One of the most controversial topics out there involves how often we should take a shower. Every day? A few times a week? Ask a group of people and you’re guaranteed to hear a bunch of different answers. The topic almost stirs up as much conversation as how often to wash your clothes.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the “average American family uses more than 300 gallons of water per day at home.” That includes water from brushing your teeth, making dinner, doing laundry, flushing the toilet, and—of course—taking a shower. Lucy Chen, a board-certified dermatologist at Riverchase Dermatology, says the latter is the perfect place to start cutting back.
The Benefits of Showering Less
According to Harvard University, the average eight-minute-long shower uses 2.5 gallons of water per minute. That adds up to 20 gallons of water down the drain by the time you dry off.
While trying to cut down that time is possible, it’s not always easy—especially when you’re shampooing and conditioning your hair, shaving, and checking off any other shower task. Showing less is, though. “If you shower less, you also save water and save the energy used to heat water,” says Dr. Chen.
Aside from helping the planet, Dr. Chen says it can also benefit your skin. “Showering less helps strengthen your immune system by keeping disease-fighting bacteria living on your skin. It also allows us to preserve more of our microorganisms and the skin’s natural oils,” she says. “Microbes on the skin potentially stop harmful pathogens from entering the body and reduce the possibility of skin conditions.”
So, one question remains: How often should you shower, really? Read on for a shower schedule that’s good for you and the planet.
How Often Should You Shower?
According to Dr. Chen, taking a shower every day isn’t necessary. (Gasp!) “I recommend showering every other day, or anywhere from 2 to 3 times a week,” she says. Doing so is greatly beneficial to your skin.
“Showering every day may be bad for your skin because it can remove essential oils and dry out your skin,” she says. “Dryness can lead to eczema or skin inflammation, or make your skin red and itchy.”
With that being said, she acknowledges that the “correct” number of times to shower each week will vary from person to person. Especially for those who are more active.
Showering When You’re Sweaty: Yay or Nay?
Maybe you just finished running a few miles on the treadmill, or got home from taking your dog on a walk. Either way, you’re drenched in sweat. In that case, a shower is necessary.
“One of the main reasons for showering is to wash away dead skin cells, dirt, debris, and sweat. If you work up a sweat, you may want to shower that same day,” says Dr. Chen. “The amount you should shower really depends on your environment and your daily activities. Showering also depends on your natural tendencies toward sweating, oiliness, and body odor.”
If you’re more active, or spend almost every day aggressively sweating in the gym, you’ll probably want to lean on the side of showering more often. With that being said, it’s still possible to shower too much.
Can You Shower Too Much?
Dr. Chen says there’s “not really a threshold for showering too much, as the amount you shower depends on your lifestyle and skin type.” But going overboard could cause damage by removing healthy bacteria and oil from your skin.
“When this happens, your skin can become cracked, and bad bacteria can enter through cracked skin, leading to exacerbated eczema, allergic reactions, acne, or skin infections,” she says. “In addition, you can dry out your hair by stripping it of natural oils, dry out your skin, and also can develop contact and seborrheic dermatitis.”
Showering too much can also have damaging effects on your hair, such as making your hair extremely greasy. Or on the opposite end of the spectrum, creating dry scalp (which causes dandruff). Keep an eye out for any of these signs. If you notice them, rethink your shower schedule.
What If You Don’t Shower Enough?
We’ve already talked about what can happen if you shower too frequently, but what if you don’t shower enough? The short answer: Not a lot of good.
“If you don’t shower enough, you increase your risk of buildup of sweat, dirt, and dead skin cells on your skin. The mixture of sweat and bacteria causes body odor and dirt on the skin, resulting in acne, blackheads, and clogged pores,” says Dr. Chen. “The buildup of dead skin cells can irritate the skin and cause your skin to feel dry and itchy. In addition, if you don’t shower enough, your skin is unable to fight harmful bacteria.”
According to Dr. Chen, when your skin is unable to prevent bad fungi and bacteria, fungal and bacterial infections can happen (such as staph or ringworm). “You can also develop a cold from bad bacteria, since you’re not washing away germs that cause illness,” she says. “Skin conditions such as eczema or atopic dermatitis can also get worse if you don’t shower enough.”
The Right (and Wrong) Way to Shower
We know how tempting it can be to stay in the shower for a long time, enjoying the warm water and practicing your shower karaoke. But, realistically, Dr. Chen says showers should last between 5 to 10 minutes. Anything longer can strip your skin and hair of essential moisture and oil, not to mention negatively impact the planet.
The way you wash in the shower is also important. “You should gently glide products and soap over your skin and avoid aggressively scrubbing, which can lead to irritation,” she says. “It’s also important to moisturize your skin after showering to combat dry skin and keep the skin moist.”
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to how often you should shower. If you’re more active, you’ll probably want to shower more often to prevent issues like itchy, dry skin. But if you’re more sedentary—working from home or working a desk job—it’s likely safe to shower every other day, or 2 to 3 times a week.
No matter how often you shower, just remember to keep them short. As Dr. Chen says, 5 to 10 minutes is really all you need to get squeaky clean.
The sustainable shower routine you need:
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