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Stench be damned, a new study is showing you might be right to avoid taking a shower every day. While slathering your body with an arsenal of aromatic and soothing lotions and soaps might seem like a great idea (especially on the social-interactions front), combining that with scrub-a-dubbing under hot water might not be a great idea.
The University of Utah’s Genetic Science Center has recently published a study that indicates we are over-scrubbing; essentially, wiping out the protective field that makes up what is known as the body’s microbiome. It’s this microbiome and its accompanying microbes that help keep the body’s immune system and heart in good repair. A steamy shower is fantastic, but you know what else is kinda great? Breathing.
1. It Can Give You Acne
You might think that showering a lot would help prevent things like zits — after all, clean skin should mean no breakouts, right? Wrong.
You are not alone in your body. You are actually part of something called a microbiome, a little walking ecosystem that’s all about you and the bajillion little microbes and bacteria and other microorganisms you carry around with you in delicate balance. And when you stand there under that lovely hot jet of water every day, you upset that delicate balance.
And guess what one of the potential offshoots of imbalance in your microbiome can be.
Yup. Zits. And eczema. And impetigo. And a host of other dermatological issues you probably think you’re preventing by showing every day.
Get used to irony, friends.
2. It Can Get Rid of Bacteria
When you’re shopping around for soap, odds are if you saw something like “anti-bacterial” you’d think that was a good thing. You know, like you think showering a lot is a good thing. Wrong.
Well, mostly wrong, anyway.
Sure, there are some bacteria you don’t want clinging to your skin and finding its creepy crawly way into your system, and getting rid of that stuff is okay. But that’s just some bacteria.
All that other bacteria on your skin is supposed to be there. You need it to be there. Without it, you’re prone to a whole lot more than just some unseemly whiteheads. We are talking failures in your immune system, digestive system, and even your respiratory and cardiac systems that can be traced back to a lack of the right bacteria.
Do you really want to wash your health down the drain?
3. It Can Dry Out Your Skin
Have you ever noticed how your hands can get all dry and cracked if you wash them a lot? You’d think that all the water would actually hydrate them more, but…wrong.
That tight feeling you get after the shower is not your skin feeling clean. It’s your skin feeling dry.
See, when water on your skin evaporates away, it takes a lot of the natural moisture of your body with it. The natural oils that protect the skin and keep it moisturized are removed, leaving you dry.
Hot water is especially bad for this. You know how hot water is so much more effective at removing grease from dirty dishes? Yeah. Same principle. Add in the soaps and cleansers and exfoliants and other crap we smear on ourselves in the shower, and we’re really just sandblasting our health away one skin layer at a time.
4. It Increases the Risk of Infection
Not only is dry skin uncomfortable, and kind of ugly, but it can get really cracked. And cracked skin means there is an actual fissure in the protective layer around your body, and that is just inviting germs and other nasties inside. Which of course is only made worse because the showers that have made your skin dry have also washed away the helpful bacteria that keep your immune and other systems working properly.
What you want to do is the “soak and smear.” Lie in a warm bath and soak for a few minutes — your body can actually absorb moisture this way — then smear on the moisturizer as soon as you get out.
Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize.
5. It Can Wreck Your Hair
Think it’s only your skin that showering dries out? Wrong.
Here’s another popular misconception: “I need to shower every day because my hair is so oily.” Guess what. That’s wrong too.
Would it surprise you to learn that your hair is probably oily because you shower every day?
It all comes back to how water and soap strip away the natural oils, of which your hair has a lot. It needs to be a little oily, otherwise it would be totally dry. But daily showering keeps sloughing the oil off, so the body doubles down on the oil production to make up for it, leaving your hair feeling extra oily. So you shower some more with special shampoo designed for oily hair — which is particularly effective to sloughing the oil away — so your body goes all in with the oil production. And so on.
6. It Can Wreck Your Nails
You’re probably thinking right now that nails are really just hair, so all the problems showering causes to your hair probably also apply to your nails. Wrong again.
