BATHING & HYGIENE
SOCIAL NORMS vary much from culture to culture and within each country. In most areas of the world, bathing has less importance than it does in the United States - but the US does not hold the number one spot globally.
ACCEPTABLE STANDARDS have a lot to do with lifestyle & economic status. As the melting pot of the world, the United States have subcultures from a myriad of ethnic groups. You may be surprised to learn which countries have the more strict or 'higher standards' concerning bathing & hygiene.
Even if you do not consider the various peoples immigrating into the US, we span most of the gamut in lifestyle and economic variations. Consider the differences that might occur in the ritzy clubhouse members versus coastal fishing villages or the more laid back residents living in remote rural areas.
SURPRISING NUMBERS. The number of people who bathe an average of 5x or more per week are from the following countries:
90% United States
83% United Kingdom
*It wasn't long ago that people in Brazil and Colombia averaged bathing 16x per week. This number has dropped a bit to averaging only twice a day! Being so close to the equator and having more days of sunshine & higher temps play a big role in this practice.
SHOULD WE BATHE LESS?
Dermatologist Shilpi Khetarpal says, on normal days, "We come in contact with thousands of allergens every day. Showering rinses off those allergens as well as bacteria and viruses." But she warns about overdoing it because getting under the water too often can irritate or even damage our skin. "Optimally, you should bathe once a day."
However, skipping a day once in a while will not harm you. It may be beneficial!
THE NEW NORMAL of distance restrictions, spending more time at home, less time in sports and other group activities, may have us bathing less often. Washing up the smelly areas daily and taking a full bath or shower 2-3x a week can be enough for most people, especially if you are trying to conserve water, reduce stress on your own septic system, or wanting to reduce public sewage charges.
When it comes to concerns about health, not all experts agree. It's not all clear that a daily shower accomplishes much; some experts feel that bathing daily is less healthy.
WHAT ARE THE HEALTH IMPACTS OF SHOWERING (or Bathing) EVERY DAY?
Normal, healthy skin maintains a layer of oil and a balance of 'good' bacteria & other micro-organisms. Washing and scrubbing removes these, especially if the water is hot. As a result:
skin may become dry, irritated or itchy
dry, cracked skin may allow bacteria and other allergens to breach the barrier skin is supposed to provide, allowing skin infections and allergic reactions to occur
antibacterial soaps can actually kill off normal (beneficial) bacterias, upsetting the balance of micro-organisms on the skin and encouraging the emergence of hardier, less friendly organisms that are more resistant to antibodies
Our immune systems need a certain amount of stimulation by normal micro-organisms, dirt and other environmental exposures in order to create protective antibodies & 'immune memory'. This is one of the reasons why some pediatricians and dermatologists recommend AGAINST DAILY BATHING for kids.
Frequent baths or showers throughout a lifetime may reduce the ability of the immune system to do its job.
And there could be other reasons to lose your enthusiasm for daily bathing: the water we use to clean ourselves could contain salts, heavy metals, chlorine, flouride, pesticides or other chemicals that can cause problems too.
*Excerpted & summarized from Harvard Health Publishing: "Showering Daily- Is It Necessary" by Robert H. Shmerling, MD (8/16/19)
Shortening the length of time in water and reducing the frequency will improve & strengthen your skin.
Remember to focus on soaping armpits, groin areas, feet and behind ears AND alternating shower days with hand-wash/sponge bath days to keep body odor at bay.
ACNE: Teens and adults prone to acne do need to wash their faces and other acne-prone areas on a daily basis. This can be done at the basin with a cloth or cleansing wipes 2-3x a day.
DANDRUFF: If dandruff is an issue, you can pop your head in the shower or under the kitchen sprayer for a quick RUB & RINSE. Some people do not need to shampoo every time while others may need to use a medicated shampoo often, depending on how bad the condition is.
EXCEMA: People with excema face a different set of challenges where they must rinse the allergens & bacteria away daily to keep flare-ups at bay.
5 EASY TIPS FOR HEALTHY SKIN
SKIP THE SCENTS bc fragrance pulls moisture from the skin
FOCUS ON SMELLY AREAS when using soap bc soap is NOT a DAILY REQUIREMENT for all areas of your body
REDUCE THE HEAT because hot water stresses the skin and can cause it to become dry or itchy
MOISTURIZE AFTER BATHING to trap in moisture, especially if you are prone to dry or itchy skin
KNOW YOUR HAIR TYPE & how often you NEED to shampoo. Normal hair does well shampooing 2-3x a week; Oily hair may need 4-5x a week or even daily shampoos; Dry hair is more healthy with once a week cleansing
Water is used in several ways to keep us clean and improve our health. The use of water for health purposes is called Hydrotherapy and include: Baths (cool or warm), Steam Baths or Steam Showers, Saunas, Whirlpools, Swimming Pools, Jacuzzi & Hot Tubs. Water Massage methods offer plenty of benefits as well. Benefits include:
ease muscle aches & pains
increase blood flow/circulation
improve concentration & focus
make it easier to breathe
improve immune function
Normal showering or bathing may have these same effects to a lesser degree. All these bathing and hydrotherapy techniques also clean the skin, remove dead skin cells, clears pores, and rinses away bacteria and skin irritants, and if following the 5 Tips for Healthy Skin, allows skin to function properly.
Just as warmer climates steer us to more frequent bathing, cooler areas and cold weather seasons can play havoc on your skin. Guidelines are very similar to the daily guidelines already outlined:
shorten shower times to 5 minutes if/whenever possible
close the door to the bathroom to retain/increase humidity
reduce temperature of water
use gentler cleansers - or only cleanser in certain areas
use less cleanser
pat dry instead of rubbing dry
apply moisture within 3 minutes
We've been discussing the needs & norms of adults as a generality so far, but let's recap: Daily Bathing Practices are based more on our own idea of hygiene and our social norms but it is NOT necessarily necessary! Shortening our daily shower or alternating shower days with sponge bath days may be more beneficial to us, especially as we grow older.
Sometimes bathing can become more challenging as we age due to physical or mental restrictions in our health. Unless there is a medical condition, bathing once or twice a week is usually sufficient to:
meet general standards of grooming
ward off infection
protect aging skin, which becomes more fragile
WARD OFF SIGNS OF AGING!
Celebrity Esthetician Renee Rouleau says exfoliating too harshly or too often can lead to wrinkle-causing inflammation. She states, "A major cause of aging is chronic or prolonged inflammation."
WHAT CONSTITUTES AN EXFOLIATION?
Using a washcloth on your face (and possibly your skin if it is already fragile)
Using a loofah or brush on your face or body
Drying off with your towel too vigorously
Facials and/or Mask Treatments & Chemical Peels
Rouleau further explains that using a washcloth on your face is too harsh and recommends limiting any exfoliation of face and body to fragile skin to 3x or less per week. Never use a loofah or brush on aging skin.
Our faces may be more fragile first, but over time, the rest of our skin will also age faster if we exfoliate too often! Be gentle to your skin during bathing, lower the water temp, and PAT DRY!