(Photo: Getty Images)
Americans have long had a reputation for a “squeaky clean” devotion to hygiene that fuels a $3.1 billion body soap industry, yet recent studies show that Americans are actually quite average when compared to how often people shower worldwide.
In a Euromonitor survey, Brazilians and Colombians took the lead with more than one shower per day on average, with Australians, Middle Easterners, Mexicans and Indonesians coming in not too far behind. Americans, meanwhile, averaged a bit less than one shower a day, along with Spaniards, Indians and the French. Brits were on the low side of showering, with the Japanese and Chinese coming in the least frequent of all countries in the poll, with an average of about five showers a week.
Hair washing generally correlated with the frequency of showers, too – except for Mexicans, who wash their hair much more often than anyone else, with an average of over six shampoos a week. Indians in the poll wash their tresses the least, with an average of two shampoos per week.
A separate study on daily showering habits run by SCA, a global hygiene products company, mirrored many of the findings of the Euromonitor poll. When counting people who shower every day, Mexicans and Australians led significantly, followed by Americans and the French. Brits, Russians, Swedes and Germans averaged less, with Chinese coming in the least frequent.
And recently, Reddit user anthonyd3ca took an informal poll of the scrubbing habits of 562 people that revealed gender breakdowns. While a majority of the men said they showered daily, women were more varied in their responses, with a pretty equal spread over bathing anywhere from three to seven days a week.
(Graphic: anthonyd3ca / Reddit)
“Daily showering is a more cultural phenomenon than medical necessity,” Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetic and clinical research at Mount Sinai Hospital’s Department of Dermatology, told Yahoo Health. “In the U.S. people commonly shower once or even more per day – this can actually be harmful to skin, as hot water strips essential oils and can lead to irritation,” Zeichner adds.
In recent years, an entire industry of cleansing hygiene products that require no water has burgeoned, to help people go longer between showers and shampoos while still feeling and smelling clean. The standard baby wipes and iconic Psssst! Instant Dry Shampoo Spray from decades ago have now been replaced by shelves filled with a myriad of dizzying options.
Face and body wipes that target bacteria with naturally antiseptic ingredients like lavender and grapefruit freshen skin in an instant, while nearly every major hair manufacturer is now making their own version of a dry shampoo that sops up scalp oil and adds volume to roots. And taking a cue from Asian cultures that eschew soap in favor of the belief that cleansing with oils balances skin better, countless face and hair products now contain popular oils of olive, argan and marula that hydrate while cleansing.
“Realistically, most people shower daily to feel clean, and I think it can be fine for skin health if you do so in a way that protects the barrier,” said New York dermatologist, Eric Schweiger, MD, of Schweiger Dermatology Group. Keeping the temperature of water closer to lukewarm, using gentle soaps and body washes with moisturizing ingredients like ceramides, and limiting shower time to under seven minutes can all help protect skin if you’re washing daily, suggest our experts.