How Long You Can Really Go Without Showering, According To Doctors

I’ve always been an every day shower kind of girl. After working, running errands, and doing whatever else I used to do before COVID-19 shook up my normal daily routine, nothing felt better than a steady stream of burning hot water to wash off the dirt and grime at the end of the day. But now that we’re all quarantined with nowhere to go, nothing to do, and no one to see, I’ve been showering every other day instead. Because do we reallllyyy need to shower as often as we used to if we’re stuck inside? We’re not dirtying up or trying to impress anybody, so NBD, right? As much as I want that to be true, I decided to ask a few medical experts to weigh in on how long you can really get away with not showering before it becomes, like, unhealthy.

How Much Time Is *Too Much Time* To Not Shower?

Expert confirmed: Even though you’re not doing anything or going anywhere during this quarantine, you still need to be a hygienic human. “In this current state of the COVID-19 pandemic, good hygiene is of paramount importance,” says board-certified dermatologist Fran Cook-Bolden, MD, FAAD. This includes leaving shoes at the front door, wearing gloves and masks in public, throwing the clothes you just wore outside right into the laundry pile, and washing your hands all. the. damn. time… AND yes, showering.

“According to the American Academy of Dermatology, it’s actually recommended to shower as little as twice a week because it allows [our] immune systems to develop outside a sterile environment,” says board-certified pathologist LaFarra Young, MD. And we all know that having a strong, healthy immune system is key right now in protecting us from contracting this virus.

But nowadays, the need to shower totally depends on how you’ve been living amidst our new not-so-active lifestyles. “While adults in many countries shower at least once a day, the frequency of cleaning one’s body really depends on a few things, like whether we sweat a lot, are physically active, are prone to clogged pores and acne, or even desire to be in the company of others,” explains Dr. Young. In other words, not showering for a few days is 100% fair game right now, especially if you don’t want to be around your roommates or you’re completely fine rocking some gnarly B.O.

Although your options are wide open right now, Dr. Cook-Bolden notes shower frequency mainly depends on your skin type and what you’ve been doing to keep yourself entertained. For example, she says you might not shower as often if you have dry or sensitive skin or conditions like eczema that are associated with dry skin (or you’re #blessed with all of the above like me). If you’ve just been lying in bed binging Netflix every day, you probably don’t need to shower as regularly either.

But if you have oily skin, sweat a lot no matter the season, are extremely active, or work in a not-so-sterile environment, she says you may want to shower at least once a day. “Although this might be way too much for the average person, causing the skin to be stripped of its normal protective oils and upsetting the ‘good’ bacteria protective balance, [you should be fine] as long as you replenish the moisture of the skin with bland, non-fragranced, ceramide based emollients,” she says.

Need a more definite answer? Here’s a friendly daily checklist for you. Did you do any at-home workouts? Did you run to the grocery store? Is your skin super oily? Do you care if you smell? If you answered “yes” to any or all of those questions, you should probably shower today. If you didn’t do any of those things and you basically just chilled in bed all day, bathe at your own discretion (or intolerable level of stank). 

Health Risks Of Not Showering Enough

To literally no one’s surprise, the risks of not bathing frequently enough are what you’d probably expect. According to Dr. Cook-Bolden, some of the most common side effects you’ll experience include increased body odor, breakouts (like acne, boils, and abscesses), flare-ups of skin conditions, and “terra ferma,” or plain old dirt masquerading as a skin condition. Yikes. “Some adults who go longer than 3-4 days between showers run the risk of accumulating patches of dark, scaly skin, especially in oily areas, and an accumulation of ‘bad’ bacteria which can lead to fungal or bacterial infections,” adds Dr. Young. So basically, you might smell bad, get pimples, and score a skin infection if you don’t shower as often as you need to. *Gag* noted.

I don’t know about you, but I think this sounds like a pretty convincing argument to play it safe by continuing to shower every other day (or, at minimum, twice a week). Or you can say f*ck it and shower as often as you want—but at your own risk. Like the experts said, it’s basically up to you and how close you wanna be with your roommates or family without making them gag from bad B.O., so to each their own.

Images: Pexels; Giphy