You would think guidelines to personal hygiene would be something universally agreed upon, and yet, here we are. Back in middle school, I overhead one of my classmates admit to another that she only showered once or twice a week for no reason other than her schedule didn’t allow it. At the time, I was horrified; I just assumed you were supposed to take showers daily. But while whether or not you can shower too little is still up for debate, apparently you can shower too much. Are you shook? Because I’m shook. According to experts, how often you shower should reflect how active you are, how much you sweat, and it also might depend on your skin type.
Now, is it just me, or did your teachers in school definitely stress the importance of washing your body daily? But before you write a letter to the board of education to report this level of blasphemy, hold your horses. Trust me, I was just as taken aback by this news as you probably are — think of all the water I’ve wasted over the years, the money I could have saved on countless bottles of shampoo and body wash.
To get to the bottom of this, I reached out to a few different experts for clarification, and according to Amanda Von Dem Hagen, skin expert and international educator at Glo Skin Beauty, it is recommended that you shower once a day — but there are some technicalities that need to be addressed.
First things first, let’s talk about the soap or body wash you’re using. Because a decent amount of beauty and hygiene products out there are made with a lot of different chemicals, they might smell pretty and make your skin feel incredibly soft on the surface, but according to Von Dem Hagen, some of these products are actually doing your body a huge disservice in the long run. “Washing too much can strip the skin and hair of natural oils, so it’s best not to wash too much,” she tells Elite Daily, adding that it’s very possible that your skin will start to “feel dry and may go flaky” if it’s washed with soap-based products too often. The solution, then, she says, is to either not wash with these specific products as often, or switch to a gentler formula.
Now onto your hair care regimen. I know myself, and I cannot go more than one to two days without washing my hair. This is 100 percent my own personal preference; it just doesn’t make me feel my best to go without washing my hair for days at a time, mostly due to the fact that I have naturally greasy tresses. I’ve tried oil training — which is when you go for as long as possible without washing your hair in order to train your follicles to get used to that pattern — and I’ve done countless hair masks, but it’s just not in the cards for my strands.
Still, Von Dem Hagen tells Elite Daily that excessively washing your hair isn't good for you either, because just as harsh soaps will strip the oils from your skin, shampoos and conditioners can do the same to your scalp and hair. “It isn’t advised to wash your hair every day, as your hair will go very dry if it’s washed too often, even if you use conditioner,” she says. Luckily, though, that doesn’t mean you have to go about your days piling your oily hair in a bun until it's safe to wash. Worst comes to worst, if you aren’t doing super intense exercises every day, Von Dem Hagen says “you could probably get away with dry shampoo.” Thank goodness.
So, since both your skin and your hair can be a bit sensitive to certain products or excessive washing, does that really mean you don't have to shower every day? Honestly, it might: During a recent interview with Women’s Health, dermatologist Dendy Engelman, M.D. told the publication that showering every two or three days is the sweet spot. Any less than that, and Dr. Engelman said you could be putting your body at risk for all kinds of bacteria and dirt, which can build up and cause inflammation. This goes for washing your hair as well, but Women’s Health does go on to specify that if you, like moi, have oily hair, it’s fine to shampoo a little more often, and a little less often if your scalp tends to be on the drier side.
Keep in mind, though, that this recommendation is also a generalization. How often you need to shower is 100 percent dependent on your daily routine. For example, if you're an athlete, or someone who’s lifting heavy at the gym and doing sprints on the treadmill every day, Robert Glatter, M.D., assistant professor of emergency medicine at Lenox Hill Hospital, Northwell Health, is issuing out a PSA that you need to shower immediately following your workout. “Bacteria that remains on your skin along with dried sweat can increase the potential for an infection to develop,” Glatter tells Elite Daily over email, which is why he says it’s crucial to wash up ASAP.
However, Glatter adds, even if you aren’t vigorously exercising on a regular basis, the average human sweats out one liter of perspiration per day. If you’re extremely active, he says, that number can bump up closer to four liters. Pretty gross, right? Still, when a hectic schedule leaves you little time to shower properly and thoroughly, Glatter suggests keeping body wipes on hand to help “remove sweat and debris until you are able to shower again.”
Having said all of this, it’s also important for me to point out that there’s a clear difference between excessive showering, and having an obsessive compulsion to shower excessively. If you notice that you, a family member, or a loved one is showering anywhere from two to three times in a day, Glatter says this could be a symptom of OCD or anxiety disorder. If that’s the case, don’t hesitate to reach out to your doctor to seek help, not just for your mental health, but for your physical health as well.