Shunning Showers: How Clean Are You?
Can cleanliness be a political act? With the advent of full bathrooms and the ever-increasing marketing of personal care products, showering has become a deeply embedded custom in the American public. Cleanliness is next to Godliness, after all. But it appears that a trend veering away from fresh-as-a-daisy and tilting more toward musky-like-a-human is taking root.
An article in The New York Times over the weekend explored the personal hygiene habits of a varied group of people who are consciously showering less, shampooing infrequently, and shunning deodorant.
To the cleaning-less contingent, there are many reasons to forgo the daily shower for the au natural. “We don’t need to wash the way we did when we were farmers,” said Katherine Ashenburg, 65, the author of “The Dirt on Clean: An Unsanitized History.” Since the advent of cars and labor-saving machines, she continued, “we have never needed to wash less, and we have never done it more.”
Many cite water conservation and the harsh effects of over-cleansing on skin and hair. Of late, researchers are discovering that our skin contains beneficial germs that we might not want to wash down the drain. “Good bacteria are educating your own skin cells to make your own antibiotics,” said Dr. Richard Gallo, chief of the dermatology division at the University of California, San Diego, and “they produce their own antibiotics that kills off bad bacteria.” And to those who complain of over-showering’s effect on dry skin, Dr. Gallo said, “It’s not just removing the lipids and oils on your skin that’s drying it out,” he said. It could be “removing some of the good bacteria that help maintain a healthy balance of skin.”
One thing is for sure: personal care products have been running rampant for decades. Advertisers have us blue at the gills at the thought of emitting any odor other than those created in a fragrance lab. Women, on average, use 12 personal care products each day! There are no limit to the concerns about many of the ingredients in these products, and many of them are wreaking havoc in our waterways, in addition to all of that unnecessary packaging.
And then there is, simply, the amount of water used. If each of 307,006,550 Americans take a daily five-minute shower, the water usage rings in at somewhere around 12,280,262,000 gallons of water per day. Eliminating a few showers a week would clearly add to national water conservation efforts.