Once you get to day three or four post-shower, the cleanliness questions may start to arise. You might, for example, find yourself staring in the mirror and wondering how long is too long to go without a bath. And truthfully, there are a few gross things can happen when you don't shower, that you may want to keep in mind.
In general, you'll want to shower at least every two to three days, and more often depending on your lifestyle. "If you are someone who sweats a lot, has a history of bacterial infections, works out daily, or works in a high-risk environment [such as a school teacher or healthcare provider] then it’s best to shower daily to prevent infection and to prevent the spread of infection," family and emergency medical doctor, Dr. Janette Nesheiwat, tells Bustle.
In general, though, it's OK to skip a shower here and there, if you don't feel like taking one. The same is true if you have a health condition that requires you to bathe less often, as recommended by your doctor. And there are, of course, always exceptions to the general showering rule, such as when you're on a trip and far away from plumbing.
It'll be up to you to figure out what feels right, and then stick to that schedule. Because if you go too long without a shower, experts say you may experience some of the side effects listed below.
1. Sweat & Bacteria Will Mix
While sweat itself doesn't have an odor, it can mix with the natural bacteria on your skin and start to cause body odor if you don't hop into the shower. "Body odor is in part from the bacteria producing gas," Dr. Nesheiwat says, "and it gets worse with time."
Add in the fact there are two different types of sweat glands, and various aromas can occur. According to Mayo Clinic, these glands include the eccrine glands and the apocrine glands. The eccrine glands are found all over the body and open directly onto the surface of the skin, while the apocrine glands are found in areas near hair follicles, like your armpits and groin.
The eccrine glands secrete sweat, which helps you cool off. And the apocrine glands secrete a different fluid when you're under stress. Once either combines with the bacteria on the skin, you can get body odor — like that of the extra-pungent stress sweat.
2. Acne Can Crop Up
While there are many different causes of acne, some folks may notice that skipping out on a shower can make a breakout worse. This is especially true if you fall asleep before cleansing your skin, and sleep all night with the dirt, oils, and makeup that accumulated on your skin throughout the day.
"Dirty skin on the face can result in clogged, large pores resulting in blackheads, acne, and skin irritation," Dr. Nesheiwat says. So even if you're really tired, you should at the very least try to cleanse your skin, and then take your usual shower the following day.
Some people do say, however, that their acne clears up when they don't shower or wash as often. It can depend on your skin type, as well as the cause of your acne. If you're unsure what to do, don't hesitate to ask a dermatologist.
3. Germs Can Take Over
Right now, there are millions upon millions of bacteria crawling all over your body. And yes, they're there even if you've showered. But that's not necessarily a bad thing.
As Dr. Nesheiwat says, "We all have good bacteria that lives on our skin. But if you don’t help out the good bacteria by washing and exfoliating, dead skin cells accumulate, creating a medium for bacterial or fungal overgrowth, infection, and inability to fight the bad bacteria and fungus we encounter."
4. Patches Can Form On The Skin
If it's been a minute since the last time you took a shower, you might start to notice brown patches on the skin. Usually, this only happens in extreme cases, like if you go without a shower for weeks or months at a time. But it is an interesting side effect to keep in mind.
This condition is called dermatitis neglecta, which literally means "neglecting the skin." It can also result from not gently scrubbing with a cloth or loofah, which might allow oils and sweat to accumulate on the skin. It takes a while to get to this point, but it's a very real side effect of not showering.
5. Skin Conditions Can Get Worse
Atopic dermatitis, better known as eczema, is a condition that can make your skin red and itchy, according to Mayo Clinic. It's caused by genetics, as some people simply have skin that's susceptible to allergens. It can also impact your skin's barrier, putting you at risk for further irritation.
Since most people with eczema have dry skin, one of the best ways to find relief is to reintroduce moisture through proper bathing and skincare techniques, the National Eczema Association says. In fact, taking a bath or shower can help keep the skin from drying out, especially if you moisturize immediately afterward.
While you will want to let a dermatologist know about your eczema, there are quite a few ways to feel better, including taking good care of your skin.
6. Fungal Infections Become More Likely
Taking a shower can not only feel good and refreshing, but it's also a necessary part of keeping yourself healthy. "Our skin is our defense to the environmental toxins and debris we encounter on a daily basis," Dr. Nesheiwat says. "If not cared for properly by washing, then we allow the opportunity for a fungal infection, [like] ringworm from the floor mat of the gym, or a bacterial infection [such as] staph you may have picked up on the subway."
Taking a shower after coming in contact with surfaces like these can help keep you healthy, and hopefully stave off various infections. "Bugs, bacteria, and parasites like to hide under the nails, in the groin, behind the ears, or armpits," Dr. Nesheiwat says. "It’s important to wash these areas routinely."
7. Your Hair Can Get Oilier Than You Think
Many people report having oily hair a few days after shampooing, which can make your stands either shiny and hydrated, or utterly difficult to manage — depending on your hair type.
It'll be up to you to figure out how often to shampoo, but do keep in mind how not washing hair regularly could allow for product build-up, scalp irritation, and greasy oily hair for some people, Dr. Nesheiwat says. You might even experience scalp odor due to sweat accumulating and feeding bacteria.
While it's not necessary to shower every single day, it is a good idea to find a bathing routine that works for you and take good care of your skin. Because if you don't, these side effects and more may crop up — and that's never fun.
This post was originally published on 5/7/2016. It was updated on 6/11/2019.
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