The Great Shower Debate: Is Everyday Too Much for Your Skin?

Personal/Inspirational, Skin Care

About the author:  Natalie K. Bell is the former magazine editor of The Pitt News.  She has nearly five years of experience in print and communications.  She loves big sun hats and good grammar.  For more, please visit our About page.

Does not showering daily mean you're funky and gross? Not necessarily.

The disco era was funky, you shouldn’t be. For many people that means a preoccupation with smelling good (read: showering daily). But that might not be the way to the best skin.

A few months ago, the New York Times published an article entitled “The Great Unwashed” about the hip counter-culture of showering less-than-daily. Reader responses ranged from people coming out of the closet about their twice-weekly shower habits to those who cried that “European” is just a euphemism for “smelly.”

But this conversation inherently begs the question: How necessary is a daily shower? And the answer is, maybe not as much as you think.

Why do we need to shower?  (no, really?)

Turning on that tap was popular for the Greeks and Romans, but the trend lost steam in the Middle Ages, making for myriad health issues.

Increased cleanliness standards improve overall health in societies (Emerging Infectious Disease Journal, 2001). Hand washing is crucial, and while bathing doesn’t have as much direct evidence (because it generally goes hand-in-hand with increased focus on sanitizing and waste-management), it’s still important.

Showering helps remove dirt and bacteria that might cause infection or even just itching. And though it’s not quite as crucial as keeping those grubby mitts of yours clean — hand washing is still one of the most important things to do to stay healthy — it’s up there. Back when people were showering regularly (think Middle Ages), there were huge disease epidemics and overall poor health (Cleaning Matters, May/June 2008).

You can thank the “Health Revolution” in the 18th and 19th century for making bathing en vogue. It helps keep you healthy.

Is it bad for your skin to shower daily?

It’s not that showering or not showering is bad overall, but depending on your skin type, you could be doing damage. First, let’s get some vocabulary down from (Discovery Health; Encyclopedia of Women’s Health):

Epidermis: This is the top of the three layers of your skin. It’s made up of three parts:

Showering too often can leave skin dry, cracked, and flaky.

When you shower, you essentially scrub away the lipids and horny layer of skin. If you shower too frequently — and this varies from person to person — you leave your skin dry with little time to repair itself.

Essentially, you have a layer of dead skin cells to shield you from the cruelties of the world, and sloughing off too much of that will leave you exposed. It could also result in dry, cracked skin. Some people have a skin type that allows them to shower every day, but some do not.

How can you prevent damage?

To make sure you don’t do further damage to your skin, consider doing some of the tips doctors give for protecting skin in winter:

Using a gentle soap can help prevent damage in the shower.

—Take shorter showers.

—Use lukewarm water

—Lather up with gentle soap.  Nicki loves the Aveeno Moisturizing Bar.  If you prefer something a little more high-end, Shiseido Cleansing Oil For Face and Body is luxurious and moisturizing.

—Moisturizer quickly after getting out of the shower (Edmonton Journal, 2011).

If you decide not to shower daily, you can use a cloth and warm soapy water to clean off certain parts of your body (such as your groin, underarms, and the undersides of your feet) that might sweat throughout the day.

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  • Sidra

    Children do not need to shower everyday because they do not have as many apocrine glands, which are the developed sweat glands which produce more odorous sweat. Interestingly, Asian people have very few apocrine glands also so they sweat much less.

    I also believe diet plays a big role. If you are eating heavy meats, rank cheeses, and very spicy food, generally you will smell worse.

    The biggest thing I think, that people don’t mention, is using a BIDET! How can people be so obsessed with hygiene yet leave dried up fecal residue on their butt? We wouldn’t just wipe our dishes off with a tissue…so why do that with your butt? I think if a person is stringent about rinsing after each bathroom trip, they will be much much cleaner, so they can shower, say, every other day.

  • Well, most people from western countries are rarely taking a bath because of the weather. But, not like me, I always taking a bath everyday thrice a day to make me feel good every time…

  • Kendra

    Put corn starch on the roots of your hair and brush it out so it isn’t visible, and you’ll never have to shower again!

  • I’m definitely a shower once or twice a day girl. I love the water 🙂

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