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HEALTH: Showering twice daily?

If answer is yes, then here is why you could be doing more harm than good

|THE INDEPENDENT | You finally have an excuse for not showering every day. Just inform the haters that you’re looking after your microbiome. Then explain to any bemused looks that it refers to the collection of microbes that live in and on your body. Obviously.

Far from cause of disease, these gross-sounding little friends actually help to keep you alive and well, they even help to keep your immune system and heart functioning correctly.

Studies show that a daily shower with shampoo and soap strips a person’s hair and skin of its ‘good’ microbes.

One study even linked disruption of your microbiome to acne.

Thankfully, even going to the extreme of giving up showering completely doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll reek.

One man, James Hamblin, who quit showering in an experiment, revealed that he was “an oily, smell beast” at first, but he soon felt able to go out in public again without a liberal coating of deodorant.

He wrote:” After a while, the idea goes, your ecosystem reaches a steady state, and you stop smelling bad.

“I mean, you don’t smell like rosewater or Axe Body Spray, but you don’t smell like B.O., either. You just smell like a person.”

There is no official guidance on how often you should shower to make sure your microbiome is healthy and you smell fresh.

But Professor Stephen Schumack, President of the Australasian College of Dermatologists points out other reasons that you should only shower when you need to.

He told a newspaper: It’s only in the last fifty to sixty years (since the advent of bathrooms with showers) that the idea of a daily shower has become commonplace.

“The pressure to do that is actually social pressure rather than actual need.”

It’s become popular because of the social need to smell good. But it’s only the glands in your armpit and groin that produce body odour.   They’re not all over the body.

He added that showering daily is probably not the way to go.

Over-showering causes ‘defatting’ of the skin – getting rid of the natural body oils we produce to protect the skin cells. This can actually damage them making them more permeable to bacteria or viruses.

How often you should shower depends on various factors, like perspiration and skin type.

We tend to believe the more we shower, the cleaner we are. We vigorously lather up our bodies with soap to kill any germs lingering on our skin, but rinsing off every day could lead to more bacteria than we started with. So, how often should we actually shower?

The answer: It depends. Those of us who work strenuous labour-intensive jobs, live in hot, humid areas, or exercise should shower daily. It’s not about body odour, but the perspiration left behind on our skin that provides the breeding ground for bacteria to grow. Excess oil can clog the pores, leading to facial and body acne, or acne-like red bumps and pustules.

However, regular bathing can be harmful to the body if we don’t perspire much. It dries the skin, which can open gaps for infection-causing germs to slip through. Frequent bathing while our skin is already dry may increase the odds of developing a weaker immune system because it strips the skin of natural oils while disrupting the skin’s immune system-supporting bacteria.

There’s no clear-cut difference between a shower or bath, though baths are more gentle for people who have skin conditions like dermatitis and eczema.

“People think they’re showering for hygiene or to be cleaner, but bacteriologically, that’s not the case.” Dr. Elaine Larson, an infectious disease expert and associate dean for research at Columbia University School of Nursing told TIME magazine.

Larson has found antibacterial soaps and cleaning products we use in our homes aren’t any better than plain old soap at lowering the risk for infectious diseases. Moreover, scrubbing and exfoliating doesn’t do much to our skin.

So, what’s the ideal shower frequency?

Doctors say when it comes to our health, once or twice a week is recommended. However, we can shower daily and not lather our whole bodies. Focusing on areas that produce pungent smells, like our pitts, butt, and genitals is a better alternative for those who like to shower more frequently.

Washing our hands and clothes will help remove the dead skin cells and grime that our bodies accumulate without us suffering an ill health effects. However, the chemistry of each person’s skin is different; including our scalp, so showering everyday may not be as dangerous to some as it is to others. Relatively speaking, if you’re in good health, skipping a shower every once in a while won’t do any harm.

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