Science Says Your Daily Shower Isn’t Actually Doing You Any Favors

Rachel Krause

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I used to be the kind of person who obsessively bathed twice a day—or rather, took a shower in the morning and a long bath at night—but at some point I stopped being that person and became the person who showers twice a week. I’ve never looked back. My hair is healthier, my skin less dry; I even break out less often because I’m not exposed to tap water every day.

Still, I wouldn’t go around telling people explicitly that my showering schedule is so sporadic. (I save that for the Internet.) Because so many people shower every day, it’s assumed that those who don’t are “dirty.” I maintain that this is not the case—I wear deodorant, wash my hands frequently, brush my teeth, and all those mandatory hygiene things. I also, like, never work out, even though I should and aspire to one day.

I know I’m not alone, because many of my friends do the same. We’re not all gross; we just know better than to think that you have to shower every day to be “clean.” (My boyfriend insists that his daily morning shower is “a Catholic thing.” Something to do with the original sin, and all—which somehow doesn’t seem to apply on the weekends? Unclear.)

Beyond personal preference, science indicates that I’m on the right side of the showering spectrum. “People think they’re showering for hygiene or to be cleaner, but bacteriologically, that’s not the case,” Dr. Elaine Larson, an infectious disease expert and associate dean for research at Columbia University School of Nursing, told TIME. Bathing will remove odor if that’s what you need, but as far as defending you against illness, washing your hands will totally suffice. Moreover, bathing too frequently may even heighten your risk for certain health issues—dry skin opens up the possibility for infection-causing germs to make their way in.

“I think most people over-bathe,” agrees Dr. C. Brandon Mitchell, assistant professor of dermatology at George Washington University. “Your body is naturally a well-oiled machine,” he says. “A daily shower isn’t necessary.” In fact, Dr. Mitchell instructs patients who shower daily to avoid lathering their whole bodies. “Hit your pits, butt, and groin,” he says, eloquently. “The rest of your body doesn’t need much soaping.”

If you spend a ton of the time at the gym, or happen to smell bad for one reason or another, go ahead and hop in the shower. But if not? Once or twice a week will be just fine.

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