For some, a shower in the morning provides stimulation to wake up and start the day, while a shower at night serves as a crucial rinse and relaxation tool. According to YouGov, an international research data and analytics group, most of us (66% of adults in the U.S.) find a reason to shower daily. But if you are scheduling a daily shower (or two) because you think you're supposed to, you might be relieved to learn that showering every day might not be that good for you.
"There's no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to personal hygiene," says Dr. Niket Sonpal MD, a New York-based internist and professor at Touro College. "Some skin can thrive on one shower a day, and other skin can dry out really easily. Two showers a day may be necessary for healthcare workers, construction workers, or people who work out later in the day." But showering too often when you don't have that personal, essential need, like getting dust and grime or germs cleared off, "can actually be detrimental to your skin," he adds.
When you shower too much, you dry out your skin, especially if you are scrubbing with an abrasive material or soap. "You can deplete the essential oils, lipids, and bacteria that help your skin fight off inflammation, maintain a smooth look and reinforce its protective barrier," Dr. Sonpal says. Worse, people with conditions like psoriasis or eczema could end up exacerbating their condition by showering too much. Though it's not visible, our bodies have built-in sanitation systems that help keep us clean, even when we're not scrubbing in warm water daily, Dr. Sonpal explains.
Societal pressures might lead us to believe we are dirtier than we are, but these reasons not to shower every day can help you figure out what your best shower rhythm is.
1. You're Not Even Dirty
"If you go to the gym everyday, or work in a chemical factory or medical facility, you can shower every day," Dr. Sonpal tells Bustle. Otherwise, you're probably not that dirty. According to Dr. David Lortscher, a board-certified dermatologist and CEO/founder of Curology, "showering a few times per week is enough for most people." Though we might associate oily skin with dirty skin, the reality is that "healthy skin retains a layer of oil," so it's best not to wash it away more than necessary — it's good oil!
2. You Need That Bacteria
There is a delicate balance of microorganisms on the skin, and if it's disrupted with a harsh soap, the skin is left vulnerable to the emergence of more problematic organisms. Dr. Robert H. Shmerling, MD, reported in the Harvard Health Publishing Blog that "Our immune systems need a certain amount of stimulation by normal microorganisms, dirt, and other environmental exposures in order to create protective antibodies and immune memory." This is one reason why bathing daily can be considered harmful, as over time, Dr. Shmerling explained, the showers might reduce the ability of the immune system to do its job.
3. You're Drying Out Your Hair
Washing your hair each day can strip it of natural oils, which can make your hair dull, dry, or frizzy. According to Andrea L. Hayden, director of the International Association of Trichologists, you should only be washing your hair two times per week, especially if you have fine, weak, or damaged hair. On the days when you don't wash, you can still condition to help rebuild moisture, according to Hayden. If you're taking a shower because your hair appears greasy or flat, you can mist it with some dry shampoo or oil-absorbing powder instead.
4. You're Drying Out Your Skin
You might like a long, hot shower, but your skin doesn't. The hot water pulls the natural oils from your skin, which protect it and keep it hydrated and healthy. Dry, cracked skin can allow bacteria and allergens to breach the barrier healthy skin should provide, leading to skin infections, acne, or allergic reactions. If you already have eczema, a hot shower will exacerbate it, leaving you with inflamed, itchy skin. In general, Dr. Lortscher does not suggest hot showers at all to people who suffer from skin inflammation issues — instead, he suggests cool or warm showers to keep the skin calm.
5. You're Messing With Your Scalp Health
The scalp is a delicate ecosystem. If it's washed too frequently, it loses its protective oils, and if it's not washed frequently enough, you can experience a buildup. "If you wash your hair once or twice a day, you can develop dermatitis, (both seborrheic and contact dermatitis) and fungal issues in the scalp," Dr. Sonpal says, who believes that typically every other day, or less, is ideal for shampooing. These conditions occur with too much washing because the oils are striped from the scalp, causing the skin to dry out and flake — hello, dandruff. "If you then pick at those flakes or scrape at them, you can even end up damaging your hair follicles, which could lead to hair loss," Dr. Sonpal explains. So, if you are struggling to pinpoint the right showering schedule for yourself, especially if you notice "heavy flake shedding, and yellowish or even pink scabs or building up," it's time talk your general practitioner or dermatologist about a treatment or shower plan that's right for you.
6. You're Wasting Water
About 20% of the water lost in each shower goes unused, The Washington Post reported back in 2015. This is due to behavioral waste, aka when we're just idling under the water, waiting for it to get hot enough, relaxing, or taking our time in between products. According to Evolve, a entrepreneurial research company, behavioral waste can range from 1.7 to 3.4 gallons to as much as 2.5 to 4.9 gallons per shower. Back in 2015, California imposed a mandatory 25% water restriction for residents to help mitigate the drought. To avoid possible fines, Californians considered showering less to conserve water.
You now have experts' permission to stagger your shower routine, so take a break from scrubbing when you can. You're not as dirty as you think.
Dr. Niket Sonpal, New York-based Internist and Gastroenterologist and Adjunct Professor at Touro College