot to offer us. But let's talk about specific usages - like taking a shower. You wouldn't want to wash your hair with toothpaste. And I think washing your face with a colon rinse would be, um, weird. We need the right salt for the right use.
Another very common salt is called detergent. Originally developed by the Germans due to a lack of fats and oils for soapmaking during WWI, detergent was found to be a very beneficial cleansing agent, especially in the age of mechanical washing machines.
The ingredients in detergent are cheap (YAY!), readily available (YAY!), and they are very good at MURDELIZING dirt, bacteria, and microbes (YAY? see below).
The parent chemicals for detergent "salt" are mostly synthetic. Specifically alkylbenzenesulfonates (don't ask me to say it). Which is a petroleum based alcohol type substance. Petroleum - the basis of plastic, tires, and all the other nasty non-biodegradable materials that we dearly love because they are so convenient. Needless to say, not environmentally friendly (BOO).
Aside from being a global danger (not really, but "nod" to the earth) there are some properties of detergents that we want to maybe understand a little better before putting it in sensitive places on our bodies.
SKIN CELLS AND FLORA AND MICROBES, OH MY
One aspect of cleaning typically means killing bacteria and microbes. This seems good, less microbes = more healthy, right? Well, yes and no. "Foreign" microbes that cause disease and infection and such, we DEFINITELY don't want around us.
There is however, an ecosystem particular to our skin that is maintained by symbiotic "flora" - that actually works WITH our chemical and physiological design to keep us healthy.
The entire system of how skin is a part of our immune system and all the intricacies of the balance that exists in the microbial world is fascinating. Here's one article about it. For now, let's just say there is a complex interaction going on right under our noses, and armpits, and other places.
The bee connection
Does this mean it is good to kill all the microbes? It is a case of stuff going on all around us that we don't even know about, that if it suddenly stopped, things would definitely get complicated for a while. Like the thing about bees and our agriculture system.
Detergent on your skin
Detergent kills the microbes, yep. It does that by breaking down the cell walls of those little one celled critters. Detergent is certainly a powerful cleanser. But what about how detergent treats our skin?
Soap "captures" the invaders that are already being prevented from entering our natural physiological ecosystem. Soap works with our natural chemistry to cleanse the surface of the skin of the substances our body is resisting.
How does soap work? Read more here.