How Often Should We Shower? Studies Reveal It’s Less Often Than You Think.

How Often Should We Shower

We live in a world saturated with skin cleansing products and advertisements on every corner telling us how important is to smell good, look fresh and absolutely spotless every day. Some people take it very seriously being almost obsessed with social appearance, while others seem to just forget where the water runs at in their home. From one extreme to the other, many people begin to ask themselves the obvious question: How often should we shower? That’s a very good question, find out below.

The Biology Class

The skin is made of multiple layers and covered with pores. The foremost skin layer of the epidermis, stratum corneum is the first line of defense of the body. It’s made from skin cells coded in lipids. They keep the bacteria, dirt and harmful factors outside while taking moisture and nourishing substances inside.

Our skin is also an excretion organ, which means that through the skin are released excess water together with residue that comes from internal processes. These residues are released through the sudoriferous glands, that are spread all over the body, but mostly grouped in certain key areas: armpits, groin, chest and feet.

As any other part of the body, the skin has a natural microbiome, a colony of healthy bacteria that protects the body and can kill dangerous bacteria that come into contact with. Killing too much of the good bacteria can create a way into the harmful ones. Keeping in balance this microbiome is essential for our skin health.

Pheromones are substances produced by our system in order to attract mates, and are present on the surface of the skin. Most people encounter that they were attracted to their significant other because they smelled in a certain indescribable way. So before hitting the shower or the perfume bottle when preparing for a date, think about it… are you sure?

Why do we really shower?

Whether we need it or not, today the daily shower has become a status quo in the world of civilized and well-mannered people. Beyond the social convention and the recent concern of the population for cleanliness, the real and healthy reason why showering is necessary is to clean the skin from accumulated dirt, dead cells, excessive sweat, excess oils and potential bacteria that got to decompose and release odors from the body.

How often this needs to be cleared depends from people to people, from season to season, from race to race. And also depends very much on every person’s lifestyle choices, how active or passive one is, how much stress is living and also very much on eating habits.

People nowadays become more and more concerned with body odors, and we seem not to tolerate any kind of natural human scent or trace of natural skin oils. We were educated by advertisements that it’s gross, disgusting and we should try as much as possible remove it, and cover it with loads of foaming products and perfumes in order to be an acceptable individual in the society.

Marketers and companies surely have a goal in selling as much their products, but what about our health and self-esteem? Are we gross just because we smell like… humans?

Showering around the world

A study made by Euromonitor shows that the showering league is detachedly led by South Americans (Colombia, Brazil and Mexico), with almost 100% of people showering daily, and also a certain percentage having 2 or 3 showers a day. Australians also ranked pretty high, with more than 85% having a daily shower. US, India and Central Europe are in the middle with 70% of daily showers and a medium of 7 showers a week. The last places are taken by China, Japan and UK, where around 50% shower daily.

Wondering if this is good or not, we have to remember that before the 1st World War, frequently washing in Europe and US used to be once a week, tells us Katherine Aschenburg in her book, The Dirt on Clean: An Unsanitized History. In contrast, in Eastern World, in countries like China, it was mandatory to take a hot bath every five days, or even every day in Japan, reminiscing the Japanese traditional daily bath before going to bed.  

According to other statistics, showering frequency seems to vary due to seasonal change. In the summertime, where temperatures are hot, most people have a daily shower, or even two. Where in the cold season, or colder regions, people tend to shower less, once every two or three days, or even once a week.

Concerning the time of the day used for showering, in the US, most people seem to take a shower in the morning, after they wake up, while in the Eastern countries, they prefer, and it’s even recommended by traditional medicines, to take it before going to bed, as a method to release the tensions and get better sleep. Showering with hot water open up the pores, so if you happen to go outside afterwards, the cold and wind can easily get into your system and lead to health problems. So Easterners seems to get it right this time.

Showering Habits

What dermatologists advise?

If we were to ask a skin specialist about the healthy frequency of showering, we might be getting to the conclusion that we are showering a bit too much – too often, too long, too hot, with too much soap.

“I think showering is mostly for aesthetic reasons. People think they’re showering for hygiene or to be cleaner, but bacteriologically, that’s not the case” says Dr. Elaine Larson, infectious disease expert at Columbia University School of Nursing for Times Magazine.

The skin has a natural protective layer, made of lipids, natural antibiotic substances and a healthy microbiome. Overwashing this layer using soap and hot water will leave the skin open to pathogen factors and will increase the risk of eczema, rashes and irritations.

“Too much all-over bathing may even raise your risk for some health issues. Dry, cracked skin opens up gaps for infection-causing germs to slip through. That means frequent bathing when your skin is already dry may increase the odds of coming down with something.” continues Dr. Larson.

On the other side, “if you don’t wash often enough, this can result in other problems like acne, boils, and skin irritations. And if that buildup of unwanted bacteria gets into your nose or lungs, then it may also cause respiratory issues and problems with your gut.” declared Jason Tetro, Canadian microbiologist for Global News.

