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I Spent a Week Using Body Wipes Instead of Showering

I haven’t taken a shower for nearly a week, and as far as I can tell, no one’s noticed.

Well, I haven’t taken a shower with water in nearly a week.

Instead, twice a day I’ve used a ShowerPill, individually-wrapped, extra-thick antibacterial disposable wipes, to clean my entire body like a baby’s butt.

The product was developed in the mid-2000s by three football players from the University of California at Berkeley — Justin Forsett, Wale Forrester and Wendell Hunter — who lamented how they often had to choose between showering and eating lunch during two-a-day training camp practices. They jokingly wished for a hypothetical “pill” to instantly clean themselves after an exhausting workout.

“We’re trying to be the Gatorade of hygiene,” Forsett told Sports Illustrated in June.

ShowerPill, right, next to a standard baby wipe

The “pills” aren’t huge — about the size of a standard washcloth — but they are four times thicker than baby wipes. They’re alcohol-free, leave no sticky residue and are infused with aloe vera and vitamin E, which leaves your skin feeling nicely nourished (i.e., there’s no need to moisturize afterward). The scent is slightly medicinal; not perfumey but not quite neutral either. That said, it fades pretty quickly after drying.

The packaging proudly declares that the FDA-approved ShowerPills kill “99.99 percent of germs,” including the odor-causing bacteria responsible for B.O. And a testimonial claims that one towel can “take care of my 6’2” / 175 pound frame from head to toe with a bit to spare.”

Forsett donated $100,000 worth of them to residents of Flint, Michigan, because of the city’s water crisis, and he made a similar contribution to homeless communities in Baton Rouge and Haiti after Hurricane Matthew. Given where we’re headed with climate change, mega-droughts and more frequent natural disasters, it isn’t hard to imagine a time when the only shower available will come in the form of a pill (or a wipe that’s branded as a pill).

For now, though, the target consumers are “busy athletes, lunch runners, yoga moms and backpackers who want to be out in nature without reeking of it.”

I’m kind of busy.

And kind of an athlete.

Or at least a regular yoga practitioner, if not a yoga mom. (I do hot yoga, which means there’s a considerable amount of sweat for ShowerPill to mop up after a class and before I venture back out into the real world, hopefully with, at the very least, a neutral scent.)

The application directions read: “To maximize effectiveness, keep wipe folded and use each side on a different body part. Flip wipe over, fold and repeat. Wipe skin thoroughly for at least 30 seconds. Allow skin to air dry. Do not flush.”

I do as I’m told, but I quickly learn my first ShowerPill lesson: It’s best to clean the nether regions last, unless you want to wash your face with your ass crack.

After five consecutive days of bathing exclusively with the ShowerPill, though, I’m mildly impressed: It performed as promised and left me feeling fresh and clean and eliminated B.O.-causing bacteria from my “hot zones” — pits, groin and ass—even after 90 minutes of hot yoga. (Granted, that required a bare minimum of three ShowerPills.)

Paired with a generous application of Old Spice High Endurance Antiperspirant and Deodorant, odor-wise, my lack of showering went undetected for nearly a week. (Or at least it wasn’t so awful that anyone made a point of telling me.)

And it saved me, on average, 20 minutes a day.

That said, on Day Five, I began to develop a chronic itch in more than one “hot zone,” ending my ShowerPill