We've all been there — day three or four of not bathing, when the cleanliness questions start to arise. "Is it OK to go this long without showering?" we ask ourselves while staring at our greasy reflections in the mirror. Well, much to your horror (and mine), it turns out some pretty gross things can happen when you don't shower. Luckily, these worrying levels of dirtiness usually only happen in rare and extreme situations. Maybe you're at a four-day-long music festival and the line to the "bathhouse" (aka a hose in a tent) is a mile long. Or maybe you're hiking the Pacific Crest Trail like a badass, and showering is the furthest thing from your mind.
Under normal life circumstances, however, you should be showering between every other day and every third day. (Yes, even if you're too cold, too tired, or running late to work.) "The exceptions to this rule are people who commute in the subway or other crowded spaces, go to the gym daily or are in contact with potentially sick people (such as those coughing, sneezing or sniffling during the flu season)," notes an article on Med-Health.net.
While some experts agree that showering infrequently is good for your skin, don't take that as license to never step foot in your bathroom again. If you're thinking about going back to your four-day music festival days, check out these rather, um, unpleasant things that can happen when you stop showering.
1. You'll Smell Bad (Duh)
If you've ever done a Molly-Shannon-esque armpit sniff, then you know the power of sweat and the not-so-sweet odor it can produce. But believe it or not, that offensive BO of yours isn't due to the sweat itself. According to an article on WebMD, "While sweat ... is virtually odorless, bacteria use it as a breeding ground and multiply rapidly. What you smell is the products related to bacteria breakdown of keratin protein on the surface of your skin." That may be true, but all I'm worried about is the aftereffect — the malodorous cloud that can only be undone with the a stint in the shower.
2. Acne Will Rear Its Ugly Head
If you've ever zombie-walked your way to bed and gone to sleep without washing your face, then you're no stranger to the horrors that await come morning. I'm talking about pimples, blackheads, and grease for days. And that's after just one night of not scrubbing. So imagine the problems that can arise when you go unbathed for longer periods of time.
As Ayren Jackson-Cannady noted on WebMD, "The face has more oil-producing glands than any other part of the body ... Top that with a day's worth of makeup, sweat, smog, dust, and dirt, and you're left with a pore-clogging concoction that, if not washed away regularly, will seep into and fill pores, resulting in blackheads and pimples." See what I mean?
But in the spirit of fairness, I do want to point out that some people say that their skin clears up when they don't shower. So you'll either be a pimply mess or a clear-skinned goddess. That coin toss is up to you.
3. The Germs On Your Skin Will Take Over
Right now, there are millions upon millions of bacteria crawling all over your body. Yes, even if you've showered. But don't freak out — it's totally a good thing. According to a video featured in a Huffington Post article, at any given time, there are up to 1,000 species of bacteria chilling out on your skin, as well as 80 types of fungus. According to the video, "Most of these germs are actually good for us. They take up real estate on our skin, effectively crowding out the bad fungi and bacteria. Some germs also break down secretions from our skin cells to produce natural moisturizers and antimicrobials."
And yet, as you probably won't be surprised to hear, this germ business can get out of hand. As noted in the video, we encounter all sorts of microbes throughout the day, and when we don't bathe, they can end up in the eyes, nose, or mouth. This may lead to horrible things like diarrhea or the flu. Gross. Not washing also makes it easier for germs that cause skin infections to upset the balance of good microbes. So preventing such infections is another reason we all need to hop in the shower from time to time.
4. Brown Patches Will Form On Your Skin
OK, so it's been a hot minute since you've taken a shower. In not-so-shocking news, this can lead to an accumulation of dirt on the skin. In more shocking news, however, this dirt can get so bad (like, after weeks and months of not showering), that it can form into large brown patches of plaque. This condition is caused dermatitis neglecta, which literally means "neglecting the skin." It results from not scrubbing yourself clean, which allows oils and sweat to accumulate on the skin. It takes a while to get to this point, but it's a very real (and very gross) result of not showering.
5. Your Bad Skin Conditions Can Get Worse
For anyone who has it, you know that eczema is no fun. This is the dry, red, itchy skin that's caused by inflammation, according to WebMD. And, as you might have guessed, it can be made worse by not showering. That's because a bath or shower will keep the skin from drying out. So you can only imagine the type of itchy havoc skipping your shower may cause.
6. That Hair Of Yours Will Become An Oil Slick
Most people report hating their hair two or three days after washing. Of course everyone's hair texture is different, but a lot of people say they feel downright oily after forgoing shampoo. So if you're going to skip the shower, expect to be rocking that slicked-down look.
You can also expect some hardcore scalp smell, which is due to sweat accumulating and feeding that bacteria party. "The bacteria is harmless and present whether you have oily hair or not, but excess oil gives bacteria the food they need to thrive and proliferate, causing odor," said Holly L. Roberts on Livestrong.com. (Those pesky bacteria and their love of sweat, I swear.)
While it's not necessary to shower every day, it is necessary to shower, lest you become an itchy, oily, smelly haven for bacteria.
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