First, It Was Cutting Out Soap. Now, It’s Cutting Back On Showering?

Back in September, I wrote a post about a small but seemingly growing number of people who have stopped using soap and other such detergents, believing that such products have harmed our skin microbiome. Such harm could lead to an increase in inflammatory skin diseases such as eczema and acne. Sandy Skotnicki, a Toronto-based dermatologist and the author of the 2018 book Beyond Soap, noted that “there’s nothing wrong with just rinsing. I’ve talked to people who haven’t used any kind of detergent in years and they’re perfectly fine.”

Skotnicki also points out that since 1950 we have gone from bathing once a week to every day. That behavior is the topic of today’s post.

According to an article in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, more isn’t better when it comes to washing your skin. Showering more frequently may leave you smelling fresh but it doesn’t help prevent infection and it can actually be bad for your skin, say medical doctors. In fact, older people with drier skin may benefit from showering less frequently. Proponents of showering less say there is reason to limit your bathing and that some soaps can strip your skin of beneficial bacteria.

Showering less can be a good idea because it helps keep beneficial microbes on your skin, says Elaine Larson, professor emerita at Columbia University School of Nursing in New York, who recommends that adults shower every three to seven days depending on their age and activity. Since showering further dries out skin, adults over 60 who already have less moisture in their skin may be more vulnerable to germs if washing more frequently, she says. “If you feel dirty, shower or take a bath, but don’t think you have to every day.”

For many people in North America, a daily shower has more to do with learned habits than health, says Katherine Ashenburg, the Toronto-based author of books including “The Dirt on Clean: An Unsanitized History.” In Europe and elsewhere, the cultural norm is to shower less frequently. In North America, “people still really shudder at the idea of not washing or using deodorant every day,” she says. “It just seems to be in our DNA.”

Since I exercise most days of the week, I can’t imagine not taking a shower after my workout, and I am sure neither could anyone who would be within six feet of me that day.

But I am over 60 and have quite dry skin, so maybe the showers and the soap are partially to blame. I did try cutting back on soap after I wrote the post soap referenced above, but it did not seem to make much of a difference. (although I do have fewer friends since I cut back on using soap, but I don’t think there’s a correlation…)

So it looks like the next thing I need to try is to cut back on the frequency of showering.

I just don’t know if I’ll have any friends (in real life) left after the experiment…

Fortunately, the internet has not yet figured out how to replicate our sense of smell…

74 thoughts on “First, It Was Cutting Out Soap. Now, It’s Cutting Back On Showering?

  1. I think I often shower more for the refreshment factor than for the actual cleanliness. It’s not unusual for me to shower twice a day, once before work and once after. Even if I’m not particularly dirty, it just feels like hitting the reset button on my day. And yet, hardly any friends! 🤷‍♂️😁

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Somehow skeptical me doesn’t buy this one. I agree though that washing causes dry skin. That’s why I use hand and body lotion, which is a must for Black folk to avoid ashey skin. I bet that Columbia professor bathes more often than once every three to seven days.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Moisturizing your skin is always good. For some, dry skin is a visible condition. Lubriderm works for me and is moderately priced.

        B/t/w as mentioned above, taking a shower can be a real attitude adjuster. One of the more useful features of airport lounges is being able to shower before a long flight. Showering seems to remove much of the stress of travel and always makes the flight more enjoyable and relaxing.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. thanks for the Lubriderm recommendation.

        I know you’ve talke bout the airport showers before. It seems like you wold need a fairly long layover to do so, and to carry a change of clothes.But I agree that a warm shower can do wonders for us mentally…


  3. I grew up with a shallow well and only bathed once a week. For the rest of my life, I have only showered twice a week with a quick wash of any smelly parts every morning between showers. Haven’t scared anyone away yet! I am more concerned with wasting water than stinking.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. For me the feeling of needing to shower or bathe seems to directly correspond to my activity level. Like you, if I have sweated my butt off in the gym or working on something, then I do feel a need to shower to feel fresh and clean. If my day has been sitting around writing poetry all day, I may feel perfectly fine not showering that day. On mission in the military, where showering or bathing may not be possible for many days, we found that body odor had more to do with our diet than our activity level. This is a thought provoking post, but I think our ingrained and learned habits are hard to break when it comes to this.

