Treading Lightly
Treading Lightly

The Case for Showering Less and Ditching the Soap

We are obsessed with showering and extreme cleanliness in the U.S. We put medical grade antibacterials into our body wash and encourage women to douse the inside of their bodies with unnecessary chemicals. Showering daily has become a cultural norm – one that is difficult to break.

But the more I read about our bodies’ microbioms and the amazing, helpful bacteria on our skin, the more I realize we are living under false assumptions. You don’t need to use harsh soaps, you don’t need to shower every day, and you don’t need to treat your body like a battle ground.

The Case for Showering Less

No Poo or Less Shampoo

For years I have wanted to wash my hair less often, but I was hesitant to go to work with greasy hair while I transited. I washed my hair every other day for years, despite the dry scalp and frizzy hair it gave me.

When I started working from home in February, I seized the opportunity to experiment with my shampoo schedule (and spend entire days in the comfort of my pajamas). At first I stretched it from two days to three. Then after a couple of weeks I went for a crazy stab at five days.

These days I wash my hair every three to four days. I typically wash my hair after my sweatiest workout of the week or after I swim. I could likely keep stretching the time between washes, and it seems like a shame to wash it again after only three days, but it works out well with my workout schedule.

Why You Should Wash Your Hair Less

Since I stopped washing my hair so frequently I have stopped incessantly scratching my head. My hair doesn’t have crazy flyaways, and it feels silky smooth.

I typically wear my hair down the first 1-2 days, and up the other 1-2. By the last day it is a bit greasier than I used to tolerate, but I’ve come to realize that no one notices! And those natural oils are so good for your scalp and hair.

Washing and drying is tough on hair. If you normally style your hair with heat, washing it less means you can go much longer on a single style. Your hair will be less damaged, and you can stop staring at your split ends incessantly.

Ditch the Soap and the Daily Shower

There was no transition for showering less like there was with my hair. I went from showering every other day (or every day during super sweaty summer workouts) to about 3-4 times in the average week.

When I do shower, I (mostly) skip the soap. For the past six months or so I have been washing my body with water. I haven’t turned into a massive stink bomb (and yes I’ve asked people who spend time with me). After a sweaty workout, I wash my arm and leg pits with soap. The rest of me gets a good rinse and I’m done. (Although it should also be pointed out that I shave my legs with a moisturizing handmade soap, so I do effectively wash my legs with soap once a week.)

You don’t need to jump in the shower to get clean. If I have put on sunscreen or I feel like freshening up without turning on the tap, I wipe down with a wash cloth.

The Benefits of Showering Less

Save Time
On the days that I’m not washing my hair, I can be in and out of the shower in two minutes or less. Although when I shave my legs it can take me closer to 10 minutes. I try to shave on days that I don’t wash my hair to break up marathon showers. I used to spend nearly an hour a week in the shower. These days it’s more like 20-30 minutes.

Save Water
I could easily run out of hot water in the shower when I was growing up. Fifteen minutes was the norm, if not longer. The amount of water I wasted makes me cringe. My new shower routine likely saves me 95 gallons of water a week. That’s 4,940 gallons a year!

Healthier Skin
Despite eschewing soap and only washing my hair twice a week, my skin and hair feel better. They are less dry and I don’t get so itchy anymore. My back and chest haven’t exploded with zits (if anything they look better than before). Instead of needing an intense moisturizer after every shower, a light application of sunflower oil is plenty.

Good Bacteria
Our skin is crawling with bacteria. For the most part, the bacteria you carry around on you are harmless. They help ward off dangerous bacteria, improve would healing, and help protect us from infection. Much like our guts, the bacteria we harbor is extremely unique to us, and we can change its composition with our diet, health, environment, beauty products, and other factors.

“Applying detergents (soaps) to our skin and hair every day disrupts a sort of balance between skin oils and the bacteria that live on our skin. When you shower aggressively, you obliterate the ecosystems. They repopulate quickly, but the species are out of balance and tend to favor the kinds of microbes that produce odor.” I Quit Showering and Life Continued, The Atlantic

Much like the bacteria in our guts, we are only just starting to understand what these bacteria do and how they benefit us.

To be extremely clear, this doesn’t mean you should stop washing your hands with soap. But it does mean you should avoid body wash with triclosan or other antibacterials and consider skipping the soap all together.

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