Celebrity Bathing Habits Spark a Great Shower Debate

Showering less is great for the planet, but is it good for your body, too?

young man in shower

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When was the last time you bathed? 

While not a question you might field in daily conversation, social media over the last several weeks has been drenched in opinions over personal bathing rituals. The enthusiasm behind exploring this topic has come not from some new science on the benefits (or lack thereof) of washing, but inexplicably an outpouring of celebrity confessions. 

"More and more I find bathing to be less necessary, at times," Jake Gyllenhaal, who also declared his love for the natural loofah, told Vogue. “I do believe, because Elvis Costello is wonderful, that good manners and bad breath get you nowhere. So I do that. But I do also think that there’s a whole world of not bathing that is also really helpful for skin maintenance, and we naturally clean ourselves.”

Gyllenhaal’s comments were echoed by others in the Holly-verse, with parents Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis telling podcast hosts Dax Shepard and Kristen Bell that they infrequently bathe their children

“I’m a big fan of waiting for the stink. Once you catch a whiff, that’s biology’s way of letting you know you need to clean it up. There’s a red flag,” Bell told The View earlier this month. “Honestly, it’s just bacteria. Once you get bacteria, you gotta be like, ‘Get in the tub or the shower.’ So I don’t hate what [Mila and Ashton] are doing. I wait for the stink.”

As for those not wanting to smell like anything but roses, conversations about staggered bathing had some feeling “itchy.” Even Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson felt the need to dip his toes. 

"Nope, I'm the opposite of a 'not washing themselves' celeb," Johnson tweeted. "Shower (cold) when I roll outta bed to get my day rollin'. Shower (warm) after my workout before work. Shower (hot) after I get home from work. Face wash, body wash, exfoliate, and I sing (off-key) in the shower."

Input from the rest of us mere mortals on Twitter quickly rolled in, with supporters on both sides of the shower curtain. 

Does Any of This Matter?

In the realm of debating celebrity bathing habits, no. But then again, it is interesting to take something of a deep dive into our own bathing rituals. For instance, according to research conducted by Kantar Worldpanel, 90% of Americans say they shower each day, compared with 83% in the UK, 85% in China, and 92% in Germany. Brazil has the highest showering rate in the world—a staggering 99% or an average of 14 showers per week. 

In North America alone, where the average shower lasts 13 minutes, that amounts to 1.7 trillion gallons of clean, potable water down the drain annually—enough to fulfill the water usage of New York City for nearly five years!

So, yes, cutting down on showers or reducing the length of our daily cleanses can go a long way to helping conserve a precious resource, in particular out west where record-breaking drought conditions persist. There’s also the microbeads from shower gels and synthetic chemicals from shampoos and other skincare products that we wash down the drain.

But Is Less Bathing Safe? 

James Hamblin, a physician, health reporter, and author of “Clean: The New Science of Skin,” told NPR that our cleaning rituals are less necessary and more culturally ingrained.  

“I think that many people—not everyone—could do less, if they wanted to,” he said. “We are told by marketing, and by some traditions passed down, that it's necessary to do more than it actually is. Your health will not suffer. And your body is not so disgusting that you need to upend your microbial ecosystem every day. If you could get by doing less without suffering social or professional consequences, and [your routine] isn't bringing you any value or health benefit, that's the space where I say, ‘Why not? Why not try it out?’”

There are plenty of other accounts out there, such as journalist Julia Scott, who documented her own journey to shower-free living for The New York Times Magazine, or YouTuber Alyse Parker, who racked up nearly seven million views for her “Why I don’t shower” post. 

What it all comes down to, really, is just personal preference. Those who shower daily are as happy as those who have embraced a different routine. There’s no hard evidence to suggest that either group is healthier than the next. It is true, however, that these bathing rituals waste water, strip our bodies of natural oils, and are promoted by a nearly $48 billion global industry. There’s big money behind wanting you to believe showering daily is an absolute necessity. 

Harvard Health Publishing, which recently weighed in on the great showering debate, perhaps offers the best advice for those interested in curbing their daily shower routine:

“While there is no ideal frequency, experts suggest that showering several times per week is plenty for most people (unless you are grimy, sweaty, or have other reasons to shower more often),” writes Dr. Robert H. Shmerling. “Short showers (lasting three or four minutes) with a focus on the armpits and groin may suffice.”

View Article Sources
  1. "When the World Washes." Kantar Worldpanel.

  2. Anthony, Wayne. "Americans Now Use About 1.7 Trillion Gallons of Water Showering in a Year." Water Filter Data.