How Often Should You Shower?

Woman showering
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A hot shower is the usual start of your morning, along with brushing your teeth and combing your hair, but you may want to take a new look at your showering routine. It's possible your daily shower is actually too much for your skin.

How Often Should You Shower?

The honest, albeit utterly vague, answer to the question is it depends. There really isn't a magic number that is right for every person. But, there is a general consensus among dermatologists that as a society we shower too often.

Dermatologists vary in their recommendations, so advice runs the gamut from showering once or twice a week to once every two to three days.

Why the disparity? Everybody's skin, and lifestyle, is unique. So, you have to take into account your personal situation.

A shower every other day or so is a good guideline. Most people can shower every second or third day and still be clean and unlikely to offend your family and co-workers. Babies and young children shouldn't be bathed every day. And as you get older you will probably want to cut back on the number of showers you take a week as well.

Showering more often doesn't make you healthier, and there is no need to shower more often to cleanse away bacteria. The human body is teeming with bacteria, the vast majority being helpful (or at least not harmful.) A daily shower, in many cases, is just not necessary.

Some people do need a daily shower. There are exceptions to this, of course.

If you work out daily, live in an especially hot or humid area, work a job where you get dirty/sweaty, or are prone to body odor, you will want to shower every day to rinse away sweat and dirt.

Hands should be washed several times daily. Even if you're not showering daily you should still wash your hands with soap and water several times per day.

Hands are the germ-magnets. It's the bacteria and viruses that you pick up on your hands and transfer to your eyes, mouth, and nose that make you sick. This will help keep you healthier, especially during cold and flu season. Washing the rest of your body isn't as critical for this because, really, when is the last time you used your knee to wipe your eyes, or put your big toe in your mouth?

Your face should be cleansed daily as well. Just like with your hands, your face should be given special treatment. Even on days you're skipping the shower, wash your face with a gentle cleanser at least at night before you go to bed. Removing makeup, grime, and excess oil is important to keep breakouts from forming and keep your skin healthy.

Have a compulsive need to shower? If you feel the compulsive need to shower multiple times per day or stay in the shower for an excessive length of time, to the point that it's interfering with your day-to-day life, you may have obsessive-compulsive disorder. Let your doctor know. There are treatments that can help you.

What Happens When You Shower Too Often

If you're used to a daily shower, the thought of skipping a day (or two or more) may seem gross. But truly, we've been socially conditioned to feel the need to shower every day.

Showering too often can, in some cases, cause more troubles than it prevents.

The biggest problem with too frequent showering is that it strips your skin of natural oils. Human skin is covered with a fine layer of oil called sebum. This oil is meant to protect the skin and keep the skin moisturized. Frequent cleansing removes this oil and can make your skin dry and itchy. It can also irritate sensitive skin and eczema.

For what it's worth, you don't want to wash your hair too often either. Over-washing can make your hair dry and frizzy, especially if your hair is naturally dry, curly, or course.

It can make your scalp feel dry and itchy too.

And if you think showering often helps protect you from bad bacteria, the exact opposite may be true. Showering can break down the skin's natural barrier, called the acid mantle. The acid mantle is slightly acidic. Showering too often, especially with alkaline soap or washes, can change the pH of your skin and leave your skin more susceptible to bacterial and viral invasion.

There's some speculation that our fastidious cleanliness could be contributing to the rise of allergies, asthma, autoimmune diseases such as Crohn's disease, and maybe even health problems like diabetes. It's called the "hygiene hypothesis." The idea is all the cleaning, washing, and sanitizing we do today may be stunting young immune systems. Instead, allowing children to be exposed to an array of bacteria while they're young may help build a stronger immune system in the long run.

The Risks of Not Showering Enough

Most people shower more than necessary, and you don't want to completely ditch this hygiene ritual. There are times, though, that maybe you go days on end without a shower. Say, you're camping in a remote area, or you're feeling under-the-weather and peeling yourself from the bed is the last thing on your mind. Are there any risks of going too long between bathing?

Beyond the obvious (you start to develop some wicked B.O.) you could be setting yourself up for blackhead and acne development. You have a ton of oil glands on your face, so your face will get extra oily fast if you're skipping a daily wash. But going too long between showers can also trigger body breakouts, especially if you are prone to them.

Skipping showers when you're sweaty is a bigger issue than an accumulation of dirt, oil, and bacteria, though. Sweat can irritate the skin, and leaving your skin moist for long periods of time (like sitting around in your sweat-soaked post-workout clothes) can raise your risk of developing a bacterial or fungal infection like jock itch!

If you go for long periods without bathing, you can develop a skin condition called dermatitis neglecta, where brown patches develop on your skin. These plaques are a mix of dead cells, dirt, sweat, and grime that have accumulated on your skin. Thankfully, this only happens if you're going weeks or months without stepping in the shower.

How to Shower (Especially If You Shower Often)

If you're active and simply have to shower often, that's OK. There are steps you can take to keep your skin healthy and hydrated. Likewise, you can use these tips if even less frequent showering is drying you out.

Use warm, not overly hot, water. Hot water can strip the skin of natural oils. You needn't freeze yourself, but if the steam billowing around your bathroom is thicker than pea soup, you should turn the water temp down to save your skin.

Keep showers short. Standing under the shower head may be relaxing, but the longer you're in there the more that nice, natural oil is being washed away.

Switch to a non-drying soap or body cleanser. How does your current cleanser leave your skin feeling? If it's at all tight, dry, or itchy, it's time to look for a new soap. It doesn't matter the form you use, whether bar soap or liquid body cleanser, it should leave your skin feeling good after you towel off. Switching to a moisturizing product is a good idea.

Don't scrub too hard. If you're using a body scrub product or a loofah, gently massage it over your skin. There's no need to scrub to the point of redness as this will just irritate your skin. And, really, there's no pressing reason to scrub at your skin. Your hands or a soft washcloth do a fine job at washing away sweat and dirt.

Use soap on select areas of the body only. This is probably the best thing you can do to beat dry skin if you're a frequent showerer. Use soap only on areas that get the dirtiest or are prone to body odor, namely your hands, face, armpits, groin, and butt. The rest of your body only needs a rinse with plain water.

Apply moisturizer immediately after showering. Slather on a good moisturizing body lotion over your entire body to help keep your skin moisturized and supple. Fragrance-free products are best for extra sensitive skin types.

Keep poufs and loofahs clean. Those damp sponges, loofahs, and shower poufs are breeding grounds for mold. They don't last forever, so plan on replacing them at least every other month. Store them outside of the shower so they can dry out. Washcloths may be a better bet because you can easily wash them and use a fresh cloth for every shower.

A Word From Verywell

Going a few days between showering really isn't going to hurt your health and, in fact, may be better long-term for your skin. There's no need to shower daily just for the sake of showering, especially if you're not sweaty or dirty. Just keep your hands and face clean, and you can skip a daily shower and still be clean.

Sources:

"How Often Do Children Need to Bathe." AAD.org. American Academy of Dermatology. 2017.

Pastor DK, Harper DS. "Treating Body Odor in Primary Care."The Nurse Practitioner. 2012 Mar 13;37(3):15-8.

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