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Can excessive bathing be harmful to your body? Here’s what experts say

6 mins read

Claim: The screenshot of a report by Mail Online makes several claims about showering.

These claims are a mixture of true and false information. While  health experts note that there is nothing like excess showering, they said cracks in the skin can lead to infection and washing can strip the body of good bacteria.

Full Text

Bathing or showering is the washing of the body with a liquid, usually water or an aqueous solution, or the immersion of the body in water. This is done for personal hygiene, religious ritual, or therapeutic purposes. While bathing and showering are used interchangeably, they differ slightly.

A report by Mail Online came with a number of claims on showering. One of these claims is that excessive showering can reduce skin hydration and make it dry and cracked. It also claims cracked skin may allow infection-causing germs to enter people’s bodies and that bathing mainly removes odours rather than reducing peoples’ risk of illness.

The report also added that washing strips the skin of good bacteria that support the immune system and experts insist showering just once or twice a week is sufficient for most,

Screenshot of mail online report

Verification 

Dubawa conducted keyword research to find the original report. Dubawa found the report from 2018.

Screenshot of Mail online report

Dubawa’s keyword search also led to some recommendations on how often anyone should shower. 

A report by Healthline noted that there are no hard or fast rules on how much is too much bathing, so it’s important that everyone knows their body and determines what their skin can tolerate.

The report also highlighted some tips to bathe correctly and protect the skin, like taking a shower once a day,  using warm water in place of hot water, limiting shower time to 5 to 10 minutes, avoiding cleansers and soaps with fragrances or deodorants etc.

Screenshot of Healthline’s report

Another report by the Atlantic in 2020 claims most people are showering too much but noted that  out-of-balance skin microbiome isn’t just the result of too much soap and scrubbing but also a result of exposure to preservatives with antimicrobial properties.

Screenshot of the Atlantic report

A similar report by Harvard Health Publishing gave some reasons why showering every day should be reevaluated.

Screenshot of Harvard Health Publishing report

Experts view

Dubawa also reached out to health experts; a dermatologist and a gynaecologist to speak on these claims. 

Claim 1: Excessive showering can reduce skin hydration, leaving it dry and cracked.

Both experts disagree that showering dehydrates the skin. One of the health experts we spoke to, Jerry Agim, a gynaecologist, said showering does not dehydrate the skin but washes off the natural skin oil (sebum).

“Taking your bath does not dehydrate the skin, it cleanses it off micro-organism and helps shed dead skin. Bathing also cleans off the sweat produced by the sweat gland which can be acted upon by bacteria to cause odour. Some people naturally have dry skin while others have oily skin. After taking your bath, the body produces its natural oil to lubricate the skin which happens very fast for oily skin and slower for dry skin individuals.”

Excerpt of Dr Agim’s comment.

 He added that the skin regenerates every month, for some, it takes 35 days while others require 27 or 28days.

A dermatologist, Dr Ayo Aranmolate, said there is nothing like excess showering, noting the only thing that can dehydrate the skin is insensible loss(the amount of fluid lost on a daily basis).

“There is nothing like excess showering can reduce hydration, it’s just like saying washing your car. There is nothing like excess showering. There is no human being that can be in the shower forever, even if you spend a lot of time there, you can’t sleep there. The skin is more or less water proof otherwise when you stay in the bathtub, the body should absorb more water into the body. The only thing that can dehydrate the skin is insensible loss. There is what we call insensible loss when it comes to humans. Like breathing is a form of insensible loss, Diarrhea, is also a form.”

Excerpt of Dr Aranmolate’s comment.

Claim 2: Cracked skin may allow infections causing germs to enter people’s bodies

This claim is true as Dr Agim and Dr Aranmolate agree with this claim.

Dr Jerry said, “Dry skin can result in itching and it can also break/crack. The naturally occurring bacteria or those alien to the skin can infect the crack and cause infection”.

Excerpt of Dr Agim’s comment.

“Cracked skin may allow infection-causing germs to enter the body, that is true. When you have a break in your skin definitely. There are different immunity the body has, we have the physical, chemical and immunological barriers. The physical one is the skin barrier. Even if you rub stool on your body, it cannot cause infection unless there is a break in that area. There are layers of the skin that do not allow the quick exchange of microorganisms, except when there is a crack or in some cases when parasites burrow. We call it burrow, they cause a break and enter.”

Excerpt of Dr Aranmolate‘s comment.

Claim 3: Bathing mainly removes odours rather than reducing peoples’ risk of illness.

This claim is false as the skin experts noted there is nothing like that.

“There is nothing like that. When you have your bath, you basically remove dirt from your skin. Even when you have your bath, there are still some things that can never be removed because if you still take a swab of the skin, and take it to the lab, it will still grow some organisms, they are called normal commensal. The only time when you have an infection is if the normal commensal starts growing above a particular level. we usually say 10  rays to power 6 of that organism growing in that area, that is when a commensal can become an infection”.

Excerpt of Dr Aranmolate’s comment.

Claim 4: Washing strips the skin of good bacteria that support the immune system 

According to Dr Aranmolate, this claim is true,

“Well yea this is possible if you are using ….which is why some women when they are douching, they are stripping off some good organism. Not that they are good organisms, they are bad organisms in the first place but they go there to regulate things there. So if you strip them off from that area, another group of organisms will overpopulate that area. It’s just like having aliens among humans and you take off more than the normal humans who are supposed to protect the land, the new organism will populate the place and take over.

Excerpt of Dr Ayo’s comment.

Claim 5: Showering just once or twice a week is sufficient for most people.

Dr Aranmolate noted that this is not true and advised that people shower as often as they feel the need to.

“There is nothing like that, if your body is hot, just go and have your bath, its as simple as that. If you feel uncomfortable, you are sweaty, just go and have your bath. The only time I realise people don’t take their bath is in a cold place.

Excerpt of Dr Ayo’s comment.

Dr Agim also added that although he is not a dermatologist, he recommends one bath per day, adding that there are benefits from bathing.

“I am not a dermatologist but I will suggest at least once a day. To maintain healthy skin you have to take care of your skin by; adequate hydration(drink at least 3L/day), stay out of the sun if possible, wear protective clothing in the sun and during dry weather conditions like harmattan, eat adequate nutrition, take your bath and apply moisturizer, use UV protection (some cream now come with UV protection). Also cleaning your skin helps keep your pores open through which oil and sweat is released to the skin surface. Bathing can help regulate your body’s temperature too. Tepid sponging (cleaning the body with lukewarm water) is used even in the hospital to manage fever.”

Excerpt of Dr Jerry’s comment.

Conclusion

This collection of claims around showering has been seen to be a mixture of true and false information. Health experts note that there is nothing like excess showering and the frequency of showers depends on different factors like skin type, activities, environment etc. The claim that cracks/breaks in the skin can lead to infection and that washing can strip the skin of good bacteria is true.

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