The need to shower daily is mostly fueled by the media, with shower product manufacturers urging you to use their products. In fact, if you shower too many times or for too long, you’ll harm yourself by drying up your skin and developing tiny cracks. Germs can enter the body through these cracks leading to infections. As such, you need a good balance in the showering frequency.
You can go for as long as you want without a shower. As long as you can keep off external chemicals and oils and have healthy skin, you don’t need to take a shower every day. Your showering frequency will depend on your diet, attire, environment, and the work you do.
Having a shower every other day or every few days is enough for most people. Showering too often with hot water will strip away the important oils on the skin, leading to dry and itchy skin.
There is no universal rule regarding how long you can go without showering. While some people will become smelly in a day, others can go for 3-4 days and even up to 2 weeks before their bodies emit any bad odors. Still, others can go for more than 2 weeks without any smell, depending on their diets and activities. The Real Daytime video below gives further insight into this.
Why do I need to shower?
Your skin has many types of bacteria (both healthy and harmful) which need to be washed off every once and again. The skin also secretes oils and other substances, which build up with time to unhealthy amounts if not washed off. Other types of dirt, such as dust, oils, and chemicals, also require frequent washing off.
For most people, an occasional shower, about every 3 days, is enough to keep your skin clean. You also don’t need to shower with any strong antibacterial soaps or bath bombs to remain clean. Simple soap is enough for that.
On the days when you don’t take a shower, your immune system and the microbes on your skin will take care of the cleaning process. However, they still need you to wash off the dirt to keep off bad odors and other issues occasioned by not showering.
The difference between a bath and a shower is that bathing is soaking the body in water, while showering is having water flow down your body. In most cases, showering has better results than bathing when it comes to cleaning the body. It is showering that should be done often as you can be clean without a bath but by showering alone.
Effects of not showering for a month
Some of the health risks of not bathing are detailed below. Beyond these, there are other general effects on the skin and body in general.
1. Accumulation of germs
Your skin has lots of good and bad bacteria playing different roles. While a healthy balance between them is good for your skin, not washing off the dirt from your skin invites more bad bacteria. These are the germs that can lead to sickness either from your skin or through entering the eyes, nose, and mouth.
2. Buildup of dirt
Your skin slowly accumulates sweat, dirt, oil, and dead cells, making it dirtier by the day. Without frequent washing off of these substances, it’ll get too dirty. Also, if you shower using bath bombs, you should wash off the oils from the bath bomb to keep the skin clean.
3. Unpleasant body odor
Most people wrongfully think body odor comes from sweating when sweat itself is odorless. Rather, the unpleasant odor on the body is from bacteria breaking down sweat to lots of smelly compounds (up to 30 such byproducts). If you let the bacteria and these byproducts accumulate on the skin, you’ll start smelling bad.
4. Skin and body infections
As stated earlier, the skin often crawls with millions of bacteria and fungi. In certain amounts, they can’t affect you in any way. When you let them accumulate by not washing the excess amounts off, they can’t enter the skin and cause infections.
One of the bacteria found on the skin is the staphylococcus kind. While harmless, it can build up and enter the skin if you don’t shower for a while. Staphylococcus infections are quite dangerous.
5. Dermatitis neglecta
Without cleaning your skin, you get a buildup of oils, sweat, dead skin, keratin, and other substances. You may observe brown scaly patches of what’s known as dermatitis neglecta (from negligence). When you get to this level, your body will be really dirty. This can even lead to skin breakouts.
These brown patches will start from the folds of skin, such as behind the ears, underarms, under the breasts, and on the neck.
6. Greasy hair
Your hair will also accumulate sebum (the oil that gives your skin and hair a shine). With time, it becomes too much and traps dirt. Depending on how much sebum your scalp produces, you will develop breakouts in a few days. You will also get an itchy scalp.
7. Unpleasant groin
If you plan on going without a shower for long, at least wash the groin area to keep it clean. If not, you will get a condition called intertrigo, which combines yeast infection and inflammation. It starts off as an itch in a red color, then advances to a painful and burning sensation.
8. Fungus on the toes
Scum will build up between your toes, leading to fungus development. As you put on clothes passing your toes through your underwear and pants, the infection will likely spread to your pelvic and groin areas.
9. Long recovery time
After a long period without a shower, it may take a while before you can return to normal (if you resume the normal shower routine). In most cases, it can take a week or more.
10. Smelly home
When you don’t take a shower every few days, your shower’s P-trap will dry up and allow sewer gases to enter the home. Thus, you will likely have a smelly home from your body and sewer.
You have enough reasons to take a shower often enough. However, you don’t need to shower daily to avoid these effects.
What determines your showering frequency?
