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Lather, Rinse, Don’t Repeat

March 15, 2020

In the US, the daily shower tends to start around puberty and become lifelong. But have you ever stopped to ask yourself why?

Perhaps your answer is: “because it’s healthier than showering less often.” Think again. For many, the daily shower is more about habit and societal norms than health. The reality is, frequent showers could cause skin problems or other health issues, and most importantly, they waste a lot of water. 

Americans tend to feel very strongly about their showing habits, averaging at about six showers per week, hoping to not drive off their friends through obsessive hygiene. It’s gotten to the point where I have been criticized for only taking three showers per week and stripping skin of its natural oils has become the norm.

However, it’s time to wash away such assumptions. According to Harvard Medical School, the top layer of your skin is composed of dead skin cells that protect skin layers underneath and fats or lipids that are responsible for moisture. This means that whenever you shower and scrub, you’re breaking this layer apart. Due to frequent showers, your skin has less time to repair and recover through natural oil production, preventing “good” bacteria from growing on your skin. Not to mention, it’s bad for your hair too. Negative consequences include dry, dull hair that is prone to dandruff. In some cases, hair can become greasy as scalp tries to overcompensate for dryness.

Let’s not forget the roots of our obsession with hygiene: soap and advertising industries have been tricking us for decades into buying into their products and being trapped in a cycle of “rinse, lather, repeat.” After all, the end goal is to be attractive and successful. This industry also takes shape in the recent rise of self-care through bath bombs, essential oils, and the desire to become a prune while lying in your own dirt (but the inefficiency of baths are a separate issue for another day).

So unless you do sports or feel particularly gritty, daily showers are an unnecessary use of water. In the case where daily showers are simply a must, short showers (lasting three or four minutes) that focus only the sweatiest bits will suffice. Next time, think twice about whether or not this shower is necessary or simply habitual before you hop into the tub for the sixth time that week.

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