Is a shower every day really needed for good hygiene?

Back view of a woman washing her hair with a shampoo in bathroomMost 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, 62 percent of people there shower every day, 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 take a 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.

But what about dirt and smell, you ask?

People who are frequently outdoors, exercise daily, often ride on subways or in other cramped spaces, or work a job that involves 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?

Quick ways to keep your skin clean and hydrated in winter

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. (an internist at Baltimore’ Mercy Medical Center) says that people wash off too much of their healthy skin oils. 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 how often should you take a shower?

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. 


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