How Women Around The World Get Clean

Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
We’re obsessed with what people in other countries eat, how they dress, and where they hang out — after all, these habits are ways to understand and embrace cultures and customs that are different from our own. But have you ever thought about how people in other countries bathe? Military showers or long, lingering baths? Shower gel or bar soap? Daily or every other day? More importantly: Bidet or no bidet? Well, the answer may depend on one’s postal code.

Even within one country, people’s bathing customs, preferences, and tendencies depend on so many factors: geographical location (city apartment dwelling, sprawling suburbs, or rustic countryside?), climate (boiling hot or cold and dry?), lifestyle, cultural beliefs, and more. From the U.S. to South Korea to France to Sierra Leone, when it comes to bathing habits, how different — and yet the same — we all are is fascinating. Which is why we decided to do a deep dive on all things hygiene — pulling back the shower curtain, if you will, on how a diverse selection of people from around the world keeps clean.

Read on to learn a few hacks that will make your own bathing experience more fulfilling, dispel quite a few stereotypes, and make you realize that Americans are actually kind of, erm, behind when it comes to post-bathroom hygiene.
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Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
Considering the beach-and-surf culture in Australia, it should be no surprise that showers aren’t limited to inside the home. “People regularly go for a cheeky swim or surf before or after work,” says Sydney native and Brooklyn transplant Kate Williams, founder of Pistol PR. “Most beaches have cold-water showers on the edge of the sand to rinse off before heading home for a proper shower.”

Since Australia’s climate runs temperate to “almost tropical,” daily showers are the norm — especially in the summer, when Aussies might even opt for a cold shower by choice. The environment is also top of mind. “We suffer from droughts and water shortages, so water is scarce,” she adds. “Lots of people have custom showerheads that reduce the amount of water dispersed.” So, obviously, brief showers are key, too.

When lathering up, Australians look to water-based shower gels as opposed to bar soaps. “They leave you feeling fresh and clean in a hot climate,” Williams says. “Lots of people use loofahs or exfoliating gloves, too. With all of that sun, we have natural tans [so we] aren't as [worried we will buff] off dead skin.”

In regards to total-body cleansing, there’s just the shower since bidets aren’t prevalent, plus “water is a luxury,” Williams points out. But, she says, “Because of proximity, lots of Australians have experienced travels to Southeast Asia, where they are introduced to a tap or hose attached to the toilet.” (More later on the handheld-showerhead contraption, or what’s technically referred to as a “bidet shower” or “health faucet” — a common sight next to toilets in Southeast Asia, India, and the Middle East.) Feminine-hygiene shower gels are also quite rare in Australia, and wipes haven’t caught on in the eco-minded country. “We're really careful about preserving our oceans and environmentally-minded, so wipes aren't a common thing,” Williams says.
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The People’s Republic of China is the most populous country in the world — as in, over 1.35 billion people — and it’s the second largest in terms of sheer landmass. So, bathing and showering habits differ depending on a multitude of factors. U.S.-based fashion designer Nini Wang was happy to give us an overview from her experiences growing up in the eastern city of Qingdao. “For me and for my friends, we shower every day,” Wang says. “There are people who shower twice a day, and also maybe once or twice a week. It really depends on the person. It’s a very personal thing.” In the city, quick showers are the norm and baths just aren’t as common.

In some circles, bathing habits stemming from ancient Chinese-medicine traditions are still practiced today. For example, the post-partum confinement period — covered quite a bit by the Western media — includes a ban on showering for a month after giving birth to avoid exposure to cold air. “It is still being said that women should not wash [their] hair during their periods because that may lead to a headache or even gynecological cancer later in their lives,” Wang adds. “However, it's getting more and more convenient to shower nowadays, and we have blowdryers. So now, people tend to believe that showering during periods is fine as long as they can look out for catching a cold.”

