When I was a kid, I hated taking a shower.
I felt like it was such a waste of time. I hated stopping whatever I was doing to stand in the shower for ten to fifteen minutes, especially if I hadn’t sweat that much or didn’t smell.
I may have been a bit lazy, but hey, I was a kid! I wanted to do what I wanted to do, and I didn’t want to take a shower, at least not every day.
Turns out I was on to something. According to Angela Palmer, an esthetician specializing in the treatment of acne and problem skin, a daily shower may actually be too much for your skin. Showering too often can strip your skin of natural oils such as sebum, the oil that protects the human skin and keeps it moisturized. When that thin layer of sebum is removed through frequent showering, it can cause your skin to become dry and flaky and can even exacerbate eczema.
In conversation with SELF magazine, Emily Newsom, MD, a dermatologist at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, said that showering everyday is more of a societal norm than a biological necessity. Both Mary L. Stevenson, MD, assistant professor at Ronald O. Perelman Department of Dermatology at NYU Langone Health, and Melissa Piliang, MD, a dermatologist at Cleveland Clinic, agree that a person should shower every two to three days depending on their lifestyle and their natural tendencies toward sweating, oiliness and body odor.
Showering too much can make your skin more susceptible to bacteria by changing its pH through the removal of the acid mantle, the skin’s natural barrier that is slightly acidic, as its name suggests. This removal brings about what Palmer calls the “hygiene hypothesis.”
She said, “The idea is all the cleaning, washing and sanitizing we do today may be stunting young immune systems. Instead, allowing children to be exposed to an array of bacteria while they’re young may help build a stronger immune system in the long run.”
So even if you shower every day, maybe your young kids shouldn’t.
But it’s not just how many times you shower that should be considered. The amount of time you take showering and how you shower are also factors in how taking a shower can affect your skin’s health.
Dr. Piliang conceded that taking a shower every day is fine as long as you don’t do so aggressively. That advice means not showering for upward of 10 minutes and applying moisturizer afterward, especially if you have dry skin. She went on to suggest using warm water instead of hot and opting for gentle soaps that don’t have fragrances or sodium lauryl sulfate, a sudsing agent that can pull oil out of the skin.
There is no exact science that can definitively say how often you should shower, though. Every body is different and requires different regimens, so make sure to listen to your body and do what’s right for you!
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