How Often You Really Need to Shower
Is skipping your daily ablutions as gross as it sounds?
Wellness trends come and go, but one thing that we always assumed was in style was good hygiene. Now we’re starting to wonder, given that the topic of showering—or not showering, as the case may be—is being hotly debated on social media and by celebrities. Quite a few have ‘fessed up and say they have no problem skipping the daily ablutions.
One is actor Jake Gyllenhaal who told Vanity Fair he finds bathing “less necessary” at times. On Dax Shepard’s podcast, “Armchair Expert,” Mila Kunis and husband Ashton Kutcher said it wasn’t really a top priority for themselves or their kids. (Meanwhile, actors The Rock and Jason Momoa came out as shower fans on social media and in interviews.)
Is skipping a shower as gross as it sounds? But even more importantly, does it really have an impact on health? Well it can, according to Annie Gonzalez, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at Riverchase Dermatology, in Miami. Thanks to built up dirt and sweat, some consequences of not showering enough include body odour, acne breakouts, dead skin buildup, fungal infections, and oily hair, according to Dr. Gonzalez. “Not showering enough can also increase the likelihood of getting sick,” she says. (Never ignore these four skin changes.)
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with skipping a shower now and then. And there are some risks to overdoing cleanliness and hygiene, too. To find out how often is often enough when it comes to jumping in the shower, we asked Dr. Gonzalez and another expert some questions. Although there’s no one-size-fits-all answer, the pros share their insights to help you determine what’s best for your body.
What determines how often you should shower?
How often you should shower depends on a few things, according to germ expert Philip Tierno, PhD, a microbiologist at NYU Grossman School of Medicine. Here are some things to consider.
One variable that determines how often you should shower is your activity level, according to Dr. Gonzalez. “If you are someone who engages daily in sweat-inducing activities, you will likely need to shower every day,” she says. People who exercise regularly should shower regularly, or at the very least freshen up post-workout until they can bathe. “However, if you don’t participate in any physical activity during the day, it may be unnecessary for you to shower each day.”
There are a few skin conditions you can get or worsen from not bathing or showering. One is dermatitis neglecta, where you get brown patches on your skin made up of dirt, oil, and dead skin cells. If you hit the gym and opt not to shower, you could also increase the risk of getting an infection. One example is impetigo, a contagious bacterial skin infection that causes red sores. Another is ringworm, a contagious fungal infection that is easily spread not only by skin-to-skin contact, but by touching infected surfaces or objects. The symptoms are scaly, red and itchy skin. Plus, the same type of fungus also causes athlete’s foot, too. (Discover the signs of disease your feet can reveal.)
Sweat and body odour
Some people sweat more than others, whether or not they participate in physical activity. So, similar to how active you are, how much you sweat in general is another way to determine how often you should shower. “Some people don’t perspire as much and don’t have heavy odours,” Tierno says. “And they could get away with showering less often.”
“A lot of people don’t use deodorant of any kind, and they would be more likely to have an odour after a few days,” he says. “So it would almost be required to bathe at a particular frequency dependent upon the individual.” In short, the more you stink, the more often you need to bathe, that is, if your body odour is a concern to you (and others around you).
Another contributing factor is your skin type. If your skin is on the oily side and is prone to acne breakouts, showering every day would be wise, according to Dr. Gonzalez. But you should only shower a few times a week if your skin tends to be dry and flaky so that you don’t deplete the oils of your skin further.
People with dry skin who shower too often may irritate the skin barrier leading to even more dryness and redness. Those with skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis may also experience irritation if you overdo showering. If you have a skin condition, your doctor might recommend showering less often, and using cool or lukewarm water to avoid irritating your skin.
People adjust their showering frequency with seasonal change. “The summer brings hot and sticky weather, which often causes body odour,” Dr. Gonzalez says. “However, winter leads to drier skin.” Those living in humid or hot climates may opt to shower more often since they likely sweat more, too.
How well you clean your butt
Tierno isn’t holding back: cleaning your butt, or wiping away as much fecal debris around the anus as possible, is an especially important task between showers. And knowing how to wipe your butt well helps people prolong or extend their time between showers, too. “The idea is to make sure people wipe their anus in an appropriate way,” Tierno says. “That’s a very important aspect of maintaining good hygiene.” (Here are nine things you had no idea were actually covered in fecal matter.)
Following an initial wipe, consider doing double duty to cleanse the area. Use wet tissues with either a saltwater solution (1/2 a teaspoon to 1 teaspoon in a quart of water) or even a mild soap solution, to clean the area well. Anal wipes are also an option, too. (This practice isn’t a bad idea, even if you do prefer to shower daily.)
“In a pinch, you can use wet tissue with plain water, but the plain water shouldn’t routinely be used because it can be irritating,” Tierno adds.
So, really, how often should you shower?
There is no generic rule about how often you should shower, according to Dr. Gonzalez. It mostly comes down to personal preference. “Some people feel that showering every day is a must, and some people believe that showering two to three times a week is sufficient,” she says. In general, male or female, it’s OK to skip a day or so depending upon the circumstances, according to Tierno. “Alternating your bathing every other day is perfectly fine,” he says. “There’s no one size that fits all, unfortunately.”
It’s not going to hurt to engage every day or every other day if you so choose, according to Tierno. However, Dr. Gonzalez does suggest showering no more than once a day to keep skin at its healthiest. (These are the best foods for healthy skin that glows.)
Focus on cleaning these parts
How often you shower is as important as how well, and where, you’re cleaning. So it makes sense that Dr. Gonzalez recommends focusing on cleaning the dirtiest parts of your body. These areas include the underarms, in between your toes, the groin, the hair, and the breasts, per Dr. Gonzalez. “Any crevices in the skin should also receive extra attention in the shower as they get the grimiest and sweatiest,” she says.
People who need to shower more (or less) often
Since most teenagers participate in physical activities, they are the age group that should be showering most frequently, according to Dr. Gonzalez. Plus, teens beginning puberty experience an increase in body odour. Meanwhile, children and older adults do not necessarily need to shower as often as teenagers to maintain their cleanliness, Dr. Gonzalez notes.
And of course, individuals who engage in work where they come into contact with debris or germs, such as custodians, garbage collectors, and butchers, may want to shower more often than those who remain in an office all day. (Here are 14 diseases you can prevent just by washing your hands.)
The bottom line
When it comes to the right amount of showering, once a day or every other day seems to be the rule of thumb. But remember, more isn’t always better when it comes to showering. Overdoing it could lead to dry, itchy skin.
Tierno’s best bit of advice is to remember that you know your body best. Only you can determine exactly how much cleaning your skin tolerates and needs.
Next, check out the showering mistakes you didn’t know you were making.