Showers have it rough. Not long ago, they got kind of a nasty rap in the press for being “bad” for us — specifically, the hot kind you take every day. There was a lot of chatter about how they dry out your skin until you look like a reptilian version of your former self and how they’re slowly but surely killing us. Or something.
I know you’ve been losing sleep over this. Should you bathe every day, or shouldn’t you? Well, as luck would have it, we’re here to clear it all up for you with the help of a dermatologist. Here are four things skipping your daily shower could do to your skin — the good, the bad and the ugly.
1. It can prevent your skin from getting too dry
Taking a shower every day, especially a long one, can cause dry skin since both hot water and soap strip it of its natural oils. “Contact with soap and hot water can dry out the skin,” says Dr. Elma Baron, a dermatologist at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland. “Less frequent showering will prevent dryness.” One way to avoid it? Take shorter showers — the American Academy of Dermatology recommends showering for no more than 10 minutes at a time and Baron says five might be even better — in lukewarm water. When you step out, pat yourself dry instead of rubbing the skin with a towel and use a moisturizer all over the body while you’re still damp.
2. It can make your skin too oily
But don’t go overboard with the shower skipping, or you’ll get the opposite problem: grimy, oily skin. Blech. “Neglecting regular washing of the skin might also cause increased oiliness,” Baron explains. “The appearance of greasiness as a result of not washing becomes more apparent more quickly on the scalp.” In other words, not only will your skin look all shiny and icky, but your hair will look even worse.
3. Your dead skin cells might stay with you longer… yum?
Showering every day means we scrub or wash off the outer layer of the skin. Cutting back on bathing means that top skin will stick around longer. But, is that a positive or a negative? The answer is: We’re not sure. “Normally, when taking a shower, we encourage the ‘sloughing off’ of the outer portion of the skin — the dead cells of the skin,” says Baron. “But is that good or bad? It’s unclear. It could be viewed as good in terms of not causing any disruption in the barrier function of the outer, protective layer. But could that be bad as well — are those layers supposed to be shed or washed off on a regular basis? We just don’t know.”
4. It might change your natural flora (not to be confused with your aura)
… meaning the bacteria and other fun stuff on your skin might be eliminated less frequently than they are when you shower every day. “There might be some changes in the normal flora of the microorganisms on the skin,” explains Baron. “We don’t really know if skipping one shower for one day will already cause them.” But basically, less frequent showering could lead to more bacteria growing on your skin. Again, it’s not clear whether that’s a pro or a con of skipping the daily soak. “If we do not do the normal washing, we don’t know how that then changes the flora that’s residing on our skin, which is some bacteria, some fungi, some good, some bad,” says Baron.
When in doubt, everything in moderation. In other words, your best bet is to do a full-body shower and hair wash every other day or every three days, with quick splash-downs and touch-ups of the dirtiest parts (if you get my drift) in between.
Most of all, stop vilifying your poor, old shower. It’s not as harmful as we’ve been led to believe, even if it does rain down on you every single day.
“In general, we don’t think it is bad to do daily showers or daily bathing,” Baron says. “But we have to be careful if there are underlying conditions or if the skin is already dry.”