Do I need to shower daily? How often experts recommend you wash

Stock picture of a woman in the shower highlighting some of the mistakes we are making while washing. (Getty Images)
Have we been showering wrong this entire time? (Getty Images)

While there may be other adulting skills we haven't quite nailed, showering is one simple aspect of our daily routine we don't need to worry about. Or do we?

Turns out, there's actually some common mistakes we've all been making when it comes to hopping under the shower head, and they can have a pretty big impact on our skin.

From washing too much, to getting our lather on at the wrong time of day, using the wrong products and not adapting our routine for the seasons, according to the skincare specialists, our showering habits could do with a bit of an overhaul.

Showering too often

A long, hot shower might seem like the ultimate in luxury, but it might surprise you to hear that you can actually shower too much.

That's because if you wash your body too frequently or for too long you are at risk of 'overcleaning', which can strip the skin of its natural oils.

"Skin is actually very clever," explains Claire Logan, skincare expert at ARRAN Sense of Scotland. "It cleans itself and keeps itself healthy by generating a layer of natural oils on the surface. If you shower too frequently you will disrupt the skin’s natural PH balance and strip it of its natural protection."

Read more: Over or under? Why hanging toilet roll 'the wrong way' is a health threat

How often should you shower is a question that celebs have been weighing in on, with the likes of Kristen Bell, Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis sitting firmly in camp ‘don’t-wash-too-often,’ while others, including Dwayne Johnson shower up to three times a day.

So, what is the magic number when it comes to showers? "One shower a day is more than enough to keep you clean," Logan says. "Some experts actually recommend every other day, depending on your activity levels. But certainly, if you adapt your daily routine to the one shower a day rule, you should see your skin start to benefit.

"If you’re heading to the gym after work, then don’t shower in the morning for example."

Showering at the wrong time

If you begin each day by jumping into the shower, you might be surprised to learn that you could be choosing the wrong time of day to lather up.

Recent findings by Swedish beauty and wellbeing brand FOREO in partnership with YouGov, found that 61% of Brits opt to shower in the morning.

Of course, this makes total sense, but according to research by dermatologist Dr Simon Zokai, it’s actually far better for your skin to shower before you go to bed.

Having consulted Dr Zokai, the FOREO team concluded that an evening shower has advantages for skin health, as it helps remove the build-up of dirt, germs and pollution that accumulates on our skin during the day.

If you wait until the next morning to wash, the contaminants will remain on your body while you sleep, giving them more time to seep into the pores.

And this can potentially have some pretty nasty consequences for our skin including blotches, imperfections, marks and long-term skin damage.

Read more: Great sex is less important than a clean bathroom, new research finds

Stock picture of a woman just getting out of the shower at night. (Getty Images)
Turns out showering at night is better for our skin. (Getty Images)

Not 'seasonal showering'

As well as adapting our wardrobes with the changing seasons (hello knitwear!), we should also be switching up our shower routines – otherwise known as ‘seasonal showering'.

"Winter months are harsher on skin, and over washing can further strip skin of natural oils, which can in turn lead to already dry skin becoming flaky and itchy," explains Logan.

Couple this with exposure to changes in temperature, going from very cold outside to warm central heating (although the cost of living crisis is ensuring there'll be less of that this year), or getting out of a hot shower into a cold room and it’s a recipe for disaster for skin.

Read more: One in 10 British people admit they still don't wash their hands after going to the toilet

"In summer, you may need to shower more frequently as the temperature rises, especially if you’re exercising or have an active job," she adds.

"If you suffer from hayfever, then a shower before bedtime will also help to rinse off any pollen residue."

Washing the wrong places

Actor Ashton Kutcher recently admitted that he just uses soap and water on his “armpits and crotch daily” but “nothing else ever”, while his wife Mila Kunis admitted to something similar.

While you might find this to be somewhat unhygienic, skin experts tend to agree that this is best washing practice.

"There’s something to be said about only washing the areas of the body that really need it, especially when showering daily," explains Logan.

