You've been doing it your whole life, have lots of practice at it, and probably think you've got a pretty firm handle on it. But we're here to break it to you: you're showering all wrong.
It's not your fault. Almost anyone who grew up in the United States in the past fifty years has had it drilled into them that they need a daily, sudsy, scrub-down. Commercials inform us that we may never find a date if we don't keep our bodies in tip top just-cleaned condition, and have been telling us this ever since the 1920s when the soap industry realized just how effective this is as a sales strategy. It has become conventional wisdom in the US that we need to shower every single day to avoid complete deterioration, and even worse, smelling bad.
But that simply isn't true. In fact, when it comes to infections and skin irritations, it's actually quite the opposite. Dermatologists consistently agree that you'd be doing your body a big favor by skipping those daily showers, and, if you work out and/or sweat frequently and do need a daily wash, using soap only where it's needed.
The Epidermis Breakdown
Our skin (the epidermis) has an outer layer called- bear with us- the horny layer. This layer, made of hardened dead skin cells and fatty compounds called lipids, acts as a barrier for skin's second layer of healthy living cells, and helps our skin to retain moisture. It's a wonderful system that keeps your skin smooth and happy.
Too many hot soapy showers ruins all of that. As you may remember from this post which applies the same principles to your scalp and hair, soap is a surfactant, which means it binds water and oil, which are naturally repellant. This binding allows water to wash away any dirt, lint, and dead skin cells that have built up, but, unfortunately, in order to get at that buildup, it also washes away all the healthy oils and lipids that have been protecting your second layer of skin. Multiply this process by seven times a week, 52 weeks a year, and you end up with dry, flaky, cracked skin.
But What About When You Do Shower?
Of course, we're not advocating that you stop bathing altogether. We, and dermatologists with actual degrees in this stuff, are simply saying that, unless you've worked up a sweat that day, you can skip the shower until tomorrow.
And as for the days when you do take a shower: you should only be applying soap to four areas of your body. Most dermatologists agree that the only parts you should be cleaning with soap are under your armpits, your crotch, your butt, and your feet. Those are the only parts of your skin that, due to sweat, and in the case of your nether regions, poop, actually need to be cleaned with a surfactant to wash something away.
So unless you've been working in a mud hut or playing around with body paint that day, keep the soap to those few areas that actually need it.
As for you hair, if the thought of skipping a wash freaks you out, we highly recommend you try a dry shampoo. All these reasons it's good to skip a wash apply to your head, too. Trust us, your hair will never look better than after you've skipped a shampoo or two.
Do Your Laundry
If you're still feeling a bit skeeved out about skimping on the soap the industry so diligently instructed you to use, there's still a place for it. Studies show that 99% of the dirt and dead skin we have comes off in our clothing. It's far more important to change your underwear socks, and any underclothes daily than it is to scrub your already pretty clean skin.
So there you have it. Shower less for happier, healthier skin. Now all you have to do is figure out what to do with all that new found free time