The other day, I overheard one of our boys make this comment: “If I can afford it, I will shower three times a day when I have my own place.” In the morning showering helps him wake up. At midday he showers to clean himself after his rigorous basketball workout. And in the evening a shower helps him relax for bedtime.
I understand all of those things, but there has to be a better way! Rather than breaking into a tirade about water conservation and how horrible all that showering is for his skin, I paused and realized who had made this comment—our son who is all about debating the facts.
So what were the facts I needed to arm myself with before revisiting this topic with him? What is the reality behind how often one should shower? I knew there is more to the surface of our skin than meets the eye, but what were the facts my son needed to know? I love a good research project! 🙂
Okay, so, basically, our skin has its own ecosystem, consisting of all sorts of microorganisms, most of them harmless and some even advantageous to our overall health. If the skin’s ecosystem is disturbed, it lets us know by developing an infection or a skin condition of some sort. Disturbances come as a result of genetic issues, internal imbalances, and external influences, e.g., habits that we pick up.
(If you’d like to geek out on the science behind all this, check out “The Skin Microbiome” by Drs. Elizabeth Grice and Julia Segre. It explains what’s going on in your skin, its role in your immune system, and much more.)
As you know, today we’re exploring the habit side of skin things—showering, specifically. What do the experts tell us about showering’s effect on the health of our skin? Well, if you shower too much or even too long, they say, you’re putting the natural oils and bacterial balance of your skin at risk. This can cause your skin to dry out and crack, making you more susceptible to infections and other skin disruptions.
Just as important as limiting the frequency of your showers is using healthful cleaning products. Those ever-present antibacterial cleansers are especially detrimental to your skin’s ecosystem and should be avoided whenever possible. Exposing yourself to a certain amount of grime does the body good.
Getting back to our original question, how often should you shower? Not only did I confirm the answer is not the three times a day our son wishes for, it isn’t even once a day. Once or twice a week is all your “naturally well-oiled” body requires, according to Dr. C. Brandon Mitchell, Assistant Professor of Dermatology at George Washington University.
Worried about people avoiding standing next to you if you shower that little? Changing your clothes (including your undergarments), washing your hands, and a quick rinse of the body parts that tend to emit less desirable odors (like the areas covered by your undergarments) should help with that concern.
I’m not sure I can convince my son to shower only once or twice a week, but once a day would be a lot better for him (and the planet!). I’m going to discuss with him the reasons behind his three-shower day and offer alternatives—like doing his basketball workout right away in the morning as a way to wake up and showering after that. As for relaxing for bed, guided meditation can work wonders.
Now that I’ve gathered some relatable facts about skin and showering, I can share them with not just my son but all my family, so they can build on their self-health education and be informed for future choices. It doesn’t mean they’ll make the choices I hope for, but at least I’ll know I’ve done my part. 🙂
How about you—are you putting your skin at risk with overzealous showering habits?