Ah, a nice hot shower. It’s probably one of the most enjoyable moments of your day—and one of the best inventions in modern plumbing! Our ancestors could only have dreamed of having hot water at their fingertips with a simple turn of a faucet—but are we all taking this showering thing too far?
Most of us shower every day, but guess what? That’s probably way more often than is necessary. In fact, all those daily soap-ups could actually be harming your skin and hair.
Real talk: Chances are you’re not actually as dirty as you think you are, says Dr. Kachiu Lee, a dermatologist and assistant professor of dermatology at Brown University. Showering daily, she says, is a modern phenomenon: “It’s really a psychological thing. People think that if they don’t shower, they’re dirty. If you’re a construction worker, sure, but if you’re a normal office worker, your everyday life probably doesn’t cause a lot of grime.”
Daily showers, as refreshing as they may feel, can have some not-so-great effects on your body, too. Specifically, Dr. Lee says, “Showering strips your skin of the natural oils that it produces, and dries it out. There’s also some evidence that bathing gets rid of beneficial bacteria on your skin, although we don’t know the full effects of that yet.”
Ready for your mind to be blown? It’s totally fine to shower every other day or even every three days, Dr. Lee says. Plus, elderly people and babies can bathe even less often than older children and adults because they sweat less.
There are some exceptions to this “every other day” rule, however. For instance, if you have certain skin conditions that require more frequent bathing. Same goes for those who live in very humid climates, have issues with hyperhidrosis (excessive sweat), or are athletes.
Pro-tip: When you are in the shower, you absolutely don’t have to soap your whole body to get clean. Hitting the areas that actually sweat, like the underarms, feet, and groin, is more than enough to keep you smelling clean and fresh. Dr. Lee explains that body parts like your back, arms, and legs probably aren’t dirty enough to warrant a full scrub-down all the time, so it’s fine to just rinse them.
Lee also recommends avoiding antibacterial soaps and other harsh cleansers, especially if you have eczema or other skin conditions. And moisturizing post-shower is key, especially during cold weather (when artificial heating can cause skin dryness).
And what about your hair and scalp? You definitely don’t need to shampoo every time you shower. “It’s good for the scalp to have a little moisture on it,” says Dr. Lee. Consider opting for a less-intensive styling routine, since many hair products, blow drying, flat irons, and other styling tools can seriously dry the hair of natural oils.