Why we should shower and wash our hair less often

— by Adrienne Wyper

Image: Karolina Grabowska at Pexels


Do you see a daily shower as essential to feeling fresh and clean? Or are you more comfortable in your own (unwashed) skin? When I was a child, my family joked about how washing-averse I was. But I didn’t like how dry, tight and itchy my skin felt after washing with soap. Still don’t.

But even though gentler cleansing products are easy to find, and my skin isn’t as sensitive, I could still be called a bit of a ‘soap-dodger’. It really began, like so many things, during the pandemic. With so many normal daily routines disrupted, not leaving the house to go to work, or be with other people, I, like many other people, didn’t take as much care of my personal appearance, wearing clothes for a couple of days on the trot, and stopped being as punctilious about personal hygiene.

Obviously, some areas always need washing more than others: sweaty crevices, or ‘pits and bits’, which can, well, smell. And if I got hot and sweaty from exercise or the heat of the day, or physically dirty, from turning over the compost heap or repainting a wall, I’d head for the shower. But unless you’re a sheep farmer at lambing time and have been up to your armpits in a ewe, how often do your forearms really need to be scrubbed?

Although leaving it a little longer between showers wasn’t something I proudly announced to anyone who came within a two-metre radius, I suspected I wasn’t alone in my hygiene habits. And I was right. During the second lockdown in February 2021 a YouGov survey of over 2,000 adults showed that one in six were showering less often than before the pandemic (although one in 10 were doing it more). And these hygiene habits seem to have stuck. A poll of 5,000 Europeans (including Brits) last year revealed that 68% of Brits had a complete body-wash every day. And dermatologists agree that, for skin health, we should shower just two to three times a week.


Save your skin

A Harvard Health blog by Dr Robert H Shmerling says ‘Normal, healthy skin maintains a layer of oil and a balance of “good” bacteria and other microorganisms. Washing and scrubbing removes these, especially if the water is hot.’ He explains that this can cause skin to become dry or itchy, and that dry, cracked skin can let in bacteria and other undesirables and cause infections or allergic reactions. The skin’s good bacteria can also be killed by antibacterial soaps and shower gels, which can disrupt the balance of the skin’s microbiome.

And, on the ‘what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger’ logic, he says that ‘Our immune systems need a certain amount of stimulation by normal microorganisms, dirt, and other environmental exposures in order to create protective antibodies and “immune memory”.’

And if you can’t imagine ever swerving the shower, consider how hair-washing habits have changed. When I started washing my own hair, shampoo bottles routinely stated ‘rinse and repeat’, advocating lathering up twice; now it’s usually ‘one and done’. And there’s the ‘no poo’ trend – ‘poo’ means ‘shampoo’ – of using water, conditioner, vinegar or no washing at all, based on not stripping the hair’s protective natural layer of oil.


Save money and the planet

Washing less often means using less water, which can matter if you’re on a meter, and less energy to heat it, saving money and reducing carbon emissions. People have reportedly been having shorter showers due to the cost-of-living crisis.

Being squeaky-clean puts a damper on our love life, too, by covering up our natural pheromone-rich scent. Pheromones are airborne molecules of substances secreted by the skin, which can act as an aphrodisiac. Napoleon Bonaparte famously wrote to his lover Josephine asking her not to wash when he was planning a visit. And I’ll happily admit to finding the smell of my partner after he’s been engaged in physical labour attractive.

So if your skin ever feels dry and irritated after washing, no matter how gentle your soap/shower gel/bath essence, as the warm days turn chillier, why not leave it a little longer between allover ablutions? Your skin may thank you for it.


Adrienne Wyper is a health and lifestyle writer and regular TNMA contributor. 


Some refillable/ sustainable beauty products for the occasions when you do wash:

That’s Not My Age is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn commission on some of the items you choose to buy. 


Keep Reading

Autumn layering with HeatTech

  Do you see a daily shower as essential to feeling fresh and clean? Or are you more comfortable in your own (unwashed) skin?