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Cleansing Reduction or Showering Daily?

Updated on June 6, 2013

Bathing or Showering Daily

Back in the days when I was a girl and before we had a plumbed in bathroom, bathing was a weekly chore not to be undertaken lightly. I say chore because it wasn’t easy. Bathing or showering daily wasn’t an option. The water had to be drawn from the tap in jugs and poured into a tin bath which was set in front of the fire.

You were very lucky indeed if you got a bath and hairwash more than once or twice a week. Obviously all this changed with the advent of proper plumbed in bathrooms and nowadays it isn’t unusual for people to bath or shower more than once a day.

Cleanliness is next to Godliness
Cleanliness is next to Godliness

Cleanliness is next to Godliness

Cleanliness is next to godliness they say but do we really need to have all these baths and showers? Did you know for instance that surgeons and operating theatre personnel are normally asked not to shower immediately prior to entering into an operating theatre? (Source: Dr Elaine Larson)

When you wash using antibacterial/antimicrobial gels or soaps this will clean the bacteria from your skin but normal washing with ordinary soaps and shower gels doesn’t do this. In fact what it does do is disturb the skin microbiota and disperse the microcolonies into the air and thus the shower or bathtub. The shower room then is really not the place to be before performing an operation on a vulnerable patient because bacterial counts on the skin have been found to be higher after showering or bathing with non antibacterial soap. Although this microbiota is not easily transferred from person to person by skin contact, many of the microbes are dangerous and even fatal if they enter the body through an open wound.


How Often do you Take a Shower or Bath?

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Skin Bacteria

This is not to say that you should use antibacterial products on a daily basis in an endeavour to have a body free from skin bacteria. There needs to be a certain amount of bacteria on the body for immunistic purposes. The only time it becomes a problem is if you are about to have surgery or have a depleted immune system in which case daily body cleaning with an antimicrobial solution such as Octenisan® may be recommended by your surgeon.

Skin Microbiota - Staphyloccus Epidermis Labelled for Reuse
Skin Microbiota - Staphyloccus Epidermis Labelled for Reuse
  • A shower every day

A shower every day or a daily bath definitely has benefits but they are more psychological than antibacterial. A bath or shower makes you feel better; it relieves stress and relaxes tired and aching muscles.

  • Skin Chemistry

Everyone’s skin is different so whilst one person may suffer from dry or irritated skin from daily bathing another may not.

A Healthy Skin

So if you thought that the more you bathed the cleaner you would be; you were wrong dear reader. A healthy skin isn’t necessarily achieved by frequent showering and bathing. Apparently even without a daily bath for a prolonged period the microflora of the skin remains quite stable

By Wong, D.J. and Chang, H.Y. Skin tissue engineering (March 31, 2009), StemBook, ed. The Stem Cell Research Community, StemBook, doi/10.3824/stembook.1.44.1, [CC-BY-3.0 (], via Wiki
By Wong, D.J. and Chang, H.Y. Skin tissue engineering (March 31, 2009), StemBook, ed. The Stem Cell Research Community, StemBook, doi/10.3824/stembook.1.44.1, [CC-BY-3.0 (], via Wiki

The skin is made up of a protective outer layer which is a layer of hardened dead skin cells bound by fatty compounds called lipids. It is these lipids that keep the skin moist. If you take a hot shower or bath and scrub yourself vigorously; whilst it may feel good you could be damaging your skin’s Stratum Corneum which is the technical term for the protective outer layer. The combination of hot water and soap dissolves the lipids in your skin and causes trans-epidermal water loss. Because you are doing this damage on a daily basis your skin does not have time to fully recover.

How you can minimise damage to skin

Damage Minimised?
Damage worsened?
Not using a Loofah
Using non moisturising Shower Gel
Bathing/Showering every day
Bathing once a week
Towel Drying
Air drying

Choose the tips above to minimise damage to skin

Photograph attributed to
Photograph attributed to | Source

Is bathing or showering less often harmful?

If you look back at your grandparents lives, they probably didn’t have the facilities for daily bathing. In fact it used to be traditional for the whole of the family to bathe in the same water. If you were an only child you were very fortunate but imagine if you were one of 10! Added to that, the washing sometimes used to go in there as well.

Obviously in a hot summer or if you work in a manual occupation and sweat a lot or take part in daily sport or exercise you will need to take a shower to wash away the sweat but if you live a sedentary life and don’t break into a sweat it isn’t harmful to skip the shower or bath. Provided armpits and other sweat producing areas are washed, the rest of the body and hair can be safely left alone and may even benefit from the rest. It must also be remembered that the hands are the part of the body which contain the most bacteria so they should be washed regularly; especially after using the lavatory or handling pets or raw meat.

Washing skin the alternative way

There is an alternative to washing skin, with a method that uses no water. It is called DryBath™ and was invented by a young student from Cape Town. It is ideal for use in countries where water is at a premium and infection is rife as the gel is germicidal. The gel is thought to save up to 10 litres of water on conventional body washing methods. It contains moisturisers too so will not dry out the skin as conventional washing does. At present it is not available to retail consumers for purchase but the website states that it will be soon


New trend

It may surprise you to learn that Prince Harry is just one of the famous people skipping the shower in a new trend called ‘cleansing reduction’. This trend involves bathing just once or twice a week to reduce damage to the skin due to depletion of the skin’s oils. Rather than washing the hair daily, dry shampoo products are used.

The added benefits are that less bathing and showering means lower water consumption. Ah! How things come full circle.

© Susan Bailey 2013 All Rights Reserved


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