How often do we actually need to shower?

Woman taking shower bath, washing head with shampoo while hair in the foam. Hygiene, morning routine concepts. Vector illustration; article on Silver Magazine

For many people showering daily is as ingrained as a morning cuppa, but is it necessary, and could it actually be beneficial to shower less?

Looking back in history where water wasn’t so easily available, people bathed far less frequently. A weekly bath was the norm for many in the 1960s/1970s. However, with the convenience of showers becoming commonplace, our washing frequency has increased. Is it becoming as addictive as a cup of tea? How often do we really need to shower?

I’m not sure when I started to relax my daily showering habit

Maybe it was during the 2020 lockdown when a YouGov survey found 17% people were showing less frequently. By 2022 when energy prices increased, I was definitely skipping days.

As a writer who works from home, stepping into the shower doesn’t seem like an essential part of my routine. I love putting on my comfy clothes to sit down at my desk, and if I’m not going to see anyone there doesn’t seem much point. When the time comes to meet friends for a coffee, or go for an appointment in town, it feels extra special to shower and put on some nice clothes.

What do the experts say?

Am I neglecting basic hygiene, or should we all be showering less? In a post for the Harvard Medical School blog, Robert H. Shmerling MD explains; “Normal, healthy skin maintains a layer of oil and a balance of ‘good’ bacteria and other microorganisms. Washing and scrubbing removes these, especially if the water is hot.’’

Showering too often can also lead to dry or cracked skin. Add strong chemically- laden shower gels, and these further strip the skin of natural oils. Conditions such as eczema or psoriasis can be made worse. Exposure to dirt and other elements in the environment is actually good for us. It stimulates the immune system to respond, creating antibodies that protect our health.

Showering less also saves water, and gas bills. Of course it also saves time, precious minutes in the morning that could be spent dozing.

However, on the negative side, sometimes we just don’t feel clean unless we’ve had a good shower. It’s a brilliant way to wake up in the morning, and maybe even sing out a few tunes to set the mood for the day. Showering less frequently can lead to an unhealthy build up of dirt and grime that can cause skin conditions like acne. We can’t always notice our own smell the way other people do.

Read more: is sea air actually good for you?

So what do the experts say about shower frequency?

Shermling suggests that every 2-3 days is sufficient. However, we all have different circumstances. If you sweat heavily after a tough workout, or you’ve had a night of menopausal sweats, then obviously a shower is needed.

One option is just to keep showers short to less than five minutes. Use a gentle natural soap and focus on the essential areas; armpits, groin and feet. When you come out of the shower dabbing gently with a towel rather than rubbing your skin dry can help prevent oils from being stripped.

Focus on the areas where bacteria can build up, like the face, armpits, groin, and feet…

The traditional ‘sink wash’ is an option for alternate days. Back in the day when showers weren’t so widespread, a quick wipedown with a flannel while standing at the sink was the norm. Focus on the areas where bacteria can build up, like the face, armpits, groin, and feet. Use a separate flannel for your pelvic area. A stash of flannels won’t take up much more space in your washing machine than a single towel.

As someone who loves luxuriating under warm water once I do get in the shower, it’s sometimes a struggle to get out! So I’m thinking the sink wash might be a good water saving option for me.

Whatever you choose, don’t sweat it (sorry, bad pun!). A short daily shower won’t use up much more water than longer showers and sink washing on alternate days. We are all different, with different lifestyles, so choose what works best for you, and your skin.

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About Kate Orson
Kate Orson is a freelance writer and the author of Tears Heal: How To Listen To Our Children. She has written for The Telegraph, Daily Mail, and Metro amongst others. Originally from the UK, Kate now lives in Tuscany, Italy.

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