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Shunning Showers: How Clean Are You?

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Shunning Showers: How Clean Are You?

Can cleanliness be a political act? With the advent of full bathrooms and the ever-increasing marketing of personal care products, showering has become a deeply embedded custom in the American public. Cleanliness is next to Godliness, after all. But it appears that a trend veering away from fresh-as-a-daisy and tilting more toward musky-like-a-human is taking root.

An article in The New York Times over the weekend explored the personal hygiene habits of a varied group of people who are consciously showering less, shampooing infrequently, and shunning deodorant.

Deodorants 101: Why They’re Scary and How to DIY

To the cleaning-less contingent, there are many reasons to forgo the daily shower for the au natural. “We don’t need to wash the way we did when we were farmers,” said Katherine Ashenburg, 65, the author of “The Dirt on Clean: An Unsanitized History.” Since the advent of cars and labor-saving machines, she continued, “we have never needed to wash less, and we have never done it more.”

Many cite water conservation and the harsh effects of over-cleansing on skin and hair. Of late, researchers are discovering that our skin contains beneficial germs that we might not want to wash down the drain. “Good bacteria are educating your own skin cells to make your own antibiotics,” said Dr. Richard Gallo, chief of the dermatology division at the University of California, San Diego, and “they produce their own antibiotics that kills off bad bacteria.” And to those who complain of over-showering’s effect on dry skin, Dr. Gallo said, “It’s not just removing the lipids and oils on your skin that’s drying it out,” he said. It could be “removing some of the good bacteria that help maintain a healthy balance of skin.”

The Hygiene Hypothesis: Eating Dirt, Embracing Germs

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Read more: Bath & Shower, Conservation, General Health, Health, News & Issues, Skin Care, , ,

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Melissa Breyer

Melissa Breyer is a writer and editor with a background in sustainable living, specializing in food, science and design. She is the co-author of True Food (National Geographic) and has edited and written for regional and international books and periodicals, including The New York Times Magazine. Melissa lives in Brooklyn, NY.


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5:46AM PDT on Mar 29, 2014

thank you

1:47PM PDT on Nov 5, 2011

I only shower a few times a week and don't have any problem with odours. Also, I read some years ago (and don't recall where), that Vitamin D is made on the skin during the day, but absorbed during the night and that it takes about 48 hours to absorb, so if you are showering daily, you probably have an issue with absorption of Vitamin D. I must research it more to see how accurate that is, but it seems there could be some truth in it, as Vitamin D levels in the west are dropping. Worth some more reading, I think.

8:52AM PDT on Aug 6, 2011

Ther is PLENTY OF WATER! Geez hasn't anyone been watching the news? The mid west IS FLOODING AND HAS BEEN FOR MONTHS! Chemicals are a problem big time! Keep the chemicals out of the water and it will clean its self with a little bit of help from us. KEEP CLEAN.

4:49AM PDT on May 27, 2011

Adorable Maja M., we must have to save water. As we waste lots of water while bath.

10:33AM PDT on Apr 18, 2011

I shower daily, but I try to use as little water as I can - I turn out the water while I apply the soap or shampoo and only turn it on again when I rinse.

8:55AM PDT on Apr 8, 2011

i actually think that dry shampoos used with alot of spray anti-persipant are more harmful....because you cannot recycle the bootles and they release harmful ingredients into the air....if you shower with biodegradable body care products and less hot water and a flouride/chroline elimater shower head this is less harmful

12:55PM PDT on Mar 20, 2011


3:16AM PDT on Mar 20, 2011


12:47AM PST on Mar 5, 2011

I shower twice a week...winters or summers....and I still smell good all the time..Its about washing your clothes and using effective body sprays!

9:18PM PST on Feb 17, 2011

This always seemed so obvious to me even before I knew any facts or statistics or anything. My parents disagree with each other on the subject, and when as a child I caught on to the discrepancy, I didn't even have to think about it, I knew with whom I agreed. You can't beat healthy skin/hair AND water conservation AND less toxic chemicals, can you?

Didn't think so. =)

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