I don’t know about you, but I can’t start the day without first jumping into a nice hot shower. If I didn’t get to have this morning shower, then I’d feel grubby for the rest of the day. But this feeling is likely a little bit extreme, as one day without washing is hardly going to harm me. After all, people hundreds of years ago could go weeks without a proper wash. But we live in a modern society where, whether we like it or not, appearances very much matter. The last thing I want to be feeling when I’m in a room with other people is wondering whether I smell.
While most people likely have a similar attitude to me, dermatologists have said that we “over bathe" and what we perceive as body odour is “really more of a cultural phenomenon.” Advertisers, particularly of soap, have a lot to answer for when it comes to the now routine daily wash that most of us go through. Showering too often can dry out and irritate your skin, washing away beneficial bacteria and introducing small cracks in your skin that put you at higher risk of infection.
But even though we technically can get away without showering every day, you won’t be stopping me from doing it anytime soon. The comfort and clean-feeling I get every morning are more than worth the effort. It’s a relaxing activity, and relaxing activities aren’t something that we humans are prone to giving up very easily.
But if we move away from a daily shower and look at what would happen if, god forbid, you went weeks without a wash then a slight smell of BO coming from your armpits would be the least of your worries.
This is the most obvious effect that not washing would have on you. Imagine going for a strenuous workout at the gym where you came away dripping with sweat. If you didn’t shower after this then the bacteria on your skin would work to break down the chemical compounds within the sweat and subsequently releases a nasty smell. The longer you leave it, the worse this smell will get. What’s worse is that overtime you will cease to notice this smell due to a condition called olfactory fatigue. Unfortunately, everyone around you will still think you stink to high heaven.
Think about all the things you touch daily. That door handle in a public toilet has likely been handled by hundreds of people, and not all of them bothered to wash their hands when they had been to the toilet. Additionally, those mobile phones that we all carry around are absolutely swimming with germs. If you don’t wash the skin that has had contact with these things, such as your hands, then the germs will build-up and enter your system through a cut or scrape, making you more susceptible to developing an infection such as a cold or, worse, something even more dangerous such as coronavirus.
If you hate being itchy then I wouldn’t recommend not showering. Existing skin problems such as acne and dry skin are likely to get worse over time and, as dirt and bacteria build-up, you’ll be feeling the urge to scratch yourself more. Overtime this scratching can cause your skin to break, giving you a higher chance of developing an infection.
Your scalp would suffer a build-up of dead skin, otherwise known as dandruff. If you left this for up to a year, then your hair would become extremely itchy and the build-up of oil secreted from the scalp would allow dirt to stick to it. This would lead to your hair becoming matted and knotty, which isn’t a great sight and would probably make you feel like you want to tear all your hair off in clumps.
If that’s not enough, you could be at risk of developing fungus. This can live on your skin, inside your mouth and even around your genitals. Speaking of the genitals, not washing them can lead to nasty things like yeast infections. As with other parts of the body, an itching sensation will eventually develop there and that definitely won’t be comfortable.
This unpleasant condition gives you unsightly brown patches on your skin. This is caused by a build-up of dead skin, sweat, keratin and oils that would normally be washed away when you shower. Areas that develop these warty growths are where your body produces the most oils, such as your underarms, neck, under a woman’s breasts and behind the ears.
But even with all these issues, you still don’t need to take a daily shower and once every two or three days is enough. On days that you don’t bathe or shower you can simply wash the area's most likely to build up bacteria and, thus, cause an odour, by using a damp cloth.
The good bacteria found all over our skin is there to help you protect from the harmful bacteria, so not showering for a few days isn’t going to harm you. It’s when you leave it for longer when the problems occur. Plus, you may find your friends suddenly start making excuses not to see you.