It’s the A-list debate of the moment – how often should we lather up? Are we doing it too much, too little or just right?
To shower or not to shower, is the question on everyone’s lips. How often we bathe has become a hot topic thanks to celebs like Jake Gyllenhaal, Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis sharing that they don’t feel a need to shower, or even wash with soap, every day.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the fence, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson has spoken out saying he’s a fan of a daily bathing ritual, showering an impressive three times a day. There’s no doubt sustainability is a reason for thinking about scaling down - every minute spent in the shower equates to around 12 litres of water*. According to YouGov, 18% of us in the UK shower two to three times a week, with 3% showering only once a week, so no matter what your feelings or frequency, we could all do with a refresher and a weigh-in from the experts about what’s hot and what’s not.
While some might take to their bodies as Mrs Hinch does to her countertop, it’s not always something to feel smug about. “We can be too obsessed with washing and smelling nice,” says GP and dermatology specialist Dr Sonia Khorana. “The idea that we need to shower every day and scrub at our skin is wrong – it naturally exfoliates.” Yes, Gyllenhaal was sort of right when he said, “There’s a whole world of not bathing that’s helpful for skin maintenance, and we naturally clean ourselves”. Indeed, when we wash with soap, we abolish the ecosystem created by the bacteria that live on our skin, and the bodily oils that they feed off. That’s not to say detergents are bad, merely that we need to use them in sensible moderation.
If you’re a shower face washer, you may want to turn the dial down
With ‘The Rock’ stating that he takes a cold shower in the morning, a warm one after his workout and a hot shower after work, his schedule is as good a precursor as any to discuss temperature tactics. If you’re a shower face washer, you may want to turn the dial down. Washing your face should, according to Dr Khorana, be done with lukewarm water. If it’s too hot, skin will become dehydrated and stripped of its natural oils. That tight, will-crack-if-you-so-much-as-twitch post-shower face? Exactly.
You can afford to turn up the heat when you’re shaving in the shower though: “Hot water opens up pores and softens the hair,” explains Dr Khorana. “But make sure you take your razor with you when you hop out,” she warns. “With so much excess moisture in there, it’s easy for bacteria to spread and for the blades to potentially rust, both of which can result in infection.”
Washing hair less doesn’t fare too well. “If you don’t cleanse your scalp frequently, excess oils, dirt, pollution and dead skin cells build up,” says Anabel Kingsley, consultant trichologist at Philip Kingsley.
It’s a myth that your hair starts to clean itself after a certain point
“Certain yeasts, called the Malassezia yeasts, thrive in an oily environment, and overgrowth of these can cause dandruff, clogged pores and pimples on your scalp.” Forget what you heard about hair starting to clean itself after a certain point. “It’s a myth. Perhaps it’s because once your scalp and hair get past a certain point of greasiness, you can’t notice it as much. It’s like not seeing stains forming on an already filthy carpet,” Anabel says. “Wash-wise, everyone’s hair is different, but those with curls or a natural texture should wash it less,” she says. “Everyone can benefit from lower temperatures, because hair’s natural oils will be sapped if the water’s too hot.”
It’s also worth noting the other activities that showering entails, with some using it not only to wash pits and bits, but brush teeth and a few other habits to boot.
If you’ve ever found yourself caught short while in the shower, there might be a temptation to go, but urologist Rena Malik advises against it. “There’s no major health risk, but you may start to associate running water with the need to wee; something that we call urinary urgency,’” she explains. Not ideal when you’re stuck in a downpour.
According to the experts, brushing your teeth in the shower isn’t great either. “Too much water washes away the active ingredients in toothpaste, meaning they don’t absorb,” says Dr Lisa Creaven, co-founder of Spotlight Oral Care. “It would be like washing your face after applying retinol.”
Heed Kristen Bell who says, “Once you catch a whiff, that’s biology’s way of letting you know you need to clean it up.” Let it be known, us and celebs, we’re just the same.
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