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What Does Clean Really Mean When It Comes to Our Skin?

Updated: Dec 9, 2020

From public health officials on TV to caring family members in our homes, we’re all receiving daily reminders about the need for frequent hand washing to prevent the spread of coronavirus. But a deeper look at today’s culture of skincare reveals that most of our standards of cleanliness are less related to health than most people think. In his new book Clean: The New Science of Skin, doctor and journalist James Hamblin explores the surprising and unintended effects of our hygiene practices and introduces us to the emerging science of the skin’s microbiome - a little-known ecosystem of microbes that is essential to our quest for “healthy skin”. On August 26, Dr. Hamblin joined Aspen Ideas: Health book talk with skin biologist and immunologist Dr. Shruti Naik to discuss what "clean" really means when it comes to our skin. Watch and share!

About the speakers:

James Hamblin

Author; Preventative Medicine Specialist; Staff Writer, The Atlantic

James Hamblin, MD, MPH, is a staff writer at The Atlantic, a lecturer at the Yale School of Public Health, and a specialist in preventive medicine. In his writing for The Atlantic and daily podcast "Social Distance", he covers health, science and, this year, the coronavirus. Hamblin is the author of If Our Bodies Could Talk and hosted a video series of the same name. He's based in Brooklyn, New York. He only uses soap on his hands.


Shruti Naik

Assistant Professor, New York University School of Medicine

Dr. Shruti Naik is a world-renowned skin biologist and immunologist. She is currently an Assistant Professor at New York University School of Medicine. She received her Ph.D. in Immunology from the University of Pennsylvania and performed her postdoctoral training at the Rockefeller University. She has discovered that normal bacteria living on our skin, known as the commensal microbiota, educate the immune system and help protect us from harmful pathogens. Dr. Naik’s research has been published in top-tier scientific journals including Science, Nature, and Cell. For her cutting-edge research, she has been recognized by the Regeneron Award for Creative Innovation, the L’Oréal For Women in Science Award, the Damon Runyon Dale F. Frey Award for Breakthrough Scientists, the Blavatnik Award for Young Scientists, the International Takeda Innovators in Science Award, and was recently named a Pew Scholar.

The views and opinions of the speakers are their own and do not necessarily reflect those of The Aspen Institute.

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