Spend enough time online and you’re almost bound to encounter a debate about how often you should wash yourself with soap. Is every day too often? Is it gross to not shower or bathe every day? How often should you shower or bathe and wash your body with soap?
One reason why the topic seems so ripe for ongoing debate is that there isn’t a lot of clear clinical data on the issue.
“I think sometimes there are conflicting recommendations among doctors,” said Hayley Ralph, MD, a family medicine physician at OSF HealthCare. “The societal norm is you bathe every day. What we know clinically is you don’t necessarily have to do it every day. It likely won’t harm your health to skip a day if you don’t do anything that gets you dirty.
“I believe some doctors think overusing soap can strip your skin or immune system from microorganisms that create protective antibodies. So, they suggest not to wash with soap daily for that reason.”
However, not bathing often enough can lead to overgrowth of the bacteria that causes pimples, resulting in acne as dirt clogs pores. Plus, dandruff increases with lack of bathing, causing the scalp to flake.
And, of course, if you do not wash often enough, there can be an issue with body odor.
“It’s all dependent on what you do. If you’re active, you’re going to want to shower at least once a day. If you’re on a camping trip, for example, and you’re not doing any really sweaty activities, you’re probably fine to wait 2-3 days to have a shower.”
General bathing tips
- Use a soap that’s a gentle cleanser
- Focus on the armpit and groin areas
- Pat dry with your towel afterward, instead of rubbing dry.
And if you have an inflammatory skin condition, like eczema, use a non-scented cleanser, shower with lukewarm water (not too hot) and for no more than 10 minutes at a time. Apply moisturizer right away after your shower, too. These tips should help prevent your skin from drying out and causing rash flare-ups.
What about washing your hair?
If you do shower every day, do you have to wash your hair every time?
“The answer is no. Typically, you only need to wash two or three times week,” Dr. Ralph said. “You don’t need to lather, rinse and repeat, either. And, they make dry shampoos, too, if you have oily hair.”