Do You Take Too Many Showers?
Is there any topic more taboo than that of personal hygiene? Well, yes, but how often you bathe or shower is right up there with political affiliation and religion in terms of topics not to bring up over dinner. Still, people do discuss it, and as a maker of bath salts I'm always interested to know who is using them, and how often!
When I have chatted with friends about getting clean or even listened to casual conversations about it in the past, I was surprised to learn that at times, I was the only person in the group too insecure to leave the house without a shower (unless it's to quickly drop the kids off in front of their school before rushing home, hoping I don't run into anyone I know). My attachment to a full-body clean does make me anxious at times: what would I do without hot running water, like in the case of a zombie apocalypse? I'm not particularly smelly or sweaty (then again, no one would tell me if I were!) nor am I neurotic about being perfectly coiffed and made up before being seen in public. I'm just not a spot-washer; it's all or nothing for me. Yet even friends who wouldn't dream of leaving the house without putting their contact lenses in, brushing their teeth and touching up their makeup, have told me - gasp! - they don't shower every day.
So, am I overdoing it? Last year we heard celebrities like Ashton Kutcher, Mila Kunis and Brad Pitt decry the daily shower as unnecessary, especially for children. There's the no-poo movement, but there's also the no-face-wash movement, the scrub-stinky-areas-only movement, and the your-skin-cleans-itself movement. Why is all this trending - are people just too busy for washing, or have they decided there's something negative about cleansing? We all fall somewhere along the bathing spectrum, so let's look at what is healthy versus what is just habit.
Frequent showering is a modern construct
If you suspect the fabulous and confusing array of hair and body care products on store shelves exists mainly so companies can sell us things we don't need, you're not wrong. North Americans used to bathe no more than once a week until the powerful corporate media convinced us body odour was socially unacceptable and practically immoral, and we've never looked back. Today, if we catch an unpleasant whiff just about anywhere outside the gym, there's a tendency to question the offender's value system. Don't they know they smell? Is it a rare medical problem? Do they have certain phobias or beliefs? Do they have regular access to a bathroom? Almost everyone now buys into the idea that they have to control personal odour, dirt and grease to maintain a certain image. However, with products like deodorants, toners and dry shampoos, it's not strictly necessary to turn on the taps every day to get there.
Dermatologists weigh in on washing
The phrase 'medical professionals agree' is a touchy one these days, but truthfully, not many dermatologists will recommend long, hot daily showers because hot water and soap do take their toll on skin. Over-scrubbing, long soaks in surfactant-laden bubble baths, and harsh chemical products are all known to excessively dry the skin, raise pH levels, and alter our natural bacterial balance. However, skincare experts have greenlighted a quick daily rinse with a focus on key areas like armpits and feet as being suitable for most people.
Why are some people now questioning the health of their bath and shower routine? As product options multiply and skin care routines expand - washing your face with soap and water has become a multi-step process involving toning, cleansing, moisturizing, replenishing, balancing, etc. - some of us have noticed that less is more; over-washing delicate facial skin can, for example, worsen acne because it sends oil glands into overdrive. But there has to be a happy medium. The controversial idea that our skin naturally cleans itself without human involvement is only true in the sense that we do shed dead skin cells constantly, which does not necessarily equate to that squeaky clean feeling most of us enjoy.
A general rule of thumb is the more delicate the skin, the less soap-and-water intervention is needed. That implies that the people we tend to wash the most - babies - probably need it the least, except, of course, for those key smelly areas.
Alternatives to the daily shower ritual
If you work indoors in a cool environment and only really feel dirty every three days, it can make sense to take fewer showers, especially if you're an eco-conscious person; it certainly isn't harmful to your health. On the other hand, if you're doing hard manual labour or exercising a lot - or planning a hot, late-night date after a long hike - you might want to shower more than once in twenty-four hours. It's not so much about worrying how we look and smell to others, but a matter of personal comfort.
So, what can you do when, like me, you want to get clean frequently without overly stripping and drying your skin? Experts do have some advice:
-Try dry-brushing: This is where you rub a natural fibre bristle brush all over your (dry) body in circular motions to exfoliate and remove dirt before rinsing off in the shower and moisturizing.
-Try body scrubs: This is where you use exfoliating granules like sugar, oatmeal, coffee grounds, apricot hulls or, yes, sea salt, with some sort of emollient - think yogurt, honey, avocado, or carrier oil - to scrub off dead skin while simultaneously hydrating your body.
-Try bar soap: Bar soap and beauty bars are once again trending for 2022, and while conventional soap will definitely get you clean, it's well known to overdo it. Choose a detergent-free natural bar soap instead. What you sacrifice in the big-bubble lather of a bath gel or body wash, you'll more than make up for with clean, healthier skin - and a reduction in body odour over using liquid soaps, so you don't have to shower as often.
What's your shower routine? Tell us in the comments!