Exactly What Happens When You Stop Showering

One journalist from The Atlantic stopped showering for one month just to see what would happen — and everything was surprisingly fine.

Chances are you don't question your showering habits all that much. You simply wake up, work out, shower, then get ready for work — or something along those lines.

Well, the latest celeb internet debate might have you curious about how your relationship with rinsing compares to others. It all started with a convo between Mila Kunis and husband Ashton Kutcher with Dax Shepard on his podcast, Armchair Expert. Kutcher admitted he and Kunis only bathe their children if "you can see the dirt on 'em. … Otherwise, there's no point," and they both admitted to having a low-commitment relationship with soap. Then, a few days later, Shepard and his wife, Kristen Bell appeared on The View, and he noted that they sometimes forget to bathe their kids for "five, six days" at a time. Meanwhile, Jake Gyllenhaal told Vanity Fair in an early August interview that "more and more I find bathing to be less necessary."

Cue the chaos. Other celebs promptly started joining in, with Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson tweeting he doesn't just shower, but he does so three times a day, and June Diane Raphael stating quite simply, "I bathe myself and my children every day" on Twitter. Cardi B also weighed in on Twitter, posting: "Wassup with people saying they don't shower? It's giving itchy."

All this holier-than-thou shower frequency preaching might seem a bit silly — after all, how often you bathe and how often you should bathe are highly variable depending on the person — but it does beg the question: How often do you need to shower, anyway? What happens if you just, well, stop?

In 2016, James Hamblin, a journalist from The Atlantic, decided to gradually go wash-free and document it with a story. He was inspired by New York Times journalist Julia Scott who was a subject in another no-soap, no-shower experiment testing a living bacteria skin spray. The spray, developed by a biotech start-up, looks, feels, and tastes like water but is full of a special bacteria that scientists believe lived on our skin microbiome until we started ruthlessly washing it off. The idea: Your body can actually manage its little skin ecosystem if you stop messing with it.

We're learning more and more about all the little bacteria hanging out inside our body (see: the buzz about probiotics, gut-friendly foods, and how gut bacteria can actually help you lose weight). Shouldn't we give the same attention to the bacteria outside of our body too? After all, researchers have found that skin houses about a trillion microbes, making up its own special bacterial blend that's vital to its health.

That was Hamblin's theory. So he slowly stopped using any soaps or moisturizers and even stopped using deodorant. He continued to wash his hands (in the name of preventing the spread of germs and diseases) and rinse with water when he was visibly dirty or had serious bedhead (but rarely stepped inside an actual shower).

The surprising results? He says he didn't smell bad but, rather, smelled like an actual human being. The thinking is that the detergents and products you add to your skin and hair every day disrupt the balance between the oils and the bacteria that live in the microbiome. When you shower aggressively, you kill off these camps of good bugs. They repopulate quickly, but the species are out of balance and your body tends to favor the "bad bugs," or the kinds of microbes that produce odor, according to The Atlantic. So if you stop using those harsh cleansers, your body can figure out how to equilibrate itself, letting good bacteria thrive and keeping bad bacteria at bay.

"Because, evolutionarily, why would we be so disgusting that we need constant cleaning? And constant moisturizing and/or de-oiling?" he wrote. "If we do more to allow our oil glands and bacteria to equilibrate, the theory goes, skin should stop fluctuating between oily and dry."

Hamblin — and the celebs on #TeamShowerLess — are truly onto something. "Dermatologists have started advising against overcleaning," Anne Chapas, M.D., New York City-based dermatologist previously told Shape. That's because washing your skin too often or using harsh soaps strips away good bacteria. She recommends cleaning only when you really need to (think: to remove makeup, or after a super sweaty workout or hot day) and to avoid antibacterial soaps.

In order to protect the good bacteria on your skin, you don't need to never shower, dermatologist Jeffrey Dover, M.D., previously told Shape, just limit cleansing to once a day. (More here: How to Get Rid of Bad Skin Bacteria Without Wiping Out the Good)

We're not saying you should live your life like you're always at a music festival, but this might be a legitimate reason to go natural, at least some of the time. (You're going to want these hairstylist-approved tips for weaning yourself off the shampoo.) As gross as it may initially sound, it'll save you both time and money in the long run.

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