Bathing: How often?

Dear Alice,

How many times a week should one bathe?

Dear Reader,

When it comes to getting squeaky clean, the short answer is: how often you bathe is really a matter of who you are and what you do — your age, culture, what you do each day, certain medical conditions you might have (such as eczema or diabetes), how sweaty or dirty you become, or where you live (i.e., the climate you’re in and the social norms of your community). So, while you can typically bathe or shower as regularly as you feel comfortable, some people might like to shower or bathe every day and others do it less often.

When it comes to age, there are specific recommendations for how frequently teens bathe, due to changes during puberty, such as increased sweat, body odor, body hair growth, and oily hair. The frequency of bathing for adults, on the other hand, really depends on what you feel is necessary. For many, the main purposes of bathing or showering are to remove dirt, neutralize odors, and slough off dead skin cells. In addition, people might bathe or shower to feel clean, smell fresh, revitalize, or relax.

In order to determine how frequently to bathe, you might consider why you want or need to bathe. Is it because of body odor? Poor or inadequate hygiene habits are not the only culprits for a strong body odor. The consumption of strong smelling foods and substances — and their odors (including tobacco) — can be absorbed by clothes, hair, and skin, and may also contribute to body odor. Some people may also have a genetic condition that causes pronounced natural body odor.

When making the decision for how often to bathe, you might also consider your environment. Do you have a job or live in a climate where you sweat a lot (leading to the body odor discussed earlier)? Are you concerned about disease transmission? Do you have any skin conditions that might require more or less bathing? For example, people who have eczema are advised to take a bath or shower at least once daily in lukewarm water to replace moisture in their skin since the skin condition causes severe dryness.

Bathing or showering infrequently is not harmful, but good hygiene can help promote health and prevent disease. If it weren't for the revolutionary changes in hygiene, sanitation, and the environment at the turn of the century in the United States, certain infectious diseases would continue to be a burden on the public health of society. If you’re in a hospital or in a place where the risk of infection is high, bathing regularly with an antiseptic agent is recommended. Also, regardless of how often you bathe, washing your hands regularly is recommended — just think of how many surfaces you touch each day!

Rub-a-dub-dub, hope this helps you figure out how frequently to scrub up in the tub!

Last updated Sep 09, 2016
Originally published Oct 11, 1996

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