Jonathan Ross says we should only shower once a week – is he right?

Jonathan Ross has compared himself to a hamster thanks to a lack of showering (Getty)
Jonathan Ross has compared himself to a hamster thanks to a lack of showering (Getty)

A friend of mine recently revealed that she usually showers three times a day: once in the morning, once after work, once before bed. I felt amazed and ashamed in equal measure. Three times a day? I’m lucky if it’s three times a week.

I used to be more scrupulous, but then I used to go into an office full-time. Now I have three days a week working from home, it’s all too tempting to go full goblin mode – defined as “a type of behaviour which is unapologetically self-indulgent, lazy, slovenly, or greedy, typically in a way that rejects social norms or expectations” by Oxford University Press. Showering feels less of a necessity and more like a… “nice to do”. It’s a bit like cooking an elaborate three-course meal when it’s just you eating it. Sure, it’s tasty, but is it really worth all the effort?

The topic of to shower or not to shower was revived once more by Jonathan Ross after the chat show host and comedian admitted that he generally showers once a week or less. His wife, the scriptwriter Jane Goldman, also goes days at a time without showering.

“I resent the fact that I have to shower,” he said, speaking to Josh Widdicombe on the Parenting Hell podcast. “I sometimes go at least a week without showering – at least. So does Jane sometimes. We’re like a couple of hamsters in their own straw in that bed.”

Ross said he’d only wash two days on the trot if he had done something to work up a sweat: “Why bother doing it two days in a row, what’s wrong with you? I didn’t do any exercise.”

His record stint sans-shower stands at two weeks while they were holidaying in Florida, “because it’s sunny and I’m jumping in and out the swimming pool”. Ross said he only bothered to wash once he discovered his armpits were smelling pretty potent – the stench was so strong that soap wouldn’t shift it, and Ross claims he ended up having to shave his armpit.

While this example is on the extreme end, I felt secretly vindicated by the revelation that Ross doesn’t “give enough of a s*** about anything to bother spending any extra time on grooming whatsoever”. Amid the proliferation of wellness culture, clean living and more lotions and potions than any of us could ever need, there’s something refreshing about someone in the spotlight holding their hands up and saying that, hey, they’re happy to be just a little bit gross.

Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis have revealed they’re not everyday showerers (AP)
Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis have revealed they’re not everyday showerers (AP)

And Ross isn’t alone. According to data from YouGov, 3 per cent of Brits only shower once a week. He’s also not the only celeb to put his head over the parapet on this issue. Previous A-listers to go on record saying they take a lackadaisical approach to lathering include Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis, who caused a furore when they said they didn’t feel the need to shower or wash with soap every day.

The couple came clean (pun intended) on an episode of Dax Shepard’s Armchair Expert podcast, in which they said neither of them shower every day.

Kutcher said he washes his “armpits and my crotch daily and nothing else ever”, and usually “throw[s] some water on my face after a workout to get all the salts out”, while Kunis said she washes her face twice a day.

“I didn’t have hot water growing up as a child so I didn’t shower very much anyway,” Kunis said, adding that she rarely bathed her children when they were newborns. These days, they have a system for washing their kids: “If you can see the dirt on them, clean them. Otherwise, there’s no point.”

We’re like a couple of hamsters in their own straw in that bed

Jonathan Ross

Jake Gyllenhaal also outed himself as a less-frequent bather, saying: “There’s a whole world of not bathing that’s helpful for skin maintenance, and we naturally clean ourselves.”

So are Ross et al onto something – should we all be showering less?

“We are living in a society of over cleansers,” Dr Joshua Zeichner, associate professor of dermatology and the director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, previously told The Independent. “Bathing every day is not necessary, and in fact, in some cases can be damaging to the skin.”

“While there are not specific rules on bathing, I generally tell my patients that visible soiling should be washed from the skin,” he added. “Areas like the face, underarms, and groin should be washed daily because they tend to accumulate more oil and sweat than other parts of the body, which can lead to overgrowth of microorganisms on the skin.”

Showering every day might not be necessary (Getty)
Showering every day might not be necessary (Getty)

Dr Zeichner recommended bathing “after heavy sweating, working out, and if you are noticing any foul body odour”.

Other experts agree, with Professor Stephen Shumack, president of the Australasian College of Dermatologists, advising that you should only shower when you need to.

“It’s only in the last 50 to 60 years [since the advent of bathrooms with showers] that the idea of a daily shower has become commonplace,” he told the Sunday Morning Herald. “The pressure to do that is actually social pressure rather than actual need. It’s become popular because of the social need to smell good. But it’s only the glands in your armpit and groin that produce body odour. They’re not all over the body.”

Shumack also warned that a daily hot shower could do more harm than good, saying: “Overwashing causes ‘defatting’ of the skin – getting rid of the natural body oils we produce to protect the skin cells. This can cause actual damage, making them more permeable to bacteria or viruses, precipitating itchy skin, dryness, flakiness and worsening conditions like eczema.”

And what about the much-touted theory that if you stop washing your hair with shampoo it cleans itself? The jury seems to be out on that one.

Bathing every day is not necessary, and in fact, in some cases can be damaging to the skin

Dr Joshua Zeichner, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology

“Imagine if you didn’t wash your face or underarms for a week – the same logic applies to your hair and scalp,” Anabel Kingsley, a trichologist from the Philip Kingsley clinic in London, told the BBC. “They are likely to become coated in dirt, smelly, greasy and flaky. Build-up of yeasts and bacteria will also occur, especially as they thrive in oily environments.”

Stylist Inanch Emir went one further, telling The Independent: “It is basically a load of rubbish, it’s an old wives’ tale to avoid washing your hair every day. It isn’t damaging, it is what we do after that damages hair. Washing regularly and air drying will look after the scalp and help hair to grow better.

“If your hair is getting polluted regularly, the pores on your scalp will be clogged up. Not washing your hair, for, say, 17 days, will allow layers of dirt to sit on your skin and scalp. This makes it thinner and more brittle, meaning it gets damaged more easily.”

While there are no hard and fast rules, it seems that showering less often – provided you keep fundamentals clean (groin, face, underarms) – won’t do any harm and could even be beneficial. So why not press pause on the judgement, embrace your inner hamster and go full goblin mode? Becoming a member of the great unwashed never felt so on-trend.