The paid public shower and community sauna were common practice when Wang was growing up. With apartment living becoming more widespread in cities, people are showering at home these days, but they’ll still include the exfoliation process with a bath towel. Although, body scrubs are gaining popularity. Some homes and hotels might have the shower bidet next to the toilet, but that and the traditional bidet aren’t commonly used. But the Japanese washlet is slowly catching on in China. “A lot of my friends, when they’re decorating their house or they’re moving, they want to find a way to have that kind of toilet,” Wang says. “It’s a nice thing to have. It’s good for hygiene and also it’s very functional.”
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“Americans like to be clean, but people in Japan are even cleaner,” says American-beauty-writer-turned-Tokyo-expat Cynthia Popper. “Face masks, washlet toilets, hand sanitizer: everywhere. It's a very hygienic culture.” Daily bathing rituals, usually taking place in the evening, are the norm. Popper explains that the practice begins by sitting on a bench in the shower, washing off with a nozzle showerhead, and then finishing with a “relaxing bath.” Sounds pretty luxurious, but the Japanese forgo any “bubbles, oils, soaps,” and other accoutrements in the tub. “It’s more like a personal Jacuzzi experience.”

Frequent hair washes are just as regimented. “The general consensus is that if you have product in your hair, you should wash it daily,” Popper says. “There is no dry shampoo in Japan.”

The hygiene protocols continue outside of the shower. In the sweltering summers in Tokyo, “people cool off with mint body sprays, which are lovely,” Popper says. The chronically polite Japanese probably wouldn’t ever voice their opinions on the necessity of a post-bathroom cleansing session. However, the answer is most likely “HELL YES,” considering the genius Japanese electronic bidets that are rising in popularity around the world. (See, also, the "Everything Man" episode of Cougar Town.) “Washlet toilets are amazing and everywhere [in Japan],” Popper says. “They're equipped with bidets, sprayers, dryers, heaters... Some even play music. The washlet toilet is one of my favorite things about Japan.”
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South Korea
With K-beauty all the rage right now, South Korea offers some interesting bathing practices to incorporate into our own daily cleansing routines. One of the best authorities to consult is Charlotte Cho, cofounder and curator of everything K-beauty at Soko Glam, author of The Little Book of Skin Care, and New York certified aesthetician. While spending five years living in Seoul after college, the California native found that South Koreans’ shower and hair-washing habits don’t deviate much from Americans’, but full-body exfoliation is an integral part of the experience. Their go-to scrub: a rough and very effective washcloth-like tool called an Italy towel. “They call it Italy towel because it’s a type of exfoliating material that was produced in Italy,” Cho says. “They brought it to Korea in the ‘60s, and the name stuck.”

Enjoying an intense scrub at the communal sauna is an essential part of South Korean culture. Cho discusses the experience in detail (and with humor) in a chapter of her book, aptly titled "The Magic of Exfoliation." At the sauna or spa, patrons either have a family member slough off all that dead skin or hire an employee to do the honors. But either way, the scrubee wears nothing during the process. “The act of being completely naked in front of your peers, your family, is completely normal,” says Cho, as patrons of Spa Castle in New York or Wi Spa in Los Angeles know quite well.

Considering Korea’s close proximity to Japan, the electronic washlets are very popular — seen everywhere from people’s homes to the office. While most South Koreans may not openly discuss post-bathroom hygiene, they definitely make use of those fabulous hi-tech bidets. “When I was working at Samsung, [I knew] everyone was using them because you could hear the squirting of the water [in the public restroom],” says Cho. “I [used to think] it was disgusting to use a bidet, but after using it I was disgusted at myself that I [had] just started to use one.”
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“There’s a large importance placed on starting your day by bathing,” says New York-based student and fashion blogger Arushi Khosla, who was born and raised in New Delhi. “That’s a really widespread thing. Even if people are very poor, [bathing] is a commonality across regions.” In the intense summer heat, it’s common for people — affluent or not — to bathe twice a day: in the morning and evening. Showers are prevalent in the cities, but in the rural areas — where there’s less access to water — people take “bucket baths,” involving a bucket full of water and a small mug. But there’s a trick to the procedure. “You sit on the stool,” soap up, and rinse, says Khosla. “It just makes it easier.” In areas where access to air-conditioning is rare, a cold bucket shower is a way to counteract the heat, too.

Like in many parts of the world, despite frequent bathing, hair-washing only happens around every two to three days. “Indian hair is thick,” Khosla says, laughing. “It’s a lot of work to wash it and then have it dry.” But hair-grooming is of utmost importance. “Oiling your hair with coconut oil and washing it the next day is an important [practice in] the country,” Khosla says. “It’s like a natural conditioner.”