The problem with showering and nails is really only a problem if you happen to use nail polish. The hot water makes your nails expand and change shape, and since that lovely polish you so carefully brushed on there has hardened to the old shape of your nail, when that shape changes your polish has only one option: to crack and chip.
So maybe this isn’t a good reason against showering for everybody, but if you are someone who polishes your nails, you know what we’re talking about.
7. It Wastes Water
After all this, you might be thinking that of all the things that use water in your home, showers use the most. Wrong again. (You are really bad at this!)
For most people, toilets and clothes washers use more than showers, but still. The average American shower lasts a little over 8 minutes, and uses a little over 17 gallons of water. That is a lot. And that doesn’t include all the cost water wasted as you wait for it to warm up before slipping yourself under the spray.
You could cut it down with a low flow shower head, but you won’t. You like your pins and needles spray.
8. It Wastes Time
It’s not just the 8 minutes or so you likely spend in the shower, there is all the time before and after to consider, too. Mostly after. Towelling off, drying your hair, primping, it all takes time. If you moisturized, which you should, it would take even longer, but you don’t, so it doesn’t. But still.
Imagine how much more time you’d have in the morning if you didn’t have to shower?
9. It Creates Bathroom Roadblocks
Your long daily showers aren’t just a time suck for you, you’re slowing down everyone you live with too. While they’re waiting for their turn, they’re wasting their time, too. Plus the anger and resentment they’re building as they pound on the door is setting a lousy tone for their day, not to mention how their pounding on the door while you’re trying to enjoy a nice little shower is a total buzz kill on your cherished me time.
Ok, so maybe this one isn’t universal, but it sure applies to some places I’ve lived.
10. It Is Bad For the Environment
No matter how you slice it, using too much water is bad for the world around you.
On a human level, people need water to survive. And most of us don’t have it. Even if you’re lucky enough to come from a place where you don’t have to think about where your water comes from, you just turn a tap and there it is, there are literally billions of people out there who aren’t that lucky. Every drop wasted on a shower is water that can’t be used to do things grow food.
Looking past our selfish selves, there are actually a lot of other creatures that need water too. From the tiniest bug to the biggest fish, they would all like to have nice, clean water too. There is a whole big biosphere out there of which we are just one part, and every drop we waste on a shower is water that all the other animals and plants can’t use to live.
And looking at the even bigger picture, if we use more water than there is available on the surface — which we do — then we need to keep pulling it from somewhere. So we go underground, to aquifers and groundwater supplies that are slow to replenish. In fact, they are much slower to regenerate than the rate at which we extract from them, which means our use of water, even where it seems infinite like in Canada and the US, is unsustainable. We will run out.
Water may be a renewable resource, but it’s a limited one.
11. It Can Be Offensive to the People Around You
This one’s a bit of a Catch 22. One of the reasons we shower is so we don’t stink. But a lot of people end up applying scented body washes that can be just as offensive as body odour. In fact, fragrance sensitivity is the second leading cause of skin allergic skin reaction, right after nickel in jewelry. And guess what those people who break out in a rash because of your Old Spice go and do?
Yeah. Take a shower.
Seriously, people. Stop with the stinky perfumed crud.
12. It Can Be Expensive
The actual cost of a shower depends where you are taking it, since water and the energy to heat and pump it is a lot more valuable in some places than in others.
In the United States, that average 8 minute shower costs 16 cents, but of course that would vary depending on where in the US you are: water in Minnesota? Cheap. Water in Nevada, less so. In Canada, known for its plentiful water, the cost is over double the US average at 34 cents a shower. The most expensive showers it the world are in Papua New Guinea, at a whopping $3.38.
But to really understand the cost you have to look beyond the dollar value and see what fraction of a person’s average daily income that shower uses up. In most places, it’s less than 1%, but in others it’s a shower or eat kind of thing. For example, in India, their 92 cent showers are 20% of a normal person’s daily income. In New Guinea, it’s 70%. If an American spent 70% of their income on a shower, that would be $83.
