Why you don't need to shower every day, according to a hygiene expert

Have you ever wondered why there is this societal expectation to shower at least once a day? Sure, you smell as fresh as a daisy, but is the western world's obsession with bathing actually benefiting our bodies?

Well, according to one expert, bathing each day isn't necessary - in fact, you technically don't need to bathe at all. 

Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live Breakfast, Professor Sally Bloomfield of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine said although showering has become a "socially accepted" practice to keep body odours at bay, it's "really not important" for our overall health.

"In my opinion we don't need to bathe and shower every day. In fact, we don't need to bathe and shower at all. There are microbes on our body that produce nasty odours but they're not harmful to us," Prof Bloomfield told 5 Live Breakfast.

"The reason we bathe and shower is that we want to get rid of those odours and we want to feel comfortable. That's fine, but as far as preventing disease, it's really not important."

The discussion comes a week after 94-year-old Amou Haji, nicknamed 'the world's dirtiest man', died in Iran - shortly after bathing for the first time in 67 years. 

But Prof Bloomfield suggested there was nothing inherently wrong with his unorthodox lifestyle, noting that "we don't need to shower or wash at all".

"The reason we do it is to be socially acceptable," she continued. "We do it in the summer to get rid of sweat, to make us feel more comfortable. But we also have some harmless bugs that set up home in places that are dark and moist and they break down sweat and they break down urine to produce nasty odours, which make us unacceptable to other people. So those are the reasons that we mainly shower ourselves."

Washing too frequently can strip the body of its self-regulating microbiome, the microorganisms that live on the skin and help control the levels of oil, she said. Interfering with these little critters with too much scrubbing and soap can make the skin increasingly dry and more susceptible to irritants. 

"We don't have any absolute evidence as to what [daily showering with soap] does but we do know from the COVID pandemic that when people were washing their hands in a very obsessive way, their hands were being stripped of oils and became dry," she added.

"It's not good for us to wash too regularly."

However, Prof Bloomfield admitted she still showers daily to maintain a "reasonable" appearance. 

Listeners were unconvinced, with several writing to BBC Radio 5 to hit back at Prof Bloomfield's unconventional stance on hygiene. 

"Ask anyone who does a manual job and they'll tell you, 'yes, I shower every day'," one listener wrote in, as per the Daily Mail.

"Anyone fortunate enough not to do hard physical work, do what you want."

Another argued that a daily shower was a necessity during menopause, due to the severe sweating she experienced throughout the night. 

But there is one caveat to the expert's advice: always wash after being in a swimming pool. 

"We can harbour all sorts of microbes on our body that we're perfectly comfortable with, but put them into a swimming pool and we can pass them on to other people. So I would say that's the only time where we really should have a shower," she said. 

She also said choosing not to wash daily shouldn't apply to the hands, with the expert urging everyone to keep their hands clean to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. 

"We're very confused about the difference between cleanliness and hygiene," she told the hosts. "Cleanliness is what we do to look and feel clean but hygiene is the cleaning we do in order to prevent the spread of germs.

"One of the key things for preventing the spread of germs, as we saw during the pandemic, was handwashing… we have to wash our hands at particular moments, like when we're handling raw food, when we've been using the toilet, when we've been touching a lot of surfaces we know a lot of other people have been touching, and before we eat."

In May, a woman went viral on social media after revealing she only showers once per week, because she simply doesn't like it.