In case you missed it, bathing is the topic du jour, with celebs like Ashton Kutcher, Jake Gyllenhaal, Kristen Bell and (wait for it) the Rock chiming in to share their personal hygiene habits with the world. The whole debate, although mighty entertaining, has left us wondering whether or not the conversation around showering frequency is actually a compelling one. So is it possible to shower too much? Not enough? Does bathing frequency have an impact on one’s health? We spoke to Dr. Shari Sperling, board certified dermatologist and co-founder of Sperling Dermatology, to get the dirt on how often you should shower. Spoiler: There’s actually no hard and fast rule for this one, but your individual skin type might sway you one way or another.
How often should you really shower?
If you’re wondering whether your bathing schedule is overkill or simply not up to snuff, we’ve got good news. Dr. Sperling tells us that there is no standard for how often a person should shower, so whatever works for you is just fine. In other words, this is not a medical issue. That said, the most important factor in determining how often you should shower—aside from whether or not you’re starting to smell—is how well your skin responds to your routine. Per Dr. Sperling, some people with dry or sensitive skin benefit from less frequent showers. However, if you don’t fall into that category, daily showers are a-okay, albeit not necessary to maintain good hygiene in most cases.
Is it okay to shower once a week?
Again, there is no right or wrong answer here. As mentioned above, bathing frequency really boils down to what your skin can tolerate and how quickly your body starts to get funky—both of which vary considerably from person to person. A weekly shower may be all it takes to stay fresh and clean for some; on the other hand, those who exercise frequently, work in physically active jobs, or are just generally prone to heavy sweating might find that a weekly shower doesn’t cut it. The takeaway? You’re the best judge when it comes to personal hygiene.
As for how showering frequency affects the skin, Dr. Sperling tells us that there are two schools of thought on the matter, adding that bathing “can worsen or improve a skin condition” depending on what the condition is. Still, she typically recommends that people suffering from eczema and other chronic skin conditions reduce showers to every other day. (More on that later.)
How often does the average American shower?
Curious to know about the hygiene habits of your peers? We can’t tell you for sure how often your coworkers bathe, but several different polls have produced fairly consistent results—suggesting that as much as two-thirds, or 66 percent, of the American population opt for daily showers. (Showering every other day appears to be the second most popular choice.) Of course, any self-report study will include a fair number of, er, aspirational responses—so whether John or Jane Doe really are washing up on the regular is anybody’s guess.
What happens if you shower too much?
We hinted at this earlier, but the only real concern that comes from showering too often is that it can have a negative effect on the skin. Specifically, Dr. Sperling says that both “washing too often and aggressively washing can strip the oils and good bacteria from the skin, leaving the skin dry and irritated.” In other words, if your skin is flaky, scaly or itchy it might be an indication that you’re soaping up more often than is necessary.
What happens if you don’t shower enough?
Let’s be honest, we all know what happens when a person goes too long without a shower. In extreme cases, failure to wash up can even lead to bacterial or fungal infections (think: jock itch). Most of the time, though, the biggest risk to underbathing is simply a smell—you know, the kind that makes people want to keep their distance. Certain parts of the body, like the underarms and the groin and genital area, are likely to get funky fairly fast. As such, Dr. Sperling tells us that “it is a good idea to wash armpits and genitals daily to prevent foul body odor.”
Fortunately, there’s an easy solution for people who want to stay clean but whose skin doesn’t take kindly to a daily shower—just use a soapy washcloth to wipe clean the aforementioned areas on a daily basis and you can cut back on the full-body shower routine without sacrificing personal hygiene.
Healthy bathing tips
- Clean the groin, genital and armpit areas on a daily basis—either in the shower, or with a washcloth.
- If taking daily showers, make ‘em quick: The expert recommends no more than 5-10 minutes in length.
- Opt for lukewarm, rather than piping hot, water if you’re showering on a daily basis.
- A gentle soap is the best choice regardless of bathing frequency, but it’s especially important for folks who shower every day.
Other things to consider
So now you know that body odor and skin hydration are the key concerns when it comes to bathing frequency. Still, it’s worth noting that your individual routine has implications beyond personal health—namely in terms of water conservation and, to a lesser extent, the impact on your own pocketbook. In other words, the more you shower, the more you use everything—from that fancy shampoo you just purchased to the water required to rinse it from your hair. The latter is of particular concern though, since water is a precious resource we’d all be wise to waste a little less of. Still, that needn’t deter you from daily showers—it’s just another good reason to keep them on the shorter side.