How about some scary statistics to really drive home the water disparity in the world. In some parts of the world, getting water is the main thing some people do every day, because: 900 million people don’t have access to clean water, 1.8 billion use a water source contaminated with their own waste, and 3.5 million die each year because of dirty water, mostly kids under age 5. For these people, 2.5 gallons of water a day is a lot. The average American directly uses 100 gallons a day.
Something to think about next time you’re standing under that nice spray of clean, hot water for 8 minutes.
13. It Has a Costly Carbon Footprint
Above and beyond the personal expense, and the environmental costs of all the water used up, there is the energy used to supply and heat that water, and in some cases process it all afterwards. The carbon footprint of water may surprise you.
If you leave a faucet running for five minutes, you’ve used about as much energy as keeping a 60-watt light bulb on for 14 hours. When you mom told you not to run the water while you brush your teeth, I hope you were listening.
In order to get a handle on global warming and keep the average temperature below critical levels, it’s estimated that people need to cut their individual footprint down to 1 ton per year. That’s for everything: food, transport, heat, light…and water. That 8 minute shower you love emits about 3.6 pounds of CO2, so your daily showering is pumping 1300 pounds of carbon dioxide into the air each year.
Remembering that 1 ton is 2000 pounds, and you’ve just used up well over half your annual CO2 spend on showers; even if you’re in Canada or the UK where a tonne is 2240 pounds (don’t ask) you’re still over half. Better park the minivan in the garage for the rest of the year. You’ve warmed the earth enough, already.
14. You’re Probably Not Even Dirty Anyway
The icing on this shower cake is that the reason why you’re showing — because you think you’re dirty — is probably just plain wrong. Unless you’re engaged in stuff that actually does put a layer of filth all over your, such as being a Jell-O wrestler or a normal 5 year-old, you aren’t as dirty as you think. At least, your grime levels aren’t anything that couldn’t be cured by a quick wipe-down in key areas with a wet cloth.
And really, for most people, most of the time, that practice could replace the daily shower most days of the week. A strategic mopping up of key areas where the stink is focused– armpits, feet, and the dirty bits between your legs — and a general wipe-down of exposed areas, and you’re good to go.
15. It’s Just Not Natural
Your body has its own way of keeping itself clean. Your skin is constantly replacing itself, and as the old layer of dead skin sloughs off — at a rate of about 30-40,000 dead cells every minute — all the yuck on it goes away too. In your life, you will shed about 40 pounds of dead skin as your body replaces its outer layer every 30 days or so.
All that sweat you think it making you stink is part of your body’s own self-maintenance. There are 2.5 million sweat glands on your body, and they ooze out about 2 cups of perspiration each day. But that sweat isn’t just to cool you down, it’s to purge toxins and other undesirable elements from your insides.
And you know what? Sweat doesn’t stink. What makes us stink is bacteria breaking down the sweat, in particular where we have apocrine glands that release protein and lipid-rich sweat that the bacteria likes to feed on. And guess where these particular glands are mostly found? Armpits.
So that whole body shower really isn’t necessary, just some targeted cleaning where it counts.
Heck, the iconic fashion designer Vivienne Westwood is in her 70’s and looks amazing, and she only bathes once a week. If she can do it, what’s stopping you?
Story by Jay Moon
- Is Showering Everyday Bad for You? New Research Says Yes
- Why Showering Every Day Is Worse Than Not Showering At All
- You’re Probably Showering Way Too Often
- Science Says Showers are Bad
- Showering Mistakes
- Showers and Your Skin
- Why You Should Shower Once a Week
- Cost of Water
- Five Minute Shower Challenge
- Skip Showering
- Is Showering Every Day Bad For You?
- Why Showering Every Day is Worse Than Not Bathing at All
- You’re Probably Showering Too Often
- Why Does Sweat Smell