"It's about letting the skin do its natural thing to protect itself."

Logan suggests washing your entire body just once or twice a week and using your daily shower to focus on the areas that have lots of sweat glands or where bacteria can gather.

"For people that suffer with acne on their backs and other areas of the body, the worst thing you can do here is to dry these areas out by over cleansing," she adds. "It is counterproductive as the body overcompensates and makes more oil."

Turns out the body parts we should and shouldn't be showering has been getting social media in a lather recently.

In May 2019 Twitter was divided about whether you should wash your legs when you take a shower.

Though it may seem difficult to shower without washing your legs, in fact 20% of people have confessed that they skip their legs altogether during shower time.

Stock picture of two scourers in the shower. (Getty Images)
Scrubbing our skin too hard is another shower mistake we're making. (Getty Images)

Scrubbing too hard

Exfoliating two to three times a week can help to remove the build-up of dead skin cells on the skin’s surface, but according to Logan ‘scrubbing’ is not necessary.

"When exfoliating, try to use something gentle and natural rather than an abrasive surface," she says. "Work across the skin in large circular movements and work towards your heart to encourage detoxification."

Logan says baking soda, finely ground sugar, coffee grounds, finely ground almonds, oatmeal, and finely ground sea salt will all exfoliate without being too harsh on the skin.

Showering in the wrong temperature

Recent research, by Mira Showers, reveals that almost half (43%) of Brits take no notice of the temperature we rinse under.

While cold showers can help with circulation and muscle recovery, hot showers relax the muscles and open pores, but in terms of our skin, a warm shower is best.

"Hot water is another thing that strips the protective oil that your skin needs, so around 36°C is the ideal temperature for it to not to be harsh on the skin," she explains.

"As a rule of thumb, if your skin is turning red it’s time to turn the heat down."

Stock picture of a woman testing the temperature of her shower water. (Getty Images)
The temperature of our shower makes a difference to our skin. (Getty Images)

But don't overlook the potential benefits of an icy cold shower either.

“Cold showers are so incredibly good for our health," explains Dr Jamie Facer-Childs, medical doctor at Northwick Park Hospital A&E, London.

"The cold water on the skin causes vasoconstriction – this is when the muscles around your blood vessels tighten – which makes our pores close, tightening the skin and helping our bodies feel toned and ready for action. The sudden stimulus of cold also triggers a reflex reaction that heightens our alertness and sharpens our thinking.

“Whilst it takes a little bit time and consistency for the physical benefits of cold showers to take flight, the mental boost starts as soon as you decide to take the plunge,” he adds.

Over-drying ourselves

Hands up who is guilty of not getting completely dry after a shower? But turns out there could be some benefits to not drying off fully.

"Applying moisturiser to damp skin can actually lock in the moisture," explains Logan. "Pat yourself off and then apply your product to the skin."

You should however dry off intimate areas fully otherwise you could be prone to infections.

"And always let your moisturiser sink in and your skin dry fully before getting dressed," she adds.

Stock picture of a man drying himself after a shower. (Getty Images)
Over-drying your skin after a shower could be bad for your skin. (Getty Images)

Using the wrong products

Just as we would check the ingredients in our food, you need to check what’s in the products you use on the skin.

"Look out for natural products that are fragranced with essential oils rather than harsh chemicals," recommends Logan.

"PH levels are important too, the epidermis has a PH level of 5.5 so try finding something as close to that as possible."

If you want something that is gently exfoliating, Logan suggests choosing a soap with oatmeal or wheat germ that will remove dead skin cells without being too abrasive.

"Glycerine is great for the skin as it helps the skin to retain moisture and relieve dryness," she adds.

"Use soaps that enrich your skin and protect your natural skin barrier. And it doesn’t have to be shower gel. Bar soaps are making a real comeback and no longer fit the stereotype of being drying and harsh on the skin."

Plus, of course, swapping a plastic shower bottle for a bar of soap is kinder to the planet. Win-win.