Should You Shower Every Day? Experts Settle The Debate

Fortune Well July 25, 2023

Should You Shower Every Day? Experts Settle The Debate

America Ferrera doesn’t shower for days. Al Roker showers twice a day. Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard wait for the “stink” to bathe their kids. I, as if you care, shower daily. 

The shower frequency debate is constantly resurfacing, and we can’t seem to find a winner because it is personal to everyone. 

According to Harvard Medical School, I’m in good company with about two-thirds of Americans who shower daily—but everyone’s routine is different. For us daily rinsers, the shower is necessary because of the morning workout, a sweaty day out and about, or body odor—not to mention the newfound love I have for a quick cold plunge shower in the morning to hype me up for the day. But how often are we really supposed to be showering? 

Like all things health, unfortunately, the answer doesn’t come with a one-size-fits-all solution. 

Like most skin-related questions, I texted my handy dermatologist cousin based in Philadelphia this morning, Dr. Mark Abdelmalek, and posed the same question. His initial response was, “More is not always better.” Other experts agree. 

Showering too often can irritate what he describes as the skin barrier, leading to dry, itchy, inflamed skin. It can present itself microscopically initially, and it’s especially prevalent if you take multiple long, hot showers. 

Further, the skin has a coating of healthy bacteria, according to Harvard Medical School. 

“Our immune systems need a certain amount of stimulation by normal microorganisms, dirt, and other environmental exposures in order to create protective antibodies and ‘immune memory,’” according to a post from Harvard. “Frequent baths or showers throughout a lifetime may reduce the ability of the immune system to do its job.” 

On the flip side, not showering enough causes body odor and might be caught by your spouse, colleague, or a stranger standing next to you in the grocery store—let’s avoid that. Excess dirt buildup from a lack of showering can also affect the skin barrier, causing clogged pores, acne, dandruff, and eczema, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

Welcome to your shower Goldilocks problem. We don’t want to shower too often, and we don’t want to shower too infrequently. So what’s just right?

“The purpose of our skin is to provide a barrier between the outside world and the inside world,” Abdelmalek says. “As long as showering is not to a degree where it’s impacting the integrity of the skin barrier, then you’re okay.”


The optimal shower 

Experts typically recommend showering several days a week. 

The decision is personal, but knowing your body and routine is key. Showering every day is not bad for you (yay!), and showering every other day or even a couple of times a week isn’t either. 

If you have a strenuous job where your skin is in contact with sweat, dirt, and the outside world, showering every day may make sense to keep your skin barrier intact. But if you don’t have this daily routine, showering less frequently—say, a couple of times a week—makes more sense. 

The key is about how you shower.


The type of shower matters 

The American Academy of Dermatology Association recommends showers no more than five minutes (don’t hate me, shower singers and reflectors). And contrary to the full body loofah, we don’t need to wash every inch of our bodies. The most important thing is targeting the groin, feet, and armpits.

It’s also important to wash your body gently, and “skip the loofah, buff puffs, and wash clothes, which can irritate your skin and cause psoriasis to flare.” Use gentle soaps and washes with minimal ingredients (goodbye to my brother’s favorite heavily scented liquid body wash). 

Depending on your hair type, shampooing every day is not always necessary. If you have more oily hair, it makes sense to wash it more frequently than dry or coarse hair. I have very curly hair, and it wasn’t until my cousin (a different one) with the same texture told me I only needed to shampoo once or twice a week. I noticed a great difference—not to mention I saved a boatload of money on products. 


What if I need to shower more than once a day? 

If you’re a lover of the morning shower but also find yourself sweaty after a long day or evening workout, double dipping is not necessarily bad for you. 

If you’re doing double, keep your showers short, not hot, and focus on moisturizing right after the shower. There’s also no need to soap yourself up twice in one day, my cousin reminds me. 

The point of a second shower should be to rid yourself of more dirt, sweat or to feel less humid. 


Here are four ways to master your shower and protect your skin barrier 


1. Take short showers 

Showering for three to five minutes reduces your risk of getting too dry. 


2. Take warm or cold showers 

Burning hot showers can irritate your skin. Consider turning down the dial and having lukewarm or colder showers. 


3. Use soaps that aren’t going to dry your skin

Use soap that is gentle, and don’t aggressively rub it into your skin. 

4. Moisturize  

Restore moisture to your skin after a shower by applying moisturizer to your body post-shower.

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