Is bathing a lot healthier? At some point does over-bathing become unhealthy?

You always hear about people learning more about health and germs and how washing up is more healthy. Obviously, washing your hands is. Is bathing/showering more often good for us? Would two people who have similar habits (exercise/nutrition) but different bathing habits have different health levels (i.e., someone who bathed every day versus someone who bathed once a month or year)?

I’ve heard people say that bathing too much can be bad for you–like, your skin gets dry and you’re more susceptible to colds. I’m one of those who probably over bathes. I take at least two showers a day. On occasion, more but that’s rare. I just don’t feel clean unless I’ve had at least two. Am I totally compromising my health?

I shower every other day while the rest of my family showers everyday. Now, who gets sick? Well, we all do, but I tend to get it less severely. I think this is due to the hygiene hypothesis (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hygiene_hypothesis), which I think should extend to adults.

Also, my hair is more manageable the second day due to the return of its natural oils. No hair spray or anything, but it stays in place.

I take a bath every third Wednesday whether I need it or not.

But seriously, in winter my skin gets some powerful itchiness going on if I take a full on shower every day (as opposed to washing my face and other basic maintenance).

I’m not aware of any studies which show that washing your hands keeps you healthier, although there may be some. There are some good studies which show that over-cleanliness has a net negative effect on health. Our obsession with germs obscures the fact that what keeps us healthy is not a germ-free environment, but our immune systems.

Exposure to a moderate amount of not-overly-vicious germs is like exercising your immune system, and avoiding germs is like being a couch potato: when you are challenged, your naive immune system will not be able to rise to the occasion.

Remember that much of the population of the Americas who died are thought to have succumbed to disease and not weapons.

Washing your hands does help prevent the spread of any really dangerous germs that happen to be on them, but of course most germs are not dangerous. I don’t think bathing really does much of anything healthwise (within reason) except to keep people from stinking. We are coated with bacteria, and they form a nice healthy population of normal flora for most people. Trying to sterilize one’s skin disrupts that normal physiology.

Keep in mind that not everyone is the same.

I have extremely sensitive skin (in fact, even as I type I am battling yet another skin infection that arose from my eczema) and it’s also become very dry. Quite some time ago I went to a dermatologist to help me deal with my problem skin. He suggested to me that I take a bath (not shower - full immersion bath) no more often than once a week, and that even showering every day wasn’t a good idea for me. (I do, of course, wash the “stinky parts” daily, armpits and such). Since I’ve cut back on the bathing I have had much less problem with my skin. That said, in the summer if I’m sweaty from working outside all day I’ll take a quick shower to get dirt and sweat off, but that’s the only time I shower daily.

That’s me. FOR YOU daily bathing might be OK or even advisable. What you use for soap/cleanser, how long you shower, how hot the water is, how oily your skin is, how often/much you sweat, how dirty/dusty you get… those are all factors to consider.

If you’re really concerned you can make an appointment with a dermatologist to ask specifically what is best for your skin. Or you can experiment and see what works best for you.

If you’re showering twice a day… well, that’s more than usual but if you’re not having dry skin problems or rashes or other issues then I wouldn’t worry about it too much. Human skin is pretty tough (except for maybe in my case) and will tolerate a wide range of hygiene.

I’m not too terribly worried. I’m just curious about it, is all–you hear about people talking about how daily washing/hand washing made things better in terms of germs…just made me wonder how MUCH better.

My boss started to have lots of annoying skin ailments. When questioned by his doctor it turned out he was having about 20 showers a week (gym and touch football nearly every day of the week). The doctor told him to cool the water down a bit and use something like sorbolene instead of soap. That worked.

I don’t believe regular hand washing improves your general day-to-day health, but I think it’s been shown quite conclusively that it reduces the spread of communicable diseases (e.g. flu, common cold); that would include spreading it to yourself.