In recent weeks, for some reason, celebrities have taken to explaining their hygiene habits in meticulous and unnecessary detail. First, Ashton Kutcher revealed that he only washes his crotch and armpits daily, "and nothing else ever"; then, in a recent Vanity Fair interview, Jake Gyllenhaal said that "more and more," he finds bathing "less necessary." The stink is so pervasive that actors like Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Jason Momoa have even started clarifying that they do, in fact, enjoy a good shower. But one of the most intriguing revelations came from Kristen Bell, who shared that she limits shower time (for herself and her kids) in order to conserve water and help the environment. So, we can't help but wonder, is this part of the celebrities-not-bathing trend, or does it actually help?
During an appearance on The View last week, Bell and her husband, Dax Shepard, admitted they don't regularly bathe their kids. "I wait for the stink," she said. "Once you catch a whiff, that's biology's way of letting you know you need to clean it up." Shepard added that they often let five or six days pass before bathing their two daughters, who are six and eight years old.
Several days later, the couple tried to clear a few things up. On Monday, Shepard told Daily Blast Live that Bell has "better hygiene" than he does. "The other thing is, California has been in a drought forever," Bell said. "It's just like, responsibility for your environment. We don't have a ton of water, so when I shower, I'll grab the girls and push them in there with me so we all use the same shower water."
So, can this really help save the environment? Well, kind of, in the sense that water waste is a contributing factor to our ongoing climate crisis. The processes of water extraction, transportation, and filtration all use nonrenewable fossil fuels and leave a build-up of carbon dioxide, wrote WaterNow Alliance's Ava Mohsenin in 2016. Besides, other species and ecosystems rely on access to fresh water for survival, and depleting environments of this resource causes great harm to plants and animals. And between the use of showers, sinks, dishwashers, and more, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the average American family wastes 180 gallons of water a week.
In July, Governor Gavin Newson asked Californians to voluntarily cut back on water usage, but he didn't recommend sharing a shower with kids or even bathing less frequently. Experts also agree that the best way to reduce your water footprint isn't to cut down on showers, per se, but limit the time of each one. You can also purchase a "low-flow" showerhead at the hardware store, which can significantly reduce your water usage up to 60%, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. And just switching to cooler showers can also help save electricity.
The question of how often one should bathe has taken on a life of its own, and the truth is, there isn't one right answer — factors including your age, exercise habits, and potential skin conditions affect the frequency with which you "should" bathe. According to Verywell Health (and Ashton Kutcher, I guess), it's important to wash your face, underarms, and groin every day, but daily full-body showers are less necessary. Medical News Today suggests that children only need to bathe every few days, but once they hit puberty, regular showers are much more imperative.
Dermatologist Shilpi Khetarpal, MD, meanwhile, made the best case for showering once a day, especially in the midst of a pandemic. "We come in contact with thousands of allergens every day. Showering rinses off those allergens, as well as bacteria and viruses," she told Cleveland Clinic, although she did clarify it isn't necessary to use soap on your entire body every time you bathe.
If this discourse has taught us anything, it's that showering is clearly a very personal decision. (We also learned that Jake Gyllenhaal probably smells bad, but that's neither here nor there.) If Bell wants to shower with her kids or go au naturel, it's up to her, but there are other ways to take responsibility for the environment. For example, she could use her massive platform to advocate for a Green New Deal, or educate her followers about the recent IPCC climate change report — and maybe keep her thoughts on showering to herself.