So the challenge is to keep balance and find the middle way.

The advice is using soap daily only on the areas that produce more sweat or secretions, like armpits, groin, posterior and feet. Opting for lukewarm water rather than hot and not to stay in the shower for too long, 10 minutes seems to be just enough. Most specialists say that daily showers are not really necessary. One on every two or three days is perfectly healthy as long as we take care of the sweaty areas every day.

“A sedentary person can get away with a shower once, twice or three times a week, especially in winter. It varies on your skin type and what you are doing” says Stephen Shumack, President of the Australasian College of Dermatologists.

The use of antibacterial soap is also not recommended for showering, but more for hand wash, especially if one gets in contact with a lot of people or works in germ-friendly environments.

As for the kids, the American Academy of Dermatology advises bathing children between 6 and 12 once or twice a week, in case they’re not very dirty from playing, as they need some dirt in order to build up their immune system.

Excessive perspiration or body odor can hide health problems

In spite of many people’s efforts to keep themselves clean and odorless, sometimes it seems impossible to get it right. This ritual becomes obsessive and exhausting because no matter how much washing is done, sweat and strong body odor seem to be hard to get rid of. This can be a sign that they need to turn the focus from excessive washing to checking more their health and lifestyle.

Excessive sweating can be caused by a dysfunction of the thyroid gland, diabetes, heart problems or menopause.  Also, a very common problem can be the emotional stress. Stress accelerates the body metabolism, making it burn organ resources very fast. So it’s like an engine that overworks in the body. It consumes more fuel, so the result is more toxins to be released. This is why nervous or stressed people perspire more and generate a more acidic sweat.

Not drinking enough water can also be a cause of excessive body odor. Because the lack of water in the system, the kidneys cannot excrete all the toxins, so they have to come out through the skin in a concentrated form. The advice is to drink about 2L of water in a day.

Very smelly and sticky sweat, optionally accompanied by skin problems, fatigue, allergies can be a sign of colon or liver intoxication due to unhealthy eating habits. You might be eating too much animal products, red meat, fried food, coffee, alcohol, sugar, white flour or processed food filled with additives. These foods raise to a high amount the blood acidity, that will come out of the skin pores through perspiration. A healthy diet includes a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables, protein from vegetal sources, complex carbs, whole grains, and only about 10% animal products, advises Hiromi Shinya, gastroenterologist and pioneer of modern colonoscopic techniques. To get rid of the toxins in the colon, it’s recommended to make a detox once in a while and for optimal results, try a colon hydrotherapy.

Also smoking tobacco, or eating certain strong spices like garlic, or processed meat products that contain garlic can contribute a lot to a strong body odor.

A person with balanced emotions and healthy diet generally does not produce a very distinctive odor when sweating. So instead of people over obsessing with showering, should look more after their diets and daily habits.

A healthy habit for the body, mind and spirit

In Ancient Egypt, people considered that the cleanest a person is, the closer it can get to the Gods. In India, getting bathed at sunrise into the Ganges is an expression of purifying from sins and starting the day in a divine and auspicious manner. And in traditional Japan, every hard day of work ended up with a relaxing and revigorating bath, followed up by a heavenly massage.

Beyond the physical beneficial side of hygiene, a shower taken after a long day of work can help relax and wash away all the energetic blockages, emotional stress and physical tension accumulated during the day. In Ayurveda – the Indian Traditional Medicine are used for bathing different kinds of herbs, spices and perfumed oils in order to enhance the relaxing or therapeutical effect, and also sponges and pillows to stimulate blood circulation and reinvigorate the body.

So starting or ending a day in a divine relaxing atmosphere, whether your leather or not the skin with soap entirely, it’s surely a good way to rewind and connect to your higher essence.

Conclusions and healthy tips for showering

So showering might be a problem of common sense after all. Some do it for aesthetical reasons, some for hygiene, some just for the pleasure and relaxation. If you’re more active, you might need more showering, if you’re living in a cold area you might need it less often, and so on.

There’s no rule to it, but there are certainly some key points everyone has to be aware of in order to keep healthy and clean at the same time:

Showering every day is not mandatory for health, unless you’re very active, live in a hot climate or deal with a lot of dirt. A shower every two or three days is fine.

  1. If you shower every day, make sure you don’t lather your whole skin with soap, as it will dry out and you will destroy your natural skin protection.
  2. Use soap every day only the most essential sweaty areas: armpits, groin, bottom and feet.
  3. Use gentle soap, use lukewarm water and don’t hang out too much time in the shower.
  4. If you take the shower in the morning, make sure you wait at least an hour, preferably two, until you get out in the cold or wind.
  5. If you’re concerned about your body odor, make sure you drink enough water and eat healthy. And don’t stress too much.
  6. Take advantage of your shower time to relax and wash away everyday problems.

Yes, we live in a world where social norms seem to put pressure on us, but let’s first make sure these norms also fit our needs and our health. It’s time to make conscious decisions and find the truth within ourselves.