Most people don’t feel freshly clean without a long shower but is a daily shower healthy?
“I think showering is mostly for aesthetic reasons,” says Dr. Elaine Larson, an infectious disease expert and associate dean for research at Columbia University School of Nursing. “People think they’re showering for hygiene or to be cleaner, but bacteriologically, that’s not the case.”
Larson’s research has shown the antibacterial soaps and cleaning products many people use in their homes aren’t any better than plain old soap at lowering the risk for infectious diseases. And when it comes to showering, all that scrubbing and exfoliating doesn’t amount to much.
“Bathing will remove odor if you’re stinky or have been to the gym,” she says. But in terms of protecting you from illness, washing your hands regularly is probably adequate.
Too much all-over bathing may even raise your risk for some health issues. Dry, cracked skin opens up gaps for infection-causing germs to slip through. That means frequent bathing when your skin is already dry—and especially as you age, when your skin becomes thinner and less hydrated—may increase the odds of coming down with something, Larson says.
Other experts agree. “I think most people over-bathe,” says Dr. C. Brandon Mitchell, assistant professor of dermatology at George Washington University.
Mitchell says washing can strip your skin of its natural oils, and may also disrupt the skin’s population of immune system-supporting bacteria. That’s especially true of antibacterial cleansers, which both he and Larson recommend you ditch. (More reason to skip the antibacterial soaps: Some research has linked triclosan, an ingredient found in many of these products, to potential health risks.)
So what’s the ideal shower frequency? In terms of your health—not how you look or smell—probably once or twice a week, Mitchell says. “Your body is naturally a well-oiled machine,” he says. “A daily shower isn’t necessary.”
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