Here’s How Often You Should Really Shower
How often you should shower is a question with no simple answer. Experts explain when—and what—to wash in the shower.
Wellness trends come and go, but one thing that we always assumed was in style was good hygiene. Now we’re starting to wonder, given that the topic of showering—or not showering, as the case may be—is being hotly debated on social media and by celebrities. Quite a few have ‘fessed up and say they have no problem skipping the daily ablutions. One is actor Jake Gyllenhaal, who told Vanity Fair he finds bathing “less necessary” at times. On Dax Shepard’s podcast, “Armchair Expert,” Mila Kunis and husband Ashton Kutcher said it wasn’t really a top priority for themselves or their kids. (Meanwhile, actors The Rock and Jason Momoa came out as shower fans on social media and in interviews.)
Is skipping a shower as gross as it sounds? And how often should we be washing our hair? But even more importantly, does it really have an impact on health? Well, it can, according to Annie Gonzalez, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at Riverchase Dermatology in Miami. Thanks to built-up dirt and sweat, some consequences of not showering enough include body odor, acne breakouts, dead skin buildup, fungal infections, and oily hair, according to Dr. Gonzalez. “Not showering enough can also increase the likelihood of getting sick,” she says.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with skipping a shower every now and then. And there are some risks to overdoing cleanliness and hygiene, too. To find out how often is often enough when it comes to jumping in the shower, we asked Dr. Gonzalez and another expert some questions. Although there’s no one-size-fits-all answer, the pros share their insights to help you determine what’s best for your body.
What determines how often you should shower?
How often you should shower depends on a few things, according to germ expert Philip Tierno, PhD, a microbiologist at NYU Grossman School of Medicine. Here are some things to consider.
One variable that determines how often you should shower is your activity level, according to Dr. Gonzalez. “If you are someone who engages daily in sweat-inducing activities, you will likely need to shower every day,” she says. People who exercise regularly should shower regularly, or at the very least freshen up post-workout until they can bathe. “However, if you don’t participate in any physical activity during the day, it may be unnecessary for you to shower each day.”
There are a few skin conditions you can get or worsen from not bathing or showering. One is dermatitis neglecta, in which dirt, oil, and dead skin cells accumulate and create brown patches on your skin. If you hit the gym and opt not to shower, you could also increase the risk of getting an infection. One example is impetigo, a contagious bacterial skin infection that causes red sores. Another is ringworm, a contagious fungal infection that is easily spread not only by skin-to-skin contact but also by touching infected surfaces or objects; symptoms include scaly, red, and itchy skin. The same type of fungus causes athlete’s foot, too.
Sweat and body odor
Some people sweat more than others, whether or not they participate in physical activity. So, similar to how active you are, how much you sweat in general is another way to determine how often you should shower. “Some people don’t perspire as much and don’t have heavy odors,” Tierno says. And they could get away with showering less often. “A lot of people don’t use deodorant of any kind, and they would be more likely to have an odor after a few days,” he adds. “So it would almost be required to bathe at a particular frequency dependent upon the individual.” In short, the more you stink, the more often you need to bathe—that is, if your body odor is a concern to you (and others around you).
Another contributing factor is your skin type. If your skin is on the oily side and is prone to acne breakouts, showering every day would be wise, according to Dr. Gonzalez. But if your skin tends to be dry and flaky, you should only shower a few times a week so that you don’t deplete your skin’s oils further. People with dry skin who shower too often may irritate the skin barrier, leading to even more dryness and redness. Those with skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis may also experience irritation if they shower too frequently. If you have a skin condition, your doctor might recommend showering less often, as well as using cool or lukewarm water to avoid irritating skin.
People adjust their showering frequency with seasonal change. “The summer brings hot and sticky weather, which often causes body odor,” Dr. Gonzalez says. “However, winter leads to drier skin.” Those living in humid or hot climates may opt to shower more often since they likely sweat more, too.
How well you clean your butt
Tierno isn’t holding back: Cleaning your butt, or wiping away as much fecal debris around the anus as possible, is an especially important task between showers. And knowing how to wipe well helps people prolong or extend their time between showers, too. “The idea is to make sure people wipe their anus in an appropriate way,” Tierno says. “That’s a very important aspect of maintaining good hygiene.”
Following an initial wipe, consider doing double duty to cleanse the area. Use wet tissues with either a saltwater solution (1/2 a teaspoon to 1 teaspoon in a quart of water) or even a mild soap solution to clean the area well. Anal wipes are also an option. (This practice isn’t a bad idea, even if you do prefer to shower daily.) “In a pinch, you can use wet tissue with plain water, but the plain water shouldn’t routinely be used because it can be irritating,” Tierno adds. Looking to get even cleaner down there? We’re loving these bidet toilet attachments.
So, really, how often should you shower?
There is no generic rule about how often you should shower, according to Dr. Gonzalez. It mostly comes down to personal preference. “Some people feel that showering every day is a must, and some people believe that showering two to three times a week is sufficient,” she says.
In general, male or female, it’s OK to skip a day or so depending upon the circumstances, according to Tierno. “Alternating your bathing every other day is perfectly fine,” he says. “There’s no one size that fits all, unfortunately.” It’s not going to hurt to shower every day or every other day if you so choose, according to Tierno.
However, Dr. Gonzalez does suggest showering no more than once a day to keep skin at its healthiest. These body scrubs can also help skin look radiant, but make sure not to overdo it with them, either.
Focus on cleaning certain body parts
How often you shower is as important as how well, and where, you’re cleaning. So it makes sense that Dr. Gonzalez recommends focusing on cleaning the dirtiest parts of your body. These areas include your underarms, groin, hair, breasts, and in between your toes, per Dr. Gonzalez. “Any crevices in the skin should also receive extra attention in the shower, as they get the grimiest and sweatiest,” she says. Again, Tierno drives home the importance of cleaning the butt area.
People who need to shower more (or less) often
Since most teenagers participate in physical activities, they are the age group that should be showering most frequently, according to Dr. Gonzalez. Plus, teens beginning puberty experience an increase in body odor. Meanwhile, children and older adults do not necessarily need to shower as often as teenagers to maintain their cleanliness, Dr. Gonzalez notes. And, of course, individuals who engage in work where they come into contact with debris or germs, such as custodians, garbage collectors, and butchers, may want to shower more often than those who remain in an office all day.
The bottom line
When it comes to the right amount of showering, once a day or every other day seems to be the rule of thumb. But remember, more isn’t always better when it comes to showering. Overdoing it could lead to dry, itchy skin. Your hair could also suffer, though using the best shampoo and conditioner for your hair type can help prevent problems. Tierno’s best bit of advice is to remember that you know your body best. Only you can determine exactly how much cleaning your skin tolerates and needs.
- Philip Tierno, PhD, a microbiologist at NYU Grossman School of Medicine
- Annie Gonzalez, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at Riverchase Dermatology, in Miami
- Armchair Expert: Mila Kunis & Ashton Kutcher
- Vanity Fair: Jake Gyllenhaal on Fast Boats, Extra-Thin Lox, and the Mysteries of Loofah
- Twitter: @TheRock, August 6, 2021
- Access Hollywood: Jason Momoa Insists That He Showers