Zing Tsjeng | Contributing Writer | 1,010 day ago

So It Turns Out We Only Need To Shower Every Three Days, Er What?

The Debrief: Apparently we're a nation of over-bathers...

I have a dirty secret: I hate showers. I can, quite happily, go for about three days without showering – just give me some dry shampoo, a stick of good deodorant and I can make do. Come summer, I am the festival crusty smeared in mud and three-day-old glitter, laughing at the girls futilely sticking their head under a water tap while everyone in the queue tuts at them.

I like to think of this habit as very French. Just look at Carine Roitfeld – you just know her morning routine consists of dousing herself in last night’s perfume and heading straight out the door. But I fully acknowledge that my hygiene habits are pretty gag-worthy by conventional standards. Which is why I was verrry interested to learn that some doctors actually think that people, as a general rule, tend to overdo the whole shower thing; in fact, two US dermatologists told BuzzFeed that our daily shower habit is ‘really more of a cultural phenomenon.’ 

‘We overbathe in this country and that’s really important to realise,’ Boston dermatologist Dr Ranella Hirsch says. ‘A lot of the reason we do it is because of societal norms.’ Their advice? Wash every one to three days, and just swab your smelliest bits with a wet washcloth on non-shower days.  

Naya Rivera – you know, that improbably hot lesbian cheerleader from Glee – also thinks that showering more than once a day is just an arbitrarily determined cultural norm. Or as she put it on The View, somewhat more clumsily: ‘I think that white people shower a lot more than ethnics. I feel like showering more than once a day is such a white people thing.’ (She’s since apologised, saying that she meant it as a joke.)

Still, the anti-clean doctrine seems to be catching on. There’s now a hashtag that celebrates the joys of body grossness: #slobcore, which encompasses everything from wearing the same pair of socks for three weeks to wearing dirty laundry to a party. The movement even has its own anthem: ‘Brooklyn Slobcore’, which features the immortal line: ‘I haven’t showered in three days / What you think is make-up / Is really just dirt.’ 

Obviously, not everyone is impressed. ‘I have to wash my hands now. And my eyes. And pretty much everything else for that matter,’ one commentator wrote. But slobby shower habits are more legit than you think. I asked Dr Joanna Gach, a dermatology consultant at BMI Meriden in Coventry, if more people might actually benefit from cutting down on the number of their showers. 

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‘One shower a day is enough to remove the dirt you have on your skin – unless you work in a coal mine!’ she says. ‘Shower products remove natural moisture from skin and upset the skin barrier; the purpose of these products is to produce foam and wash the skin by de-greasing it. When I look after patients with skin disease, I advise them to use soap substitutes which are more cream-based and don’t produce foam.’ 

Dr Gach says that showering too often can dry out your skin, especially if you’re turning the hot water up to 11. It can also upset the skin barrier and make your skin look flushed and irritated. And no, using an organic or natural body wash doesn’t make a difference.  ‘Water does dry the skin out; even swimming or putting your hands under running water does that,’ she notes. 

There’s even an argument that skipping out on a daily shower is better for the environment. A 2013 study from the Energy Saving Trust found that showers constitute the biggest consumers of water in UK homes, comprising of one quarter of the 9 billion litres of water we use as a country every day. So not only is dirt good for you, it’s also green, too. 

I’m not suggesting we forgo showers altogether, but it’s worth rethinking why we’re compelled to scrub ourselves squeaky clean at the expense of our actual skin. Call me a soapdodger or a dyed-in-the-wool hippie, but hey: at least I don’t face the daily, paralysing fear that the hot water will cut out on me in the shower. 

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Picture: Eugenia Loli 

Tags: Beautification, Getting Ready