Body hygiene and showering are essential to a healthy lifestyle, but learning how often is really necessary is sure to make many of us cringe.
If you work as a surgeon exposed to blood and germs, work in the mining industry exposed to coal, dust and chemicals or you sweat it out each day, dermatologist Adam Sheridan says a daily shower is necessary.
But for the majority of us, living a relatively sedentary lifestyle sitting at a desk in airconditioned comfort, Dr Sheridan told The New Daily “alternate daily” showering was adequate.
“Showering daily is often too much, but it really has more to do with the duration of a shower and what kind of soap people are using,” Dr Sheridan said.
“Showering and bathing – especially if for longer periods of times – and if using soaps, scrubs and perfumed cleansers can compromise the skin barrier.
“This can result in dry and inflamed skin.”
Research suggests Australians shower more than the Chinese, Japanese, Germans, French and even Americans.
A Euromonitor poll published in The Atlantic found the average Australian showers about eight times a week, trailing behind only Colombians and Brazilians (who shower 10 and 12 times a week respectively), among the 16 nations surveyed.
Why we shower so often is a complicated question, but Katherine Ashenburg, who has researched the history of bathing in her book, The Dirt on Clean, says “clean” for the modern middle-class means a shower and applying deodorant each – and every day without fail.
“In the early 1900s, an extraordinary idea took hold in North America – that frequent bathing, perhaps even a daily bath, was advisable,” she writes.
“Now we live in a deodorised world where germophobes shake hands with their elbows and sales of hand sanitisers, wipes and sprays are skyrocketing.”
With the frequency of our showers now under the microscope, Dr Sheridan said it was also worth considering the temperature of the water.
“Close to or just above body temperature is ideal,” he said.
The spokesperson for the Australasian College of Dermatologists explained excesses of temperature – or too hot or too cold – could lead to the constriction or dilatation of blood vessels.
“Such changes in circulation may compromise skin health.”
Dr Sheridan said lathering our bodies with harsh chemicals in the aforementioned soaps, scrubs and perfumed cleansers, could also predispose us to dermatological conditions such as dermatitis, psoriasis, folliculitis and acne.
He recommended a “gentle” skin cleanser that matched the skin’s pH – a figure expressing the acidity or alkalinity of the skin and steering clear of unnecessary fragrances and any products producing copious amounts of foam.
However, Dr Sheridan said certain skin conditions could benefit from more frequent showering and cleansing, such as dandruff or seborrhoeic dermatitis, which can cause a red, itchy rash on the scalp.