The Daily Shower
Chris Stark from Radio 1 doesn’t shower in the morning. Scott Mills thinks it’s disgusting. I don’t shower in the morning; I don’t shower in the evenings either. Often I go an ENTIRE DAY without washing. But don’t I smell? Well, you’d be surprised.
So what happens to the body if you don’t wash it?
Let’s start with hair. It’s a fairly common rumour that hair will clean itself if you leave it long enough, though it’s very difficult to imagine how this could be if, like me, you wash your hair every day. Or, I used to. Towards the end of the day I would feel my hair begin to become limp and greasy, and by morning, I would have to wash it. Then, one summer, I went on a camping trip with Otesha, a sustainability and behaviour change group. We camped in the field of a farm house with a composting toilet and no shower. No shower. For. Ten. Days. I have never had such an itchy head. After a week of farm life, we cycled down to the nearest town and begged our way into the leisure centre so we could have a wash – bliss! It was one of the most amazing showers of my life. For those who have been to Glastonbury, you can understand a little of what I’m talking about. Then a strange thing happened. My hair felt amazing the next day. And the next day. And the day after that. I didn’t feel the need to wash it again for another week (which was lucky because we were on another farm by then). Toughing it out for those ten days meant that my hair had begun the self-cleaning process. When I returned to civilisation and regular showers, I only washed my hair once a week. Then I upped it to ten days, then every two weeks, then every three. Now, I wash my hair roughly once a month, or whenever I remember (or have to appear at a wedding). My hair keeps that newly-washed feel for at least four days, then it starts to settle down. It looks just about great for a few weeks, then when it starts to look a bit limp after three or four weeks I give it a wash. I could probably leave it for longer, and perhaps I will, eventually. Because the thing I’ve learned is that your hair needs to be washed as often as you wash it. If you wash it daily, it will need washing daily. If you wash it weekly, it will need washing weekly, and so on.
So why are we tricked into thinking that we need to wash our hair all the time? Washing it doesn’t just clean it, it strips the hair of its natural oils, removing all the good stuff as well as the bad stuff so our hair is incapable of coping with not being clean. A ploy by shampoo companies to get you to buy their product? Perhaps. More likely it’s a result of our evolution into the modern era: we no longer live in Victorian times, where only the rich have access to the bath tub. We are all equal; we can all be clean.
But it’s unnecessary, and it’s the same with skin. If you repeatedly strip your body of its natural oils, it will lose its innate ability to self-regulate. Akin to hair, the more you wash it, the more you need to wash it (though I’m not suggesting that you go for a month without taking a shower). Then, because we have removed all the good stuff, we add moisturiser to replace it. Which then doesn’t allow the skin to clean itself properly. So we have to shower more regularly. And then put all the oils back in with moisturiser. Etc etc.
It’s about the environment, too: bathing uses water, so cut the amount you shower and you cut your water consumption. Chemicals in the products we use to clean ourselves get flushed away into our sewerage system, where water has to be cleaned so we can use it again. We are literally flushing clean water down the drain. When I do shower I use natural cleaning products (especially as, on the boat, my shower tray empties straight into the river).
I don’t shower in the mornings often because I can’t be bothered, but mostly because I don’t need to. I am not going to shower before I go to work today, and I’m certain that my colleagues won’t even notice (and it’s not that they are too polite to say anything). Try it sometime.