What Not Showering Actually Does To Your Skin

Photographed by Erin Yamagata.
Over the past couple of weeks, we've learned that celebrities are not showering as much as you might think. Mila Kunis, Ashton Kutcher, and Kristen Bell all seem to hold the same controversial opinion that the daily full-body shower is not necessary and that there are actually merits to avoiding it, whether it's an environmental decision or a time-saving one.
However, Prada brand ambassador Jake Gyllenhaal then took the no-shower discourse to another level when he made the assertion that not showering might be good for your skin. "There’s a whole world of not bathing that is also really helpful for skin maintenance," Gyllenhaal told Vanity Fair in a recent interview, adding his belief that "we naturally clean ourselves."
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So, let's unpack this: Are there actually skin benefits to showering infrequently? Maybe every other day, a few times a week, or just around your shampoo schedule?
Well, not necessarily. First, to Gyllenhaal's claim that our skin cleans itself... it doesn't. "Your body does not clean itself," clarifies dermatologist Joshua Zeichner. "The only thing that cleans your body is soap and water."
However, Gyllenhaal isn't completely off base. From context clues, he's likely referencing the skin's microbiome, and the argument that the overuse of soaps and detergents may be stripping our skin of its good bacteria. James Hamblin, a preventive medicine physician, wrote an entire book on the concept, Clean: The New Study of Skin and the Beauty of Doing Less, making the claim that in terms of biology and maintaining a healthy skin flora, you probably don't need to shower as often as every single day.
Dr. Zeichner agrees that you can get away with showering every other day if you want, but it's not going to give you better skin, and you definitely want to keep up washing certain body parts daily. "Showering every other day is certainly acceptable," he says. "That being said, regular body hygiene is important to prevent overgrowth of microorganisms on the skin. If you’re not showering every day, sensitive areas like the face, underarms, and genitals should be washed with soap. Also, you should always shower after heavy sweating or a workout."
The best general guidance: Continue to shower everyday, or pretty close to it. Maybe go for shorter, colder rinses and mix in a bath once a week. Be cognizant of not over-exfoliating your face or body, and don't forget to use a body oil or moisturizer if you find that your skin is tight or dry. So long as you're mindful, you're better off over-indexing — especially in the hot summer months.

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