Hear us out on this one – an increasing amount of studies have suggested we could be doing more harm than good by keeping our skin squeaky clean. From morning showers to post-gym rinse-offs and pre-slumber soaks, it appears we’re wreaking havoc with our skin in the name of keeping clean. As a nation we’re already cutting back, with a recent study by Mintel finding 80% of Britons don’t shower every day, while the value of shower and bath products has fallen by almost 4% over the last two years. Intrigued? Read on to discover the reasons why it could be worth cutting down your showers...
It Affects Your pH
Did you know your skin looks and feels better in a middle ground between acid and alkaline? As dermatologist Dr Colbert explains, “Our body and skin require a balance between alkaline and acidity for our acid mantle – the barrier that keeps moisture in and germs and toxins out. Anything over seven is considered alkaline. Skin that falls on this end tends to be drier and more wrinkly, while skin that’s too acidic can appear red, irritated and itchy.”
Countless skin experts insist we’re misusing soap and bathing products, which tend to have an alkaline pH but when used more than once a day, can affect the acid mantle. In short, stripping the skin with certain cleansers can make your pH soar, making it harder to keep out bad bacteria. Case in point? A 2015 study found hospital workers were actually triggering their own dermatitis by frequent hand-washing.
It Upsets The Microbiome
As the body’s largest organ, the skin is colonised by various species of fungi, bacteria and viruses – also known as the microbiome. Recent research has suggested we should be working with our microbiome rather than against it for optimal skin and health and that daily bathing can, quite literally, wash away the good bacteria. One study even goes as far as to suggest over-showering can ultimately lead to a weaker immune system and increase our risk of certain infections.
Jumping on the bacteria train is US brand Mother Dirt, which recently launched in the UK. Not only does it bottle live cultures of ammonia-oxidising bacteria (AOB), but it’s also trying to retrain our approach to cleanliness. AOB helps to convert ammonia and urea from our sweat into nitrate and nitric oxide, which balance out bad bacteria and help to soothe and calm the skin. The brand’s hero AO+ Mist, £49.99, has been designed to replace your daily shower – studies show it improves the look and feel of dry skin by 35% in just four weeks as well as boosting skin clarity and overall health.
It Disrupts Your Skin Barrier Function
The epidermis (the outermost layer of the skin) is mostly composed of skin cells loaded with keratin, the same substance that makes up your hair and nails. If you suffer from itchy, dry skin, it could be a result of showering too frequently – upsetting the moisture levels in your skin’s barrier function. Advocates of non-daily showers (instead lathering up every three days or so) say their skin is smoother and more resilient, no doubt down to their stronger skin barrier.
It's Not Environmentally Friendly
Perhaps the most obvious reason Britons are shunning a daily shower is down to the environment – with the average shower using up a whopping 62 litres, while a bath uses an average of 80. Moreover, water is the most widely used ingredient in the beauty world – the overwhelming majority of products have ‘aqua’, i.e. water, listed as their main ingredient.
Not prepared to ditch your daily shower? Here’s how to do it right for healthier skin all round...
HOW TO SUPERCHARGE YOUR SHOWER
Keep It Short: Showers needn’t be long – keep yours to five minutes and make sure the water’s warm, not hot.
Check The Label: Be wary of foaming agents such as sodium laureth sulfate, which can strip the skin of its natural moisture. Instead, look to paraben-free, dermatologically-tested formulas – try Dermalogica and Frezyderm.
Wash Selectively: Dermatologists say you only need a 10p-sized amount of shower gel and it’s only needed where you sweat – think under the arms, feet and around the genital area. Everywhere else can just be rinsed.
Filter Water: Hard water and soap scum can exacerbate eczema and unbalance pH. To counteract this, install a water-softening system or consider switching up your shower head for Vitaclean Shower Head, £59.99.
Restore Your Barrier: Look to creams containing ceramides and apply immediately post shower – they’ll help to trap moisture in the skin and boost its barrier.