There's No Need To Shower Every Day

Published: Sun 26 May 2024 05:37 PM
Showering every day? You may be doing it all wrong.
According to medical professionals, there is no intrinsic health benefit from bathing daily.
In fact, it might even be bad for you - drying out your skin and weakening your immune system. But should we really all skip the wash?
Matilda Welin is a features correspondent for the BBC, and chatted with Jim Mora about her own journey to realising that daily showers were not necessary.
"I do shower - I'm not some kind of crazy person who never showers and stinks and scares everybody off.
"I shower less than I used to... but I do still clean myself. I smell all right, I think!"
Welin used to shower or bathe every day "because that's just what you do".
There were three reasons why that changed. The first was the Covid-19 lockdowns, when she was not leaving the house as much as before, and found she "wasn't as scared of other people smelling me".
The second factor was moving in with a partner who showered around every third day.
The last reason, she said, was "sheer middle-aged laziness - I stopped caring so much".
Once Welin had stopped, she wondered why there was such an impetus in society to bathe daily, and decided to study the psychological mechanisms behind the act.
This research led her to realise it was "a made-up rule, with no basis in actual health science and all to do with habit".
But are there some people for whom daily showers are essential, such as those doing rigorous physical exercise, or with certain health conditions?
Welin said yes, perhaps if you were doing physical work or manual labour, such as working with soil.
"If people want to, there's nothing stopping them from doing it."
But the stigma around being clean and smelling fresh means many were loath to admit they did not shower every day.
Welin's research found about 49 percent of those surveyed admitted they did not shower every day - but no one wanted to be the public face of that stance.
Many people washed themselves daily, but did it with a flannel in the sink. For some proponents of this approach, it was driven by the need to conserve water.
Welin suggested that "performative showering" - where you needed to be seen to be bathing daily - arose in the early 20th century when links were made between health and hygiene.
"So they installed many showers and baths in homes - and because they're there, people will use them."
Modern life is so busy, it involved different activities that required clothing changes, so some people in her study treated the shower "like a Superman booth", emerging as a different persona each time, she says.
Some people in the study said they felt they had to shower in the morning, to wake up - treating it like a transition in their daily schedule.
Others liked to shower when they came home from work to "wash away the day", she said.Are showers better than baths?
Welin says there is evidence of baths stretching back centuries, to Roman times.
"The benefit of a bath... is that baths are cleansing for the soul and the body... there is almost a mythological power to them, which still remains today.
"Taking a bath is about more than cleaning your physical body."
Many believed showers were healthier, as any dirty water from washing the body drained away down the plughole. But the difference in cleanliness between the two was too small to make a difference, she said.Welin 's three ways to shower less, successfullySpot-clean specific parts of the body with a flannel, for example under the armsDon't stop washing your handsFind a trusted friend or family member "and beg them to be honest in telling you whether you smell"
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