We Asked Doctors If You *Really* Need To Shower Every Day

Here’s how avoiding a wash affects your skin, hair, and smell.

by Sarah Fielding and Jay Polish
Originally Published: 
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Picture this: You've been working from home in your pajamas all day, save for a quick break for yoga. Maybe you have a little hot sauce in your hair, but the inertia of the couch is real. You might find yourself asking, "Do I really need to shower?" What about those times when you promise yourself that you'll shower in the morning, knowing good and well that you won't have time? Suddenly, it's been two days since you last washed, and you're wondering how often do you actually have to shower?

If you didn't take a shower this morning, "for most people, there is absolutely no health risk in skipping that shower," says Dr. Edison de Mello, M.D., Ph.D., the founder and director of the men’s clinic and chief medical officer of the Akasha Center for Integrative Medicine. "Sure, if you sweat you could develop a bit of body odor and have a stinky afternoon. Even so, a daily shower is not really necessary."

Showering each day is not only unnecessary, but it can feel impossible for some folks. Shower avoidance syndrome — sometimes referred to as ablutophobia — is a form of anxiety that manifests in an overwhelming fear of bathing. For people without this phobia, but who need a couple of days to build up the energy to brave the water, experts say not showering for a week probably won’t dramatically impact your physical health.

How often you should shower also depends on your own skin type and activity levels. It's important to know when and how to shower for your own body and lifestyle. If long hours on the job make you sweaty every day, showering more often is probably going to help you feel less gross. Is your skin prone to being super dry? Make extra sure you're moisturizing after you bathe.

While there's no serious health risk to skipping a shower, there are some effects to be aware of, especially if you're predisposed to certain skin conditions like eczema. Here's what can happen to your body if you don't shower for two days.


Your Skin’s Ratio Of Good & Bad Bacteria Changes

Your body has both good and bad bacteria. Your skin is an important barrier between harmful bacteria (the kind that can get you sick) and the inside of your body, so showering can prevent germs from being able to come into your body (think: through your mouth, nose, and eyes). What's more, bathing can improve the ratio of your body's good bacteria (the kind that helps you digest food and generally stay healthy) versus bad bacteria. So, when you skip that shower, you’re letting a day go by where your body is not strengthening your skin's good bacteria, making it more susceptible to harmful bacteria.

When you go yet another day without bathing, it only adds to your chances of being vulnerable to bad bacteria — and not showering for a week can make you even more susceptible. “We are exposed to a whole host of bacteria during our day,” says Dr. Aishah Muhammad, M.D., a pediatrician and personal trainer. “By not showering, these bugs will remain on your skin and leave you at risk of developing different types of infections, including skin and chest infections.”


You Could Increase Your Likelihood Of Getting Sick

When you bathe, you clean off the germs that you've encountered throughout the day, including those that can enter your body through your eyes, mouth, and nose and make you sick. However, if you do take a few days between showers, consistently washing your hands can go a long way to prevent sickness.

“By not washing, you are more likely to have a number of different bugs on your hands and face,” Dr. Muhammad says. “This puts you at risk of developing a cold or infection as bugs may be present and can leave your body fighting off their effects.”


You Can Break Out

When you aren't showering as regularly, your skin can become oily and salty — hello, sweat! — leading to blemishes and breakouts. Although your skin can get all sweaty during the day anyway, not bathing means these bacteria are not being thoroughly removed or cleaned.

Sebum [that thin layer of oil that might make you look shiny in certain pictures] produced by the skin accumulates when you do not wash,” Dr. Muhammad says. “This, along with bacteria living on the skin, can lead to blocked pores and a breakout of spots.” Though washing your face at the beginning and end of the day can help protect your face against acne breakouts, showers help ensure that you don’t have breakouts on your body either.


You Can Release Up To 30 Bad Smells

A little known fact is that body odor is not caused by sweat, but actually results from the gasses bacteria give off as they consume body protein and fatty acids, according to a 2018 study published in the journal Microbiome. When you skip showering for a couple days, it can lead to your body releasing potentially unpleasant odors. Dr. Muhammad says, “Body odors form naturally as a result of bacteria on the skin breaking sweat down into acid. By not washing while continuing to sweat, bad smells will just get worse and worse.”

"For your mental health’s sake, make sure you bathe enough to keep body odor at bay," de Mello says. "According to a 2015 study on relationship deal-breakers by Peter Jonason and colleagues, smelliness ranks among the top relationship deal-breakers." Although deodorants, perfumes, and wipes can sometimes help with odors, they only mask smells that will still be there once the products wear off. Showers eliminate the odors by cleaning the bacteria entirely.


Your Skin Can Dry Out

If you have skin conditions such as eczema, showering regularly can help keep flare-ups at bay. The National Eczema Organization recommends taking a shower or bath once a day to replace moisture in your skin. But do try to keep the shower on the shorter side and make sure the water's not too hot. Follow the shower by massaging your skin with moisturizer. “Dead skin and grease naturally gather on the top layer of skin,” Dr. Muhammad says. “By not washing, this buildup can leave your skin feeling itchy and dry.”


Your Hair Can Get Greasy

If your hair is of the oily variety, it can start to get pretty greasy after two shower-less days. For the same reason you may get breakouts after a day or two of not washing, because the oil you produce makes your hair greasy. “Sebaceous glands release an oily substance called sebum which gives your hair a natural shine; however, when an excess of sebum accumulates you can get greasy hair,” Dr. Muhammad says. “Hair naturally traps moisture against your scalp. By not washing for a number of days, grease, dirty and dead skin cells will accumulate giving you an itchy and dry scalp.”


Dirt Can Accumulate On Your Skin

It's uncommon, but skin issues can develop when you postpone showers indefinitely. “Dermatitis neglecta is a rare skin condition that can develop as a result of not maintaining hygiene where dead skin cells build up and cause patches on the skin,” Dr. Muhammad tells Bustle. This condition can occur when dirt accumulates on your skin because of sweat not being washed off.

It's good to be aware of the risks of dermatitis neglecta, but it's not a huge concern if you just skip the occasional shower. It really only happens when your skin is consistently not being washed correctly. But, if you have been skipping showers more often than usual and start to see brown spots on your skin, you should begin to shower more frequently and also contact your doctor to see if you need topical treatments to help eliminate the issue.

Studies Referenced:

Jonason, P.K. (2015) Relationship deal-breakers: Traits people avoid in potential mates. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin,

Lam, T.H. (2018) Understanding the microbial basis of body odor in pre-pubescent children and teenagers. Microbiome,


Edison de Mello, M.D., Ph.D., founder, director of men’s clinic, and chief medical officer of the Akasha Center for Integrative Medicine

Dr. Aishah Muhammad, M.D., pediatrician and personal trainer

Additional reporting by Syeda Khaula Saad.

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