What’s the Best Way to Shower? Dermatologists Weigh In

What’s the Best Way to Shower? Dermatologists Weigh In

Showering is a simple activity we all do routinely, but there’s plenty of debate online about how extensive your scrubbing and lathering should be.

Just a few weeks ago, retired NFL star Jason Kelce weighed in on X with his own personal showering preferences. 

“All of you have been fed diabolical lies that washing every crevice of your bodies and hair, all the time is somehow better or healthier,” he wrote. “Hot spots are all that is necessary and actually leads to cleaner, healthier skin.”

After someone said he looked like he didn’t wash his legs or feet, the 36-year-old responded, “What kind of weirdo washes their feet…” 

Kelce’s remarks sparked a heated debate in the comments about what actually needs to be washed in the shower. So we looked into that question as well as other shower-related queries, such as how often to cleanse yourself and which body part to focus on first.

Here’s how to take the best shower for your skin (and scent), according to dermatologists.

Carlos Barquero / Getty Images

There are no hard and fast medical data on the best order for washing up. Still, dermatologists generally suggest starting at the top. 

“I recommend starting with hair before body,” Cindy Wassef, MD, assistant professor at the Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School Center for Dermatology, told Health. “A lot of the shampoos and conditioners have ingredients that are nourishing for the hair, but are too rich for the body and may cause acne breakouts and folliculitis.”

As a result, washing your body after you finish your hair helps scrub some of that residue off, Wassef said.

Susan Massick, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, also recommends washing from the top of your body to the feet, “but no particular order is needed,” she said.

Doctors said there are certain body parts you should wash every time you step in the shower, and others you can hit here and there.

Wassef recommended targeting your groin, butt, and armpits every time you suds up. Those hotspots contain apocrine glands, which produce sweat and odor, Massick explained. “Sweat produced within the apocrine glands can induce odor from the breakdown of proteins within the sweat by bacteria,” she said. With that, you’ll want to wash them regularly or risk starting to smell.

As for your feet, Massick said you should, in fact, scrub them often. “Wash your feet with soap every time you bathe,” she said.

Your feet contain a high number of eccrine glands, which produce primarily odorless sweat. But when your feet have been in shoes all day, they can get stinky.

She recommends drying them well, including between the toes, after you shower to lower the risk of developing athlete’s foot or other fungal infections.

It’s also a good idea to wash your face twice a day with a gentle cleaner, although you don’t necessarily have to do this in the shower, Massick said.

But there are some areas you can sometimes ignore. “You do not necessarily need to cleanse your back, chest, stomach, arms, and legs with soap every time,” Wassef said. (The only exception to this rule is when you get very sweaty.)

As for your hair, Massick said you don’t need to shampoo it during every shower if your scalp doesn’t usually get oily.

The American Academy of Dermatology provides advice for kids and teens but does not explicitly tell adults how often to cleanse themselves.

However, the organization says that once you hit puberty, you should shower or bath daily and bathe after swimming, playing sports, or sweating heavily.

Dermatologists generally recommend that you shower regularly. Routine showering keeps your skin clean, removes typical dirt, bacteria, oil, and sweat, and decreases odor, Massick said. 

However, she stressed that you don’t necessarily have to shower every day. “Over-showering, especially with hot water, can cause skin dryness,” she pointed out.

How often you shower is a personal preference, Wassef said. “Daily showering is fine,” she said. “If you have dry or eczema-prone skin, this may irritate your skin, so a less frequent schedule of three to four times a week is fine.”

Wassef said it’s a good idea to shower more often if you tend to sweat a lot or are prone to body odor and that you may want to squeeze showers in after your skin gets dirty and after workouts.  

In general, Wassef doesn’t recommend going any longer than a few days without a shower—and after three to four days, you might start to notice “an increased persistent natural body odor,” she said.

Much of this comes down to personal preference. That said, experts do have some general advice.

“For hair, a hydrating shampoo is usually a good choice for most hair types,” Wassef said. If you tend to use a lot of products, like gels and curl creams, a clarifying shampoo may be helpful, she said.

To wash your body, Wassef suggested reaching for an unscented soap or body wash to lower the risk of irritation. “Soaps with built-in moisturizers can also help reduce dryness,” she added.

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