NYT: people are showering less due to the pandemic: gross or understandable?

NYT: people are showering less due to the pandemic: gross or understandable?


The New York Times has a new article about personal bathing habits that I saw because it was trending on Twitter. They say that people are showering less during the pandemic due to not going out as much. While I understand that your body and hair adjust to less bathing and that showering every day is a relatively modern habit, this just sounds uncomfortable to me. They open with quotes from a mom who said that she only showers once a week now! If a friend told me that, I would wonder if she was ok. However the Times emphasizes that it’s also better for the environment to use less water, and that many people bathe less for that reason.

Robin Harper, an administrative assistant at a preschool on Martha’s Vineyard, grew up showering every day.

“It’s what you did,” she said. But when the coronavirus pandemic forced her indoors and away from the general public, she started showering once a week.

The new practice felt environmentally virtuous, practical and freeing. And it has stuck.

“Don’t get me wrong,” said Ms. Harper, 43, who has returned to work. “I like showers. But it’s one thing off my plate. I’m a mom. I work full-time, and it’s one less thing I have to do…”

Daily showers are a fairly new phenomenon, said Donnachadh McCarthy, an environmentalist and writer in London who grew up taking weekly baths.

“We had a bath once a week and we washed under at the sink the rest of the week — under our armpits and our privates — and that was it,” Mr. McCarthy, 61, said.

As he grew older, he showered every day. But after a visit to the Amazon jungle in 1992 revealed the ravages of overdevelopment, Mr. McCarthy said he began reconsidering how his daily habits were affecting the environment and his own body.

“It’s not really good to be washing with soap every day,” said Mr. McCarthy, who showers once a week.

Doctors and health experts have said that daily showers are unnecessary, and even counterproductive. Washing with soap every day can strip the skin of its natural oils and leave it feeling dry, though doctors still recommend frequent hand-washing.

[From The NY Times]

The article is balanced out with quotes from people who shower about every other day, including a woman who noticed that her hair and skin are not as dry now that she’s skipping daily showers. That makes more sense to me than only showering once a week and doing spot cleaning in between. Yes this was common decades ago, but we’ve changed as a society since then. I tried washing my hair every other day for a while and it did seem to be glossier. However I still showered every day, I just wore a shower cap. I work out most days and I can’t let the sweat dry on my skin and then go to sleep like that. It feels nasty and my sheets get dirtier faster. (I wash them once a week, not everyone does this, but it’s recommended.) Now that it’s allergy season, I wash my hair every day to get pollen out. I like having clean hair and skin. Yes it’s not great for the environment to shower every day, but we don’t have to take long showers. Plus I need the pick-me-up that comes from showering and wearing fresh clothes. I related most to a salon owner, Nina Arthur, who was quoted at the end of the NYT piece. She said while she understood it’s better for the environment to shower less she wasn’t going to stop showering every day and that “I’m not that woman.”

Photos credit: Armin Rimoldi and Karolina Grabowska on Pexels and The Creative Exchange on Unsplash

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