So you want to know how often you should be showering. We have answers. Now, you may not like all our answers, but we’re not here to help you win an argument about personal hygiene or determine whether the latest lightly rinsed celebrity is being weird or not. We’re here to give you the facts you need to stay clean the best you can.
Come on, how often do I need to shower?
There’s not one right answer, but a range of right answers. Generally, people shower somewhere between every other day and twice a day, depending on their personal preference and how their skin reacts to getting hosed down, says Jeffrey Cohen, a dermatologist and assistant professor at the Yale School of Medicine. So if you’re in that range, you’re doin’ fine.
He further recommends that when you do shower, you use lukewarm water and limit it to 10 or 15 minutes. Doing so can minimize the chance of a long, hot shower drying out your skin. Of course, if your fleshy exterior can tolerate it, there’s nothing necessarily wrong with taking a little longer, he says.
But because everyone is different, your washing routine may differ from people you know or see randomly detailing their personal hygiene on public internet forums. That’s OK. Maybe you have a dirty job or work out a lot. Maybe you have a tendency to just sit and sweat no matter what you’re doing. Whatever the case, you may need to shower more frequently than those who are blessed with limited sweatiness and comfortable, exertion-free lives. And if you prefer to shower less, perhaps two or three times a week, there are dermatologists who say that’s totally fine.
Culture also plays at least some role in how often you feel the need to shower. A 2014 study on global bathing habits by market research firm Euromonitor International found that people in the US shower slightly less than seven times a week. People living in the UK, China, and Japan tallied around five per week, while those in Brazil approached 12. As for hair, most people shampooed their heads about four times a week, regardless of how often they showered—except for Mexico, where people showered and shampooed pretty much every day.
And there is, of course, always the chance that you’re being swayed by marketing that tells you no one will ever love you if you smell even a little bit.
If you ever needed factual support to “just do you,” there you have it. But listen, before you close this tab, you should understand the risks of both over- and under-showering. Some of them are not pleasant.
What happens if I don’t shower enough?
Your skin is the barrier between everything inside your body and everything outside of it. That means it touches and collects so, so, so much stuff. If you don’t shower, debris such as dead skin cells, dirt from your environment, and sebum (your body’s naturally lubricating oils) can pile up. Unfortunately, when this happens, you don’t get a rad, protective shell—you get irritation and infection. Extremely not cowabunga, dudes.
In addition to all that, the buildup can lead to unpleasant body odors since you’re not washing away dirt and odor-producing bacteria, Cohen says. Sweat plays a role too, but not all sweat smells. It’s the apocrine glands in areas of your body—like the armpits—that secrete proteins and lipids that bacteria absolutely love to eat. The more all this builds up, the more likely bacteria are to thrive and your body will begin to smell bad as a result.
That’s not to say people will definitely cringe away from you in disgust if you shower less—maybe your body naturally produces little odor, or maybe you can get away with just a quick water-only rinse. It comes down to knowing your body’s preferences.
Can I shower too much?
When you shower, your skin gets wet, but the water dries you out. It sounds counterintuitive, but moisture leaves your skin when you dry off. If you have very dry skin, you’ll lose more moisture if you shower more, Cohen says.
Your skin also plays a role in maintaining your immune system and produces antimicrobial peptides to help fight infection. All of that gets washed away as you spend more time under the spray, Cohen says.
One way to counteract dryness is to use lukewarm water, as Cohen recommends higher up in this story. Hotter water simply dries the skin out more. You can also use gentle soap to reduce irritation from cleaning products, and take care to moisturize your skin after you dry off but before you’re completely dry, Cohen says.
Excessive showering can also dry out your hair, leaving it fragile and feeling brittle, Cohen says.
Ultimately, the key to proper hygiene isn’t a set number of showers per week, or following what everyone around you is doing. It’s about knowing what your body needs, how it responds to showers and day-to-day life, and finding a happy place that works for you. Let other people work themselves into a lather—it’s just water off your back.