According to Dr. Joshua Zeichner, assistant professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, how frequently we shower and what we perceive as body odor is “really more of a cultural phenomenon.” Boston dermatologist Dr. Ranella Hirsch echoes this sentiment. “We overbathe in this country and that’s really important to realize,” she says. “A lot of the reason we do it is because of societal norms.”
Taking care of your body through good personal hygiene not only helps you present an outwardly groomed appearance, it’s also good for your health. Everyone wants to be clean, seem fresh and smell great, a desire influenced by advertisements and fear of judgement. However, a study conducted by the University of California San Diego School Of Medicine revealed that showering too often isn’t healthy, or necessary.
Soap causes your skin to become dry and rough by removing natural oils from it. Likewise, shampoos strip oils from your scalp and follicles, causing dry and weaker hair. While there are conditioning and moisturizing products available, they are a poor substitute for what your body would naturally make.
Our bodies are naturally prepared and capable of protecting themselves. When you shower, you are trying to clean off the dirt, excess grease, and malodorous bacteria. What ends up happening in the shower process is you removing the top layer of dead skin that protects the layers underneath. By breaking this layer up you also remove the fats and lipids responsible for moisturizing.
By showering and scrubbing yourself daily you break down this layer. The more often you scrub the more the damage accumulates. Besides healthy skin being dried out and left without protection, bacteria that are good for the body also gets removed by scrubbing yourself down excessively. These bacteria are vital for protecting your skin and stopping infections. The same can be said for the scalp – it needs its natural oils and the presence of beneficial bacteria to thrive.
Dr. Zeichner and Dr. Hirsch say that showering too often (particularly in hot water) can dry out and irritate skin, wash away the good bacteria that naturally exists on your skin, and introduce small cracks that put you at a higher risk of infection.
Both doctors say that parents should not bathe babies and toddlers daily. Dr. Zeichner says that early exposure to dirt and bacteria may make the skin less sensitive as you age, and prevent allergies and conditions like eczema.
You only need to shower and scrub every two to three days. In between scrub sessions, you can rinse off sweat and dirt. You should clean your groin, underarms and feet anytime you shower. You can skip the rest as the bacteria you skin invites will keep those areas healthy.
Embracing this regimen can take a little adjusting to but after a short while you’ll feel much softer and comfortable. You will also save money on water, soaps and lotions. This method will also allow you to smell more like you (in a good way), instead of a collage of commercial scents.
Featured image source: Vjeran Pavic/flickr