The factors dictating how often you should take a shower include the following:
1. Immune system
If you have a fragile immune system such as that of an elderly person, newborn, or one suffering from cancer, you’ll need a shower daily or even twice a day. This is because poor immunity can’t protect your skin from the entry of germs and damage. The skin in such situations can easily dry up and get cracked due to a lack of protective bacteria and low sebum production.
If you eat lots of meats and vegetables, you’ll need to shower more often as they generate a stronger odor from the body than if you ate starches and fruits. If you plan on going for a while without a shower, eat more fruits and starches.
Living in a hot area with lots of dust in the air increases the need for a shower. If, on the other hand, you live in an area with mild temperatures with little to no dirt in the air, you don’t need frequent showering.
Those who stay in t-shirts and sweatpants the whole day without sweating or getting dirty can skip more days without a shower. However, those who wear heavy clothing, whether for work or temperature control, need to shower more often.
If your work entails sitting in front of the computer for hours on end and doing nothing else much, you can go without a shower for a good number of days without stinking. However, those who work in hot and dusty areas need a shower every day after work.
6. Skin health
For those with dry skin, oily skin, eczema, or other similar conditions, you need a shower daily to keep the skin clean and moist. If you have normal skin, a shower every few days is all you need to stay fresh and healthy.
As seen from these aspects, you can go for many days without a shower in the right conditions.
Psychological reasons for not showering
Some psychological issues may make you avoid showering or shower too much. They include the following:
When depressed, most people find it hard to do basic tasks, including cleaning themselves up. In such cases, it may be a major and even unpleasant task just getting to the shower or even brushing your teeth. It can feel quite exhausting.
Even when one becomes smelly or dirty in general, depression can take away any motivation to clean up. It can even make taking off clothes and contact with water painful. Especially with bipolar depression, showering can feel like a punishment or invasion of some kind.
Ablutophobia is the fear of bathing or washing. A phobia is an anxiety disorder that causes great discomfort to the one suffering from it. The individual will thus tend to avoid the stimulus for their type of phobia. For ablutophobia, the stimulus is washing or showering.
Like all phobias, it is only considered a phobia if it lasts for more than 6 months in an adult. This is because children tend to fear bathing, which goes away as they age.
3. OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder)
Having OCD means that one has obsessions and compulsions to do certain things. While such a person can end up cleaning up too much, they can easily become obsessed with something else and neglect taking a shower or cleaning up in general. Or they can focus on cleaning up one body part while ignoring the other(s).
4. PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder)
This is usually a response to a traumatic event in which one overdoes something to avoid being in a situation similar to that of the trauma. For example, you might clean up too much each time you come close to a car after a car accident.
Other times, PTSD might make you avoid something since it reminds you of an unpleasant event or memory. Showering can be a reminder of some tragic event, hence its avoidance.
5. You’re alone with your thoughts
For those with depression or other psychological problems, being alone with your thoughts is quite scary. Being in the shower does that as there are no distractions to avoid negative thoughts. This may lead to avoiding time in the shower.
6. Only cleans skin deep
A shower can’t wash away guilt and feelings of being dirty. For most people with these feelings, a shower isn’t enough to make them feel refreshed and clean hence they avoid it.
7. Draws attention to your body
Taking off your clothes and washing your body isn’t always fun when one is ashamed of their weight, scars, complexion or hair. As such, they will avoid showering to avoid dealing with their bodies.
Any one or a combination of these issues can lead to avoidance of a shower.
How long can you go without washing your hair?
You can skip washing your hair for up to 10 days. How often you wash your hair depends on your hair type, with most needing a wash every 2 to 3 days, while curly African hair needs a wash about every 10 days.
It also depends on your activity level, with those who don’t do much sweating able to go for longer without washing their hair.
Healthy showering tips
No matter your showering frequency, follow these tips for the best skin health:
- Make it short: you just need about 5 to 10 minutes to be clean.
- Soap up mildly: even better, lather only certain areas such as the armpits and groin.
- Moisturize afterward: always apply a moisturizer soon after stepping out of the shower.
- Shower with warm water: avoid cold or hot water as the latter can strip the skin of healthy oils.
- Use moisturizing soap: this keeps the skin healthy and moist.
- Keep it gentle: when scrubbing the body, do it gently. When drying up, pat the skin with a towel instead of rubbing it on your body.
- Clean your bathing apparatus: these include towels, loofahs, poufs, and others, as they easily breed germs.
What’s the longest you can go without showering?
The current record for the period gone without a shower is 60 years, held by Iranian Amou Haji.
How long can you go without showering before you smell?
It’s subjective as some people can smell in as little as a few hours without a shower, while others can go for weeks without a smell.
Is it okay to go for a day without showering?
Yes. Unless you’re all sweaty or dirty somehow, a shower every 2 to 3 days is enough.