How Often Should You Shower? 3 Ways To Decide, Derms Say
Let's talk shower habits. There's a spectrum of sorts: There are your hop-in, hop-out speed washers, and there are the people who transform the shower into a full-on spa experience (or concert venue, perhaps). No matter which camp you fall into, your shower experience is your own.
But is there a magic number of times you should hop under the spray, be it a quick wash or luxurious lather? Here's what the derms say.
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How often should you shower?
OK, so there might not be one universal answer—derms tend to have different opinions on the topic (after all, personal grooming choices are, well, personal). According to board-certified dermatologist Loretta Ciraldo, M.D., FAAD, sometimes a daily shower is completely necessary, even twice a day for some. And board-certified dermatologist Zenovia Gabriel, M.D., FAAD, mentions that a simple rinse-off under the spray might suffice; even though you might hop into the shower frequently, you might not need to do a full scrub-down each time.
Of course, it entirely depends on your lifestyle habits and schedule. To start, there are a few factors to consider:
If it were a simple equation, perhaps it'd be this: Warmer weather means more sweat, which may require more cleansing. Cooler temperatures mean less sweat, which may necessitate fewer washes. That said, tailor your shower frequency to the seasons. You may already change up your skin care habits seasonally (perhaps you apply a thick night cream in the winter to prevent dryness, opting for a light, oil-free moisturizer once summer rolls around), and the same goes for cleansing your body.
On a similar beat, consider the water in your area: "If you live in an area of hard water, where there is a lot of calcium and other minerals in the water, you may want to limit showering," says Ciraldo. Hard water can be super drying, and frequently exposing your skin (especially if it's already prone to dryness) can make those conditions worse.
As with weather, if you find yourself hitting the gym (or opting for an at-home sweat session), you'll want to take more frequent showers. Take your sweat level into account: Are you dripping post-HIIT workout? Or do your cheeks simply take on a rosy glow after a morning yoga flow? If you fall into the former, you might want to wash daily, maybe every other day if you really want to push it.
You may even want to shower morning and night, says Ciraldo, if you find yourself out and about throughout the day. Sweat can feel a little dirty, yes, but think about the other ways you expose yourself to bacteria and pollutants: "People who work out at the gym or have a physically challenging job that exposes them to dirty environments may want to shower twice a day," Ciraldo explains.
Skin type is a little tricky to navigate, as there are other factors that come into play (namely, water temperature, shower length, and types of soap). But you may need to shower more or less, depending on the skin you have: If you're facing some extremely dry skin, Gabriel says you can skip cleanser and just rinse with water (you'll still want to use soap on sweatier places, however, like the underarm and groin area). Using soap only two to three times a week on the skin's surface can avoid drying it further and causing inflammation, she tells us about choosing body cleansers.
Even if you have super-dry or eczema-prone skin, you'll still want to hop under the running water—just make sure it's not too hot. Hot water can dry the skin further; rather, "take lengthy showers in tepid water, staying under the water until your fingertips get wrinkled," says Ciraldo. "This is a sign that you have tremendously rehydrated your skin." Then just pat dry and apply an occlusive agent to seal in the moisture—you should be good to go.
On the other hand, if you have oily skin and are prone to body breakouts (especially on your chest and back), you may need to cleanse quite frequently. "Take a cool shower after working out or after any other activities where you may be sweating," says Ciraldo.
If you have no specific skin issues (and you're not an athlete or need a good after-work shower), Ciraldo says you can pretty much shower—or not—as often as you like; see what works best for your skin type and experiment. Even if you aren't showering every day, be sure to steer clear of soaps with sulfates or are heavily fragranced fragrance: "These can irritate and dry out even normal skin," Ciraldo adds.
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How much is too much?
Yes, its possible to shower too frequently—as it may cause skin issues overtime. Look for these.
- Dry skin: You'll know you're over-showering if you're facing drier, redder, itchier skin, says Ciraldo. It doesn't mean you're doing anything wrong (the change in weather could be to blame!), but it's important to be mindful of the signs so you can scale back. Of course, check in to see if you've introduced some new cleansers to your shower routine; it could be irritating ingredients that are causing the inflammation, not necessarily how many times you're lathering up.
- Inflammation flare ups: If you have an inflammatory skin condition, like eczema or rosacea, showering too frequently, with too hot of water, and with too aggressive soaps may cause flare ups.
How do you know when it's not enough?
If you're afraid your hygiene habits aren't enough, look for these two indicators.
- Smell: A somewhat easier tell-all sign: If you're not showering enough, the easiest way to tell is, you know, body odor. Especially in hotter weather when you're prone to sweat, you may want to up your shower frequency if you're smelling a bit ripe.
- Body acne: Another sign you need more shower time? Breakouts. If you're facing some clogged pores, it may be a sign that sweat keeps getting lodged in your follicles. As mentioned, take a cool shower and see if your breakouts subside. "You may even want to take a shower twice a day," says Ciraldo, if your breakouts still aren't letting up. That's not to say showering is the be-all and end-all cause of your clogged pores; there could be a multitude of reasons you're noticing breakouts in those areas (not all of them related to your shower habits), so you should definitely talk to your dermatologist if you're still stumped.
Morning or night: When should you shower?
Ultimately, it's up to you. A morning or evening rinse entirely depends on your lifestyle habits. "It is a total personal preference and can shift from day to day depending on activities," Ciraldo says. (You may even do both, depending on your environment, skin type, and activity level.)
But if we had to choose a camp, it's the nighttime. Showering at the end of the day can help wash off bacteria and sweat—both of which can lead to clogged pores and oxidative stress.
Don't worry: Even a simple rinse with water can suffice, focusing on sweatier places (like the underarm and groin area) with cleanser, if lathering up daily is too drying for your skin. As always, do what works best for your body: If the plethora of shower-time debates has anything to say for it, it's that there's no one right answer.
The bottom line.
The truth is, showering habits totally depend on your own lifestyle: how often you sweat, where you live, and what you do during the day. It varies from person-to-person, so unfortunately, we can't offer one universal number and consider it our decree. And don't get us started on how often you should wash your hair—that's a whole other discussion entirely. The best advice is to pay attention to what your skin is trying to tell you—luckily, it tends to offer a few signs.
Jamie Schneider is the Associate Beauty & Wellness Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare. In her role at mbg, she reports on everything from the top beauty industry trends, to the gut-skin connection and the microbiome, to the latest expert makeup hacks. She currently lives in New York City.