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    1. I’m like you; if I exercise, I need to shower. If not, I am fine skipping that day.And I have heard that what we eat has an impact on our body odor, although I don’t know what foods are the worse culprits! And yes, showering would be a hard habit to break…

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  5. I’ve long been of the opinion that showering every day is not good for your skin and washing your hair too often strips it of essential oils (mine goes thin and limp if I wash it too often – unlike in my youth when it went greasy). You can still wash the bits that smell without having to douse yourself in hot water. (Although I confess I don’t do daily workouts.)
    A couple of times a week seems to work for me.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. It’s ok, your secret is safe with us, although there have been rumours that next year’s iPhone will add smell detection to its repertoire. Until that happens it’s back to the annual bath for me…

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I shower daily. But after every shower I go outside and roll in the dirt, just like our dogs do after we bathe them. We can learn a lot from animals. I think the dirt restores the natural balance of bacteria to my skin, plus it cloaks my scent so that I become a better hunter.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Lol, how interesting Jim. I may agree about skipping the odd day, but I do believe soap is required for ‘certain’ parts that water doesn’t deodorize LOL. There plenty of organic soaps without irritants on the market. 🙂 Merry Christmas!

    Liked by 2 people

  9. As a creature of habit, the first thing I do each morning is to take a shower. I do feel like it helps me to wake up and feel fresh. I can’t see that changing. I tried the nighttime shower for a week to see what that would be like, but it doesn’t feel right to clean up to go to bed. I’ll also take a second shower with soap if I get a vigorous workout in sometime during the day.

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  10. “although I do have fewer friends since I cut back on using soap…” 😂😂😂 I won’t disappear if I was the one, although, if I can’t stand you smelling like sweat, prepare to hear it. 😁

    I don’t think showering everyday is wrong. Although, I do get why it’s not necessary. There are days when I don’t because I feel perfectly clean. I don’t sweat, haven’t gone out so why bother haha 😀 (okay this sounds like I’m too lazy, because I am 😂)

    But it’s not easy to say this to people in tropical places. Back when I was in the Philippines a need to shower everyday. It’s hot all day and dust is everywhere, I feel icky by the end of the day.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I wouldn’t be able to stand myself if I waited three to seven days to shower. Growing up in the hot and humid Florida climate, it’s not too much to take too showers in a day. I understand the dry skin, but I use a gentle all natural body wash along with thick body butters with Shea, aloe and other nourishing oils to help keep my skin moisturized and soft. However, I have weaned off of conventional deodorant and started using natural alternatives that work well and are a lot healthier.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ve tried Tom’s and it’s ok. But the best thing I’ve used so far are very potent perfumed oils. Perfumes are generally watered down with other components but when you get the actual oil that the scent comes from it lasts all day and you only need a small amount. They won’t stop you from sweating as they’re not designed to be antiperspirant but when you do sweat the scent of the oil is all you smell.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Definitely! My husband uses the oils designed for men. They smell great. He’s an athlete that’s constantly working out with no problems. Check Etsy for Men’s Roll-On Cologne Body Oils

        Liked by 1 person

  12. I haven’t used soap in over 2 years I get less irritation feel better have less parasites from wrestling.

    I work construction(operator)and wrestle I am buy no stretch of the word avoiding dirt. I have found shampoo is mandatory.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah I purchase shampoo bars from a lady who makes them locally they do the trick for my hands being pretty greasy from work.

        I’ll never understand the anti-shower movement to me it’s just feels like hold over fuedal European culture that refuses to go away. America, pacific islands, Asia, Australia Malaysian. All very clean historically

        Liked by 1 person

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