(Health Secrets) When former Glee star Naya Rivera said taking a shower everyday is a “white people thing” it made me wonder if what I was taught in health class was true, that bathing every day was hygienic. In California, we were having a severe drought, so I wondered if maybe taking a shower every other day would be the right thing to do
How often do people engage in taking a shower?
Most people won’t admit to showering less than once a day because of the stigma, so it is hard to say if it is really “normal.” Australia perhaps leads the world on most frequent bathing. According to a survey conducted a few years ago, 62 percent of people there shower everyday, while 29 percent shower twice a day and 9 percent shower three times a day. If you dislike body odor, Australia might be the best place in the world to live.
Why do we shower?
Once upon a time, before indoor plumbing, families usually bathed once a week and all in the same tub. Typically, bathing order went from oldest to youngest, hence the expression don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. Although reusing the same water for several people is not particularly hygienic, keeping clean is important to protect your skin from diseases.
What about dirt and smell? People who are frequently outdoors, who exercise daily, who are often on subways or in other cramped spaces, or whose jobs involve manual labor should probably shower daily. But a lot of people are unlikely to sweat and get dirt on places other than their hands and face, so do they need to take a shower as much?
John Oxford, a professor of Virology at Queen Mary’s School of Medicine and Dentistry, suggests frequent hand washing and keeping the area around the genitals clean, which could be accomplished using a bidet. Otherwise, he says bathing or taking a shower only two to four times a week is adequate.
Some people recommend rinsing off daily, especially during summer, but only using soap every other day because it can dry the skin. Soap washes off the oils that are good for your skin. Dana S. Simpler, M.D. says that people wash off too much of their healthy skin oils. Dr. Simpler is an internist at Baltimore’ Mercy Medical Center. She also says that people who shower too frequently during winter can get a skin condition called winter itch that results in a dry, itchy rash.
So what to do?
If you’re not one of the people who need to get clean every day, try showering every other day or only two days out of three. The arms and legs are the areas that tend to dry out more, so during winter especially, try not to use soap on your limbs daily.
On the non-shower days, give yourself a sponge bath for your face, hands, underarms, and genital area to prevent body odor and any accumulation of unhealthy varieties of bacteria. However, some bacteria is good for your skin. Dr. Richard Gallo, dermatology chief at the University of California, told the New York Times that skin cells need good bacteria. These helpful bacteria assist skin cells in figuring out how to fight bad bacteria.
A good rule of thumb is if your skin is soft and people can smell your natural scent, you’re probably bathing enough. If people can smell you from across the room, you probably should start showering more often. I just hope Rivera bathes frequently enough not to stink for the sake of her new Devious Maids co-stars.
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