During quarantine, there are no rules. You can have a meeting with your coworkers while pantsless. You can eat a box of Cheez-Its for breakfast. You can recreate the entire theatrical production of Jesus Christ Superstar with cardboard puppets made out of said Cheez-It boxes. Basically, you don’t have to adhere to most of the usual societal norms that help convince people you’re a regular human. Showering is one of those norms.
Right now, no one is gonna make you shower. And if you’re not exercising or going outside, you might find that you don’t need to shower as often as you might have before the coronavirus pandemic. Then again, what else is there to do? At least showering is a constructive activity that tricks us into a fleeting sense of normalcy.
I, for one, am showering more often than usual. Not only do I have time for quick exercise videos on YouTube, but I also have time in the shower to shave my legs, exfoliate, deep condition my hair and whatever other more luxurious steps I might skip in my ordinarily utilitarian cleansing routine. Turns out showering is kind of nice when you’ve got nowhere to be!
But that’s all just for fun. Is there any practical reasoning to determine the right number of showers to be taking right now? I’m supposed to be washing my hands more often –– does that same rule apply to my extended body?
First things first, you can’t get coronavirus if you (and those who live with you) aren’t going outside. Plain and simple. Showering is optional in that regard. If you have to leave your home, that changes things a bit. According to the World Health Organization, hot showers or baths won’t do anything to help prevent you from getting COVID-19 — there’s been some speculation that hot showers boost immunity or raise your body temperature in a way that kills bacteria, but that’s not true, so there’s no coronavirus-related need to shower before leaving the home.
Showering when you get home, however, is a good idea. Showering with soap and water will remove the bacteria from your skin in the same way washing your hands would. The virus can only be transmitted via your eyes, nose and mouth — you won’t get sick if, say, your knee touches a surface with the virus on it. But if you touch your knee and then touch your nose, you might get sick. Regardless of whether or not you’re a pro at not touching your face, you probably just don’t want any chance of carrying the virus around, and getting all soapy will help prevent that. MIT Technology Review recommends that you rinse off after every outing, and ditto for your kids. They also recommend washing your clothes or leaving coats and shoes out in the sun after every outing, too.
But what about showering for other aspects of your health? Showering too often, especially with strong soaps and hot water, can dry out your skin. Not only can dry skin be painful and itchy, it can also trigger flare-ups of skin conditions like psoriasis or eczema. Not showering enough can have similar effects and lead to ailments like dermatitis neglecta, caused by a buildup of dead skin cells. This typically takes more than a week of not bathing, though. It’s ultimately up to you (and perhaps those you share space with) how often you should shower to keep your skin comfortable — this is usually somewhere between once a day to two or three times a week. It’s really a matter of preference and how active you are: If you feel the need to shower multiple times a day, that’s on you. The more often you shower, though, the shorter and less hot they should be for the sake of your skin.
But if there were ever a time to experiment with getting that water bill down, it’s now. You might even find that your hair and skin look better with fewer showers. Remember, no one can smell you through a webcam.