Do you really need to shower every day?

There is no standard approach to how often to shower. Here’s how to figure out the right frequency for you

By Melinda Wenner Moyer

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Derek Brahney/The New York Times
Derek Brahney/The New York Times

Published: Sun 5 Nov 2023, 10:16 PM

Last updated: Wed 15 Nov 2023, 3:58 PM

If you feel the need to shower daily, you’re certainly not alone: In one 2021 survey of more than 5,700 US adults, over 60 per cent of the respondents said that they showered at least once each day.

Yet dermatologists say that many people do not need, and may not want, to shower this frequently.

“There is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to washing skin and hair,” said Dr Joyce Park, a dermatologist in Seattle. The ideal frequency depends on your skin and hair type, how much you sweat and how dirty you get, she said.

And, she added, “showering too frequently can definitely dry out your skin, worsening redness, itchiness and flaking, and triggering eczema flares.”

Some people benefit from lathering up every day. For instance, if you sweat a lot — whether from exercise, your job or your natural predisposition to perspiration — “it is important to shower to rinse away the sweat and buildup that can contribute to clogged pores and breakouts,” said Dr Marisa Garshick, a dermatologist based in New York City.

If you have oily hair, you may want to shampoo daily, too. Dry shampoo can help in a pinch, Garshick said, but “still remember to use a traditional shampoo to help eliminate buildup of product and excess oil,” which can clog pores and lead to scalp irritation and sensitivity.

People with dandruff may also want to shampoo once a day, said Dr Azadeh Shirazi, a dermatologist based in San Diego. Dandruff isn’t caused by dry skin, but instead by a yeastlike fungus that feeds on scalp oil and can inflame the scalp’s skin, causing it to flake off.

Shampooing daily can get rid of the fungi that cause the dandruff, she said.

Many others may be better off showering less frequently — or, at the very least, being thoughtful about how they shower.

For instance, if you have eczema or dry or sensitive skin, you might want to shower every other day. Soap and water can exacerbate dry skin, Park said, causing irritation and itchiness. And showering too frequently can dry the skin such that it cracks and allows in microorganisms, increasing the risk of a skin infection, Garshick added.

For these reasons, experts recommended taking showers instead of baths, since exposing the skin to hot, dirty or soapy water for long periods can be irritating. Garshick noted, however, that certain types of baths could be helpful for treating some conditions — such as sitz baths for hemorrhoids, oatmeal baths for eczema, or diluted bleach baths for eczema or skin infections.

If your hair or scalp is dry, you might limit shampooing to once or twice a week, Garshick added. Some people with curly or coiled hair might like to shampoo less frequently, too, she said.

If you have eczema or dry or sensitive skin and you still want to clean your body every day, keep your showers short and not too hot, and consider applying soap only to the parts that most need it: the armpits, groin, hands, feet and parts of the body that are visibly dirty, Garshick said.

That said, it’s wise to be careful when applying soap to the sensitive skin around the genital area, Shirazi said. While it’s fine to use a mild, fragrance-free cleanser around the vulva as well as the groin folds and scrotum, it’s best to avoid using soap on or in the vagina or anus or on the penis. “Just use water,” she said.

You can minimiSe overall skin dryness, irritation and itching by picking gentle cleansers or bar soaps that contain moisturiSing ingredients such as hyaluronic acid and ceramides, Garshick said. She recommended the Dove Original Beauty Bar, CeraVe Hydrating Body Wash and Cetaphil Ultra Gentle Body Wash. In general, she said, look for fragrance-free cleansers — not unscented ones, which can contain masking fragrances and irritate the skin.

And “when you get out of the shower, pat your skin dry, do not rub,” Park said. “Apply moisturizer from head to toe on damp skin.”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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