The question of how many baths you should take a week is gaining new prominence, thanks to a recent podcast where actors and married couple Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher shared their family’s bathing strategy.
“If you can see the dirt on them, clean them,” Kutcher said. “Otherwise, there’s no point.”
Kunis and Kutcher shared their bathing philosophy on Dax Shepard’s Armchair Expert, noting that neither they or their kids fully wash their bodies every day. (Although the do wash their groins and armpits regularly.)
And I have to say, I agree with the strategy.
In my book, Eat Dirt, I dedicated an entire chapter to the problems associated with our over-sanitized society.
There’s loads of research out there pointing to exposure to germs and a healthier gut and strengthened immune system.
Our task is to find ways to bring dirt back into our lives in a way that allows us to stay clean enough to guard against colds and flu, but also get dirty enough to enable our good microbes to do their work.
The best, safest and easiest way to do that is with those daily micro exposures of dirt.
And trust me, you don’t need to wash it off right away…
Dirt on Our Bodies
Americans are obsessed with personal hygiene. We take a lot of showers — nearly one a day, which is more than the British, Japanese and Chinese.
Dr. Julia Segre, head of the Human Microbiome Project, has noted previous studies showing that showering can disrupt the balance of microorganisms on the skin, disbanding them into the air and surrounding skin cells. Daily showers may damage the outermost protective layer of the skin and disrupt the delicate balance maintained by the bacterial ecosystem that inhabits our skin.
Indeed, many disruptive skin conditions and even autoimmune challenges are linked to a disrupted inner ecosystem.
One ammonia-oxidizing bacterium (AOB), called Nitrosomonas eutropha, is often found in dirt and untreated water, but was once also present in our skin bacteria, before we started washing it away.
Scientists believe this bacteria usually kept us clean and fresh-smelling, boosted our immune system, and tamped down inflammation, all by feeding on the ammonia in our sweat and converting it into nitrite and nitric oxide.
While Americans no longer have AOB on their skin, scientists have found it on the skin of the Yanomami, rainforest and mountain dwellers part of the largest relatively isolated tribe in South America.
Interestingly, there’s a growing markets for products picking on on the potential for probiotic micro exposures. This includes Mother Dirt’s Restorative Skin Probiotics line.
How Many Baths Should You Take a Week?
When it comes to adults, I suggest you let your own body do the work of repopulating your skin by bathing only on days you work out. And consider only fully sudsing up with a full-body soap scrub and shampoo just a few days a week.
For most folks, showering every other day is sufficient.
When it comes to children, The American Academy of Dermatology Association also agrees that daily bathing is generally not warranted. It recommends children ages 6 to 11 bathe at least once a week, including if they are covered in dirt, smelly or after playing sports, swimming or heavily sweating.
For teens and tweens approaching puberty, the group does recommend daily bathing, but again, full-body sudsing up with harsh soaps is not mandatory, in my opinion.
Here are some other ways to create healthier hygiene without stripping away all of your natural oils and microbes, and exposing yourself to harmful ingredients:
- When you choose soap, opt for unscented Castile soap instead of bath products full of dangerous synthetic scents.
- Instead of washing your hair daily, considering using dry shampoo in between washes to soak up excess oil.
- When you do shower, consider using cold water from time to time to tap into the benefits of cold showers.
- DO still wash your hands regularly, particularly if you’ve touched public surfaces with an excess of potentially harmful microbes. Avoid antibacterial soaps, though, and instead learn to wash your hands correctly.
- Actors and married couple Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis faced backlash from the public after they shared their family’s hygiene philosophy during a recent podcast.
- The couple and their two young children don’t do full-body bathing with soap daily, although they do bathe their groins and armpits every day.
- Americans tend to bathe daily, although that can strip the skin of important beneficial microbes and oils.
- Most adults can get away with bathing every other day, or after they work out. Children 6 to 11 should bathe at least once a week, according to the American Academy of Dermatology Association.
- When you do bathe, avoid harsh, fragranced soaps and shampoos and opt for unscented Castile soap to reduce your exposure to harmful ingredients linked to hormone disruption.