Regular bathing is obviously a healthy habit. So an extra shower a day may seem like more of a good thing. After all, showers clean your body. And cleaner is better, right?
Well, not necessarily. It might be too much of a good thing. You want to shower enough to keep yourself clean (and not too smelly), but not so much that you dry out your skin and strip off its natural protective layer.
So how often should you bathe? Though your family and friends may beg to differ, it might not be as often as you think.
What Happens When You Shower Too Much?
Normal skin has a protective layer of oil and a balance of “good” bacteria that help protect your skin from dryness and germs. If you clean it too often, especially with harsh soaps and lots of scrubbing, you can strip away this layer, leading to dry, irritated, itchy skin. This can cause cracks in the skin that allow germs and allergens to get through resulting in skin infections or allergic reactions.
In addition, your body’s immune system needs some stimulation from germs, including those that live on your skin. If you scrub them away too quickly, your body doesn’t have a chance to produce the antibodies that protect against them.
Antibacterial soaps can actually add to this by killing off the natural bacterial protection against more infectious germs on the skin that are harder to treat. This can make an even bigger difference in kids as their bodies develop. That’s why some pediatricians and skin doctors recommend against bathing children every day.
What Happens When You Don’t Shower Enough?
Well, your friends, family, and co-workers might let you know about the most obvious problem first: the odor. Though there isn’t anything normally unhealthy about walking around with a strong body odor, it might not be good for building healthy relationships with people at home, school, and work.
But there are also some health and skin issues that can arise. The buildup of oils can cause a buildup of the bacteria that causes acne. Dirt and dead skin can add to the problem by clogging pores. Bottom line: Too little bathing could mean more pimples. The buildup of oils can cause other skin problems too: the flaking away of skin on your scalp (dandruff), and flareups of existing skin conditions like eczema.
How Many Showers Per Week?
There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. Many doctors say a daily shower is fine for most people. (More than that could start to cause skin problems.)
But for many people, two to three times a week is enough and may be even better to maintain good health. It depends in part on your lifestyle. Someone who spends hours in the hot sun working in the yard or running or biking, will likely need to bathe more often than someone who’s cool and indoors.
There are other factors, too. If you have certain allergies or especially oily skin, it may be a good idea to shower more often. On the other hand, it might be better for people with certain skin conditions to keep showers to a minimum.
It also depends on how long you spend in the shower (or bath).
How Long Should You Shower?
Not all bathing is created equal. A quick daily rinse is not the same as a marathon hour-long shower or soak in the tub. The more time you spend in the water, the worse the effects can be on your hair and skin.
Shoot for 3 to 5 minutes and concentrate on the important body parts: armpits, groin, and face. You don’t have to scrub every inch of skin unless you’ve been rolling in the dirt.
And most people don’t need to shampoo every day either. About 2 to 3 times a week is plenty for most types of hair. Though you may need to do more if your hair is especially oily.
The temperature of the water makes a difference too. Hot water may feel good when it’s cold outside, but it’s more likely to dry out your skin and make it itchy. Try to keep the water temperature closer to warm than hot.
Fragrances and scents can pull moisture out of your skin, too. So look for gentle soaps and cleansers. You can even seek out those with labels like “gentle cleanser,” “for sensitive skin,” or “hypoallergenic.”
Limit the drying effects by patting yourself dry with a towel instead of rubbing, and then put on a fragrance-free moisturizer. For best effects, put the moisturizer on within 3 minutes of getting out of the bath or shower.