Post-bathroom cleansing is a must, too. “That’s not bathing, that’s just hygiene in general,” says Khosla. Instead of bidets, the bidet shower — colloquially referred to as “washies” — is a common sight in Indian bathrooms. “You don’t use only toilet paper,” she says. “You always use that, too.” Households that can’t afford showerheads will considerately place a mug full of water next to the toilet. “That’s just a culture thing,” Khosla says. “Nobody will not have some contraption in the bathroom.”
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Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
United Arab Emirates
The United Arab Emirates, home to cities (or “emirates”) Dubai and Abu Dhabi, is also home to a melange of people and cultures. While its population numbers around 9.4 million, only about 13% are Emirati citizens, while the rest are expats from all over the world. “We are such a melting pot of nationalities, [so bathing habits] really vary. People stick to the same habits that they would have back home,” says Teresa Karpinska, the Dubai-based Swedish style blogger behind Style Drifter. “Having said that, during the scorching summer months you have to shower every time you leave the house.”

Dr. Lamees Hamdan, founder and CEO of natural Middle Eastern skin-care line Shiffa, was born in Dubai and now has homes both there and in Los Angeles. “Bathing for us is very important because we truly believe that being clean’s a divinity almost,” she says. “We have to do an ablution [called the wudu] five times a day before we pray, so using water on the skin and on parts of the body is part of the culture.” Huda Kattan, founder of Huda Beauty, adds that Emiratis like to add a little pampering to the bathing process. “As much as Dubai can get hectic at times, women and men know how to unwind here,” she says. “Everyone does love that relaxing bath with long bathing rituals that can add a little Zen to the day.”

A visit to the communal sauna, or hammam, at least once, if not twice, a month is also common practice. Dating back to the Persian and Ottoman Empire times, the hammam is a multistep process involving multiple steam rooms, application of an exfoliating “gommage” cream, a hot rinse, and then an intense scrub-down with a mitt, made out of wool, Japanese paper (which Dr. Hamdan prefers at home), or a rough, textured fabric from Turkey or China. Patrons usually bring their own mitts, and if you can’t scrub yourself down, you can just ask another guest. “I’ll scrub your back if you scrub my back,” she says. “It’s all fine, even if you don’t know the language. It’s a very genial atmosphere.” The hammams are separated by gender, and everyone is naked. Exfoliation is also part of the daily shower routine. “Soft skin is very prized where we come from,” says Dr. Hamdan.

Also prized? A good cleanse after going to the bathroom. “It is so important,” she emphasizes. “So important.” Bidets are everywhere: homes, restaurants, malls… (“They are a must,” agrees Karpinska.) Although, due to space efficiency, the handheld bidet shower is gaining in popularity. When traveling to countries that don’t offer such facilities, UAE residents might even carry a small bottle of water to the bathroom to act as a DIY portable bidet. Sadly, the Japanese washlet hasn’t quite caught on, but not for lack of interest. “I’m building a new house [in Dubai] and wanted to have it, but the municipality doesn’t allow water and electricity to be in the same [device],” laments Dr. Hamdan. “So we don’t have that in Dubai.” Womp womp. But she did install washlets in all the bathrooms of her California house.
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Growing up in both California and Israel, Nava Fried likely had an easy transition when it comes to showering. “It’s hot here [in Jerusalem],” says the founder and COO of ModLi, an online marketplace for modest fashion (think: a Boutique to You for conservative, on-trend clothes or “the anti-Nasty Gal,” as Fried says). “People shower probably four or five times a week. Almost every day.”

Like California, Israel is prone to water shortages. “[People in Israel are] very conscious of the water situation,” Fried says. “In the summer, when there’s more of a drought, [the government and authorities] encourage people to take shorter showers. When there’s no rain, there are tons of commercials everywhere telling people that they have to take fewer showers and to be careful [how much] water they consume.” As for hair-washing during the speedy showers, Fried opts for every other day in the summer less frequently in the winter. “I don't always wash my hair [in the winter] because I don’t want to have to straighten it all over again,” she says.

Bidet culture never really caught on in Israel, and Fried thinks she maybe saw a Japanese washlet in a sushi restaurant once. “People [in Israel] don’t really talk about it that much,” she says in regards to post-bathroom cleansing.
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Sierra Leone
“With Sierra Leone and West Africa, I think there’s a huge myth in how seriously we take cleanliness and bathing,” says makeup artist and educator Mimi Kamara. “We’re very big on cleanliness and hygiene, and [bathing] is a daily and sometimes a twice-a-day thing.” And not just because it’s hot outside. Approximately 77% of the population is Muslim and wudu is a vital part of the culture. Due to the infrastructure, baths are more popular than showers, but with a specific procedure, according to Kamara. A person will drain the tub and have a bucket or large bowl filled with warm or hot water off to the side, with a cup or mug to collect the water. First the person rinses off, then lathers the body with soap, exfoliates, and finally rinses again.

There’s a huge emphasis on natural bath products, especially the time-honored black soap, made from local elements — ash from palm-tree leaves, plantain, cocoa pods, and shea-tree bark, mixed in with moisturizing waters and oils, like coconut and/or shea butter. Black soap is practically a miracle do-all for problem skin — moisturizing, plus clearing up blemishes and even eczema. “It’s my personal go-to if I have a pimple or a breakout. Or if it’s Fashion Week and I feel really haggard, show after show,” the now New York-based Kamara says. Exfoliation with a natural loofah — or sapoh, available in any market — is also an essential step in the process. “We don’t like to use too many chemically influenced things, and when we see that in African culture, it’s usually [from a] very Western influence,” she adds.

Considering the cultural and societal emphasis on cleanliness, it’s no surprise that bidets are the norm. “If you’re a very wealthy person or you’re not, everyone does it,” Kamara says about cleansing after a restroom break.
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Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
Republic Of Guinea
Bathing two times a day — once in the morning and again at night — is also the norm in West Africa's Guinea, no matter the socioeconomic level. “Just to show your freshness,” says New York-based designer and humanitarian Mariama Camara, who was born and raised in the capital of Conakry. Shower set-ups tend to be outdoors, with a bucket-and-small-cup-process similar to Sierra Leone's. “People like to shower around 7 p.m., and everybody is outside,” she adds.

Guineans prefer natural products, especially the popular black soap. “It’s one of the easiest things for everyone to afford,” too, Camara says. A natural loofah, like the sapoh, is also an essential cleansing and exfoliating tool. While shampooing isn’t a daily thing, keeping hair properly moisturized with natural shea butter and coconut oil is key. American products, including Sulfur 8 scalp conditioner, are getting more accessible and gaining popularity, but “you have to be able to afford it,” says Camara.
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Unsurprisingly, those harsh winters have an effect on showering behavior in Russia. “In the winter, a lot of people take a shower at night, wash their hair, let it air-dry, and then apply moisturizers,” says Katya Bychkova. The now New York-based fashion and beauty blogger at Style Sprinter was born in Kaliningrad and later moved to Moscow. In the summer, there’s that issue of the local government turning off the hot water for a month to perform repairs and renovations. If one lives in a household that doesn’t have an electric water heater, “it becomes very tricky,” she says. Some people will improvise by heating water on the stove and then bringing the heated pot into the shower to mix in with the cold spray. Hence, daily showers in the summer might fall off a bit. And post-bathroom cleansing is big. “Bidets are very popular. Even the smallest apartments in Moscow have it,” Bychkova says. “Or a lot of women come out with their own solutions, like putting water in a basin to wash after.”

While Russians are enjoying their hot or cold showers, they like to use “natural or natural-looking products.” DIY facial masks and scrubs are popular, along with homegrown brands like Green Mama and Natura Siberica. Plus, “a lot of Russian girls are obsessed with anything by [U.K. brand] Lush beauty,” says Bychkova. Russians have also embraced the K-beauty skin-care craze — not just for the products, but for the affordability. “Korean products are even less expensive than those brands you can find by Russian producers,” the blogger says. “I visited Russia in August and half my suitcase was filled with Korean cosmetics.”

A weekly visit to the communal sauna, or banya, to steam, exfoliate, and maybe try out a DIY hair mask, is a regular ritual for many. “It’s an essential Russian skin-care routine because it opens up your pores, and it makes you feel better and look better,” Bychkova explains. “It’s also something that connects us to our ethnic roots.”
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With many people living in cities, showers take precedence over long, relaxing baths, according to Madrid-based entrepreneur Pepita Marín. “We are now living so fast; we have very little time,” says the cofounder of We Are Knitters, a very Brooklyn-y, not-your-grandma knitting company. But Spaniards do like to relax and kick back at the end of the workweek. “[People in Spain shower] daily,” she says. But “maybe not on the weekends because they are staying home,” and don’t necessarily need to fuss over going out.

There’s also a resurgence in throwback shower products. “Brands associated with our grandmothers are becoming more and more popular,” says Marín about the renewed interest in traditional products like Moussel shower gel, which has been around since the '60s. “People are nostalgic about it,” she says. “They’ve gone through all kinds of flavors, smells, and super-complicated products and this is back to the roots.”

Even though women shampoo their hair every two or three days, they’re not sprinkling on the Prêt-à-Powder between washes. “Not yet,” says Marín, but she gives the dry-shampoo trend about a year or two before it reaches España. Despite Spain’s close proximity to France, the bidet has never caught on, either, but feminine shower washes are becoming a thing. “I have seen it a lot in the last year,” Marín says. “They are becoming more popular, but I think it is necessary. We are spending all day out; it is convenient.”
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The land of catchy pop music, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and H&M also boasts long days of sunshine in the summer and equally prolonged periods of pitch darkness in winter. American-born Stockholm transplant Aimee Blaut estimates that Swedes shower every other day and wash their hair less frequently than that. “The climate is colder and air is drier,” explains the beauty writer and founder of The Formula blog. Now, to confirm a stereotype, “there are a lot of blondes.” “The sun is setting at 3:30 p.m.,” says Blaut. “So you have these blondes in the winter — when it’s already dry — lightening their hair, which makes it even drier.” Which means even more incentive to skip a hair wash and opt for dry shampoo. Luckily, Sweden is also home to local brands that are popular internationally, including Sachajuan and Björn Axén, both of which make fantastic dry shampoos.

Like in South Korea and Russia, the bathhouse is a popular communal outing all year 'round. “It’s part of the ritual that’s been adapted to put moisture back into the skin because the climate is so cold and dry,” Blaut says. The bathhouses have pools of different temperatures, plus dry and humid saunas. It’s a social thing. “People like to go swimming and sit in the sauna, or they'll have a hot tub and sit in the sauna and drink some beers and hang out,” she adds. “It’s common among all age groups.”

Tanning is a huge trend. “[Swedes are] always prepping their skin to tan,” says Blaut. “They use a lot of exfoliants. They’re also using a lot more body butters because the air is so dry. And body oils.” But Swedes aren’t as into investing in high-end bath products for their shower sessions. “People are really using drugstore brands,” Blaut says. “Like the equivalent of...St. Ives, with an occasional luxury product for a special occasion.” Some splurge on the prettily packaged and affordably priced beauty products from homegrown brands H&M and sister line & Other Stories. Bidets aren’t a big thing, but there is an emphasis on fresh lady parts. “It’s common to have pH-balanced feminine wash,” Blaut says. “I would say that in half of the bathrooms, a girl will have one.”
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Italians have a reputation for being obsessive about cleanliness, even dating back to da Vinci. So “showering is part of everyday life,” says Raffaella Greco, partner in the farm-to-bottle skin-care line Bottega Organica. “Every morning before starting the day and going to work, a shower is a must.” Expedient showers take precedence over long baths, and liquid products are more popular than traditional bar soaps. Greco — who splits her time between the rustic landscapes of Hudson, New York, and Liguria, Italy — says some people shampoo and condition every other day, to avoid damaging the hair.

For posterior cleansing, it’s all about the bidet. “In Italy, every bathroom has a bidet,” Greco says. “So after using the bathroom, it is not necessary to take a shower.” How convenient. But for total cleansing, ladies still take to the shower. “We use specific intimate-washing products, like liquid soaps, but wipes are not so common,” she says.
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Ever thorough, Héloïse Simon of the renowned salon David Mallett in Paris shared some statistics with us, as well as her insights on how the French shower. (We're sure it'll inspire even more writing on "how to [insert verb here] like a French girl.") And it’s all about showers here. “Only 18% [of French people] take a bath once a week,” she says, saving a long, lingering soak in the tub for “weekends and holidays.” “Baths are more related to pleasure, in my opinion,” she adds. “Showers are more convenient [for people who work and have] busy weeks.” Simon estimates that 80% of French people shower daily or even more, but they don’t always shampoo. She says French women, on average, wash their hair about three times per week. “Usually, the common thought is you don’t need to wash your hair every day; it could even damage [the hair],” says Simon.

A Refinery29 reader once commented that French women find it distasteful if one doesn’t immediately shower after going to the bathroom, especially number deux. “I don’t think it is a common consensus,” says Simon. There is the trusty bidet, which originated in France in the 17th century — but it seems to be going out of style. “Traditional washlets in France have a very old-fashioned image, and people tend to remove them,” she says. “However, Japanese washlets are quite trendy, even if [they are] still very exclusive.” Another point for the world domination of the Japanese electronic bidet.
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Zoe Boikou, the founder of Zoeva cosmetics, says that Germans shower every day (if not twice a day), and Julia Alfert, beauty editor at Hey Woman! — the lifestyle site cofounded by Instagram obsession and former Harper’s Bazaar Germany style editor Veronika Heilbrunner — concurs. But baths haven’t gone by the wayside like they have in other countries. Frankfurt-based Boikou says baths are still a weekly occurrence — “usually Sunday” — while Berlin-based Alfert thinks tub time is a seasonal thing. “In summer people shower daily as it gets quite hot, and in winter people prefer taking a bath as it gets quite cold,” she says.

The beauty editor notes that while Germans do enjoy a variety of choices when it comes to bath and beauty products, they also hold on to their heritage brands. “A traditional German simple soap and crème company is Nivea, with the cult blue-and-white crème box,” Alfert says. “It is still used a lot. And there is a long tradition with [using] organic products from Weleda or Dr. Hauschka.” Germany is also the home of holistic Kneipp hydrotherapy, invented in the 19th century by Bavarian priest Sebastian Kneipp. “It’s walking in extremely cold water, which is good for blood circulation and skin condition,” Alfert explains. Sauna culture used to be popular, but not so much with the millennial generation.

As for total cleansing, Alfert and Boikou both confirm that bidets are not widely used — or discussed. But “I think every woman does think about specific intimate-washing gels and also uses them,” says Boikou. “However, it is not really talked about in Germany either.”
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British people may have a reputation for neglecting bath time, but “I think most people now shower daily, especially as bathrooms are modernized,” says Annee de Mamiel, founder of de Mamiel skin care. “In older buildings plumbing and pressure was an issue, so people would bathe maybe three times a week.” Understandably, the chilly, damp English weather has an effect on the bathing medium of choice. “Here in a colder climate, bathing is still more popular,” says de Mamiel, who resides in Hertfordshire outside of London. Growing up in England, she’s seen and experienced how things have changed, too. “As I grew up in a drought-affected area and was only ever allowed to bathe in about two inches of water, I find bathing an interesting ritual,” she explains. She’s a fan of bath oils. “In the U.K., women may bathe in the morning or evening in a beautiful bath oil as a means of relaxation, or just to warm up, and not just a cleansing [process].”

In the nation that spawned Alexa Chung and her oft-copied dirty-hair look, unsurprisingly, hair-washing doesn’t happen quite as frequently either. “People tend to wash their hair every three to four days, as it is a cooler climate,” says de Mamiel. The English also seem to have lost interest in bidet usage. “Weirdly, I think English people might have them in their bathrooms, but rarely use them,” de Mamiel says. According to a 2014 article in The Daily Mail, despite a slight rise in interest in bidets during the '80s, the desire to install one now is “practically nonexistent.” But Japanese washlets are gaining in popularity (notice a common theme here?), if budget allows.
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In case you didn’t know, it’s hot in Brazil. Really hot. So people shower at minimum two times a day, if not three, says Victoria Ceridono, beauty editor of Vogue Brasil and founder of the Dia de Beauté blog. Hence, Brazilians also use a lot of products: bar soaps, shampoo, and conditioner — most likely they’ll wash their hair during at least one of those shower sessions.

“You might go to the beach before you go to work, then go for a run, dive into the sea, or go to the gym, then wash your hair again,” Ceridono says. Interestingly enough, despite the amount of showering — not baths — taking place in the country, Brazilians tend to stick to pretty basic product options, like bar soaps. Ceridono actually lived in London for a little while and sees a bit of the irony. In the U.K. people may “shower less, but the variety and amount of products — bath oils, gels, creams — is huge,” she says. “In Brazil, [they shower more, but the variety is] not so big.”

Awareness around and availability of “intimate soaps” are starting to grow, although it’s really only resonating with a “high-end consumer.” And speaking of the nether regions, bidet showers are popular — while bidets aren’t, though you can sometimes spot them in older homes.
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“In Mexico, the weather is warm almost all year long. I would say people bathe once a day,” says Ari Camacho, Mexico City-based fashion blogger at The Double Denim. “The average Mexican is very clean.” People tend not to have bathtubs in their homes, so showers are more popular. Plus, “showers for most people are fast due to the lack of time and the desire to save water,” she says.

Camacho is a fan of shower gels, but she says most people gravitate toward the bar soaps for budgetary reasons. Hair-washing ranges from four times a week to seven, accompanying the daily shower. “Many people have not heard of dry shampoo yet,” Camacho says.

As for intimate cleansing, well, it’s just not talked about much. “People in Mexico are very discreet regarding their personal hygiene, and much more so about their intimate hygiene,” Camacho says, stopping that conversation. Bidets never really caught on here. “The Japanese washlets even less,” Camacho says. “I think I saw one in a restaurant.”
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If any group has their finger on the pulse of a beauty trend, it’s going to be the teens. Especially teenage beauty moguls (and siblings), 16-year-old Ally and 19-year-old Taylor Frankel, who founded minimalist makeup line, Nudestix. Considering the vast expanse of the country and different cultures within, the frequency of showering really is up to the person — even within one family. “Because it’s such a busy lifestyle in Toronto, people are more likely to shower,” says Taylor, who’s follows a daily schedule, while Ally has oilier skin and hair, so prefers the every other day practice.

Taylor thinks that, in general, Canadians are proponents of a daily hair wash. “Just because they think it’s a more socially accepted type of thing,” she says. Although, she only washes her hair every three days or so. “I don’t even brush my hair every morning,” Taylor says. “I [have] a very New York City lifestyle.” While dry shampoo is popular, the product is used more as a styling tool. “I don’t think Canadian people are necessarily into the whole lifestyle of, ‘I want to make my hair as dirty as possible,” Taylor adds.

Despite the European influence in Canada, bidets have lost their popularity in the country. “I think if people need to be clean, they’ll hop in the shower for a body shower,” Ally says. Although, the popularity of baby wipes and feminine wipes is rising — perhaps an American influence? “I definitely think people use those,” says Taylor. “In my opinion, I think that they’re quite necessary.”
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Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
United States
Americans have a reputation for showering daily — and long showers, at that. Lauren Johanson Jones — cofounder, along with her mom Donna, of Chivas, a line of handcrafted bath and skin-care products made from natural goat milk — estimates that these days, on average, five days out of the week may be the norm. But of course, it depends on the individual. Due to the drought in Southern California, where Johanson Jones is based — and perhaps the crunchier lifestyle — showers there tend to be shorter and less frequent.

Americans enjoy an abundance of choice when it comes to gels, soaps, oils, and exfoliants — from mass to luxury. However, in the past five years, Johanson Jones has noticed a growing demand for bar soap (and decrease in demand for shower gel) and an overall interest in handmade, natural, and locally sourced products. As for hair-washing: Dirty hair is in, y’all. Especially since every other beauty blog (guilty) is telling you that unwashed hair is just easier to style. “It’s trendy to have that beachy, disheveled hair look [that you get from dry shampoo],” Johanson Jones says.

While seemingly everywhere else in the world butt-cleansing bidets and handheld showerheads are the norm, at home “we’re more hush-hush about [the subject] than other cultures,” Johanson Jones says. Although, baby wipes quietly placed atop the toilet tank are sometimes spotted in American homes. (As infamously discussed by Terrence Howard and evidenced by our clogged sewage systems.) Despite The New York Times’ recent obsession with the Japanese electronic toilet seats made by Toto, the phenomenon hasn’t “reached a tipping point [in the U.S.] by any means.” (Come on, America!) But let it be known that this New York-based writer greatly appreciates her Brondell washlet attachment from Costco — especially with the heated seat in the winter.

As for intimate washing products, they are abundant on American drugstore-counter shelves, but there's an emphasis on natural products versus chemical-y ones. “Whenever we get a question about that, we recommend a fragrance-free bar of soap,” says the mother-daughter duo.

The lesson here? We are living in a world where bathing rituals may vary from country to country, but traditions and habits migrate to other cultures and locales as our knowledge of the globe and its inhabitants continues to expand. Also, Americans really need to take a long, hard look at their toilet situation.
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