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How Often Do You Really Need to Take a Shower?

The down-and-dirty reality of getting clean

Photo of a shower running.

Some days, a long soak in a bubble bath is just what the doctor ordered. Other days, a spritz of dry shampoo and a clean T-shirt is the best you can do.

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But how many days should you really go without a shower? Dermatologist Shilpi Khetarpal, MD, shares a few tips to help us clean up those questionable habits.

Should you shower every day?

There’s no magic formula for how often you should break out the body wash. Someone who runs five miles every day probably needs to lather up more often than someone who rarely breaks a sweat. Some people have oilier skin and hair than others. Others are cursed with extra-stinky pits.

But in general, Dr. Khetarpal says to aim for showering once a day. “We come in contact with thousands of allergens every day. Showering rinses off those allergens, as well as bacteria and viruses,” she says.

You don’t have to overdo it though. Showering too often can strip skin of moisture, says Dr. Khetarpal. “Some people shower in the morning, after the gym, then again before bed. That’s not necessary, and can be very drying and irritating for your skin.”

Side effects of skipping the shower

Do you smell something? The biggest sign of skipping showers is obvious. But body odor isn’t the only reason to clean up your act.

Not showering enough can cause other problems, Dr. Khetarpal says. Here are just a few of them:

  • Acne: If you aren’t washing, natural oils on the skin can accumulate and cause an overgrowth of pimple-causing bacteria. Dirt and dead skin can also build up and clog pores.
  • Dandruff: “We all have yeast that lives in the oil glands in our skin. If you don’t wash your hair often, that yeast multiplies and irritates the scalp, causing it to flake,” Dr. Khetarpal explains.
  • Eczema flare-ups: Dry, itchy, red patches of eczema are more likely to flare when the skin isn’t clean, Dr. Khetarpal says. “It’s counterintuitive because people think showering removes moisture from the skin. But for people with eczema, it’s important to take daily showers to get rid of allergens and bacteria.”

Shower tips for healthy skin

The way you shower is just as important as how often you do it, Dr. Khetarpal says. She shares these tips to keep skin clean and healthy:

Turn down the heat

Very hot water feels good on a chilly day, but it can make your skin dry and itchy. “Water should be warm but not too hot,” she says.

Skip the scents

It’s sad but true: “Fragrance pulls moisture out of the skin, so avoid any of those good-smelling soaps and body washes,” says Dr. Khetarpal. Whether or not your skin is easily irritated, she recommends reaching for products with labels like “gentle cleanser” or “sensitive skin.”

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Focus on the smelly bits

Unless you’ve been mud wrestling, you probably don’t need to use soap on your entire body. “Generally, the only areas that you need to wash with soap are your face, armpits and groin,” she says.

Consider your hair type

You don’t necessarily need to wash your hair every time you shower. Typically, shampooing two or three times a week will help keep your scalp healthy and hair happy, Dr. Khetarpal says. But you may need to lather up more often if your hair is oily, and less if it’s dry. (In between, your beloved dry shampoo can pinch-hit.)

Moisturize

After a shower or bath, you should rub on a fragrance-free moisturizer, she says. “Pat dry and put on moisturizer within three minutes to trap moisture in the skin and maintain a healthy skin barrier.”

So what’s the takeaway? Shower every day, or close to it. Your skin (and your coworkers) will thank you.

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