“Do you need that daily shower? Experts say not always. Catherine Delahaye/Getty Images
Celebrity couple Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher sent the world into a frenzy over recent revelations that they and their children don’t bathe every day. The couple told fellow celeb and host Dax Shepard in a recent "Armchair Expert" podcast that they rarely bathed their children as infants, and that hasn’t changed much as they’ve gotten older. "If you can see the dirt on them, clean them," Kutcher said. "Otherwise, there’s no point."
The couple even copped to skipping showers regularly, with Kutcher saying that after a workout he only washes his face, and that he also only wipes down his crotch and armpits on the daily. Kunis, for her part, washes her face twice a day. These revelations generated many strong opinions on both sides of the issue, which begs the question: Do people need to bathe or shower every day?
Some people can’t imagine going without a daily bath. But doctors say it’s not always necessary. Here are some pointers to keep in mind if you’re trying to decide which way to go.
Is Your Skin Dry?
"It is OK to not shower every day, especially if you have dry skin or eczema," says Shreveport, Louisiana-based dermatologist Dr. Skylar Souyoul with Lindsey Pennington, MD Facial Plastics in an email. "For patients with dry skin or eczema, showering every other day is actually recommended."
This is because showering too often strips oils from the skin. If you don’t have enough oils to start with, this can leave the skin dry, cracked, itchy and potentially open to infection. "We need these oils to help maintain the moisture required for an optimal skin barrier," emails Dr. Liana Casusi, consultant for cleaning website Oh So Spotless.
However, if you’re prone to oily skin and/or acne, you should shower once a day. Excessive oil buildup causes breakouts, and no one wants that.
If your skin is dry, take your daily or every-other-day shower with cool water, not hot. And follow up with a moisturizing body lotion. Souyoul says to apply the lotion within three minutes of exiting the shower. And gently pat yourself dry with a towel, don’t rub.
What’s Your Day Like?
If you just sit in an air-conditioned office before going back to an air-conditioned home, it’s a safe bet that you can get away without a full shower. But you still need to maintain good hygiene. "This can be achieved by washing the ‘dirtiest’ areas, such as the armpits, groin and feet," Casusi says. That’s because those body parts are the most likely to sweat, accumulate dirt and harbor pathogenic microorganisms that cause body odor. "Remember to use a mild cleanser, as harsh soaps can be counterproductive in these areas too," she adds.
But if you’ve just done an hour of exercise or your job involves physical labor, a shower is likely a necessity. "You should shower if you have had a day of excessive sweat, sebum [oils produced by skin], have an odor or dirt/debris on your skin," says Dr. Renée Moran, owner of Dr. Renée Moran Medical Aesthetics + RM Skincare in an email.
This is important from more than just an aesthetic perspective. "If someone has been wearing sweaty clothing, it can be a breeding ground for fungus and eventually they can get fungal infections," she explains. Yikes.
Showering daily is also important if you work around dangerous chemicals/materials or if you’re exposed to allergens, Moran notes. So, gardeners, construction workers and farmers would do well to rinse off the pollen at the end of the day.
How Old Are You?
Older people also can stand to cut back on shower frequency because their skin is thinner, thus more sensitive, Moran says. "So, the more one showers, the more damage it can cause if not careful." If you’re younger, enjoy that moist, supple skin while you still have it.
To recap, if your skin and hair are dry and prone to irritation and you haven’t worked up a sweat, a shower a day isn’t necessary, say the experts. But it’s entirely up to you because the ritual of bathing has benefits beyond hygiene. Many people find a brisk morning shower gets them revved up for the day while a warm bath before bedtime calms them down and helps them sleep.
Now That’s Cool
Similar to skin, certain types of hair need frequent washing, while others do best with just the opposite. Dry or tightly curled hair can be washed once a week or every other week while oily or fine hair might need to be washed every day.