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Get Dirty

Why having a little dirt on your face, skin and hair is a good thing…
Tap open your smartphone and you’re flooded with stylized, gorgeous, fresh and squeaky-clean Snapchats and Lark-filtered Instagram shots. Our pocket-sized digital world is the latest benchmark for good hygiene and it’s overflowing with shiny, bouncy hair and flawless dewy skin. We aspire to it, we emulate it and we post about it. Why wouldn’t we? We’re simply following the latest path to clean, well-groomed perfection. Now, getting a little dirty is the latest beauty and grooming option.
A clean history
History and its many trends have long defined what it means to be clean. In the 17th century, Parisians doused strong-smelling colognes onto their clothes to mask body odour. In the mid-1920s, Saturday’s bath night was America’s weekly beauty ritual, with entire families lining up to take their turn scrubbing. In the 1950s, good housewives diligently checked behind their children’s ears for dirt, while decades worth of television commercials—complete with Whisk’s ’70s’ “ring around the collar,” Irish Spring’s ’80s’ “clean as a whistle” and Jhirmack’s ’90’s “never lets your hair down”—dictated a spot-on (and spot-free) lifestyle.
Why dirty is the new clean
“There are lots of reasons to get a little dirty,” affirms Graydon Moffat, the chief idea officer and founder of Graydon Skincare in Toronto. “We forget that the foundation of our hair and body is our skin. If you over-wash using super-sudsy shampoos and soap, this can easily irritate and dry out your skin, which is going to strip it of the natural oils it needs.”
Even during summer’s hot and humid months, retaining your skin’s natural oils and water are key to reducing skin and scalp dehydration, avoiding dry and itchy patches, eliminating redness and inflammation, and even minimizing skin conditions such as eczema and dandruff.
“From a health perspective, not being so clean all the time is beneficial for our microflora,” adds Bernadete Meireles, a pharmacist and the national training director for Pierre Fabre Dermo-Cosmétique Canada. “With the industrialized modern life, our environment has become more and more sanitized, sterile. Our contact with microorganisms has been reduced along the years and this has a direct impact on our health. We shouldn’t be so afraid of getting in contact with bacteria—most of the time this is beneficial to our immune system.”
Just as your stomach contains good bacteria to help keep things running regularly, your skin is home to thousands of beneficial germs you don’t want to wash down the drain. These germs act as your body’s natural shield, protecting you from environmental pollution, the chlorine in your gym’s swimming pool, and the forced air conditioning and heating in your home or workplace.
Good grooming’s “less is more” approach
Aesthetically speaking, getting a little dirty is also a style advantage. Lathering up too frequently can leave your skin feeling and looking dry. When you strip your face of the natural lipids it needs, your skin’s oil production goes into overtime, often causing unwanted breakouts. Alternately, an excessive amount of hot water combined with shampooing and conditioning your hair actually removes moisture from the hair shaft, making it prone to frizz, breakage and damage. For those who pay for colour and highlights, over-washing can even replace your shiny locks with dull, faded and greasy-looking ones.
“Oddly enough, many super-foamy shampoos—you know, the ones that give you that squeaky clean feel—can end up stripping your hair of some of the natural oils it needs, which can actually cause an overproduction of oil on your scalp as compensation, so what you get is an unattractive oil glut,” explains Moffat. “This is much like the condition created when people with oily skin over-cleanse their face with harsh foaming cleansers and can’t figure out why their oil production is out of whack.”
How to get your dirt on
Embracing a little bit of dirt by skipping your daily shower is key—and this isn’t as hard or as gross as it may seem, particularly with the upgrowth of innovative beauty and grooming products. Green, chemical-free and natural dry shampoos, like Klorane’s Oil-suppressing Dry Shampoo ($17.50, available at Shoppers Drug Mart stores and online at, eliminate oily slickness from your hair’s roots with just a couple of sprays. Plant-based, natural and sulfate-free shampoos and conditioners, like Graydon Skincare’s Matcha Mint Shampoo and Hair Smoothie ($25 each, available online at, cleanse and hydrate your hair and scalp, while pulling double duty as a body cleanser—all without stripping, drying or leaving a layer of chemical film.
As for your skin, Meireles recommends “opting for mild hygiene products that will respect the skin microbiome, pH and skin barrier,” like Avène’s Micellar Lotion ($24, available at Shoppers Drug Mart), which promises to reduce up to 98 per cent of the pollution, grime and makeup on your face without removing necessary oils and lipids. To further keep and seal moisture into your skin, facial lotions like Biotherm’s Blue Therapy Red Algae Uplift skin cream ($86, available at Beauty Boutique by Shoppers Drug Mart) work well for both day and nighttime use, thanks to its healthy helping of healing, hydrating and smoothing plankton and red algae ingredients. “Washing less frequently and using low-surfactant, sulfate-free products helps to take the chemical load down,” says Moffat.
Of course, it may take you one or two weeks to get into your new every-other-day grooming routine, but once you do, “it is so worth it—your hair and skin become more resilient and lustrous,” says Moffat.

ADRIANA ERMTER is a Toronto-based, lifestyle-magazine pro who has travelled the globe, writing about must-spritz fragrances, child poverty, beauty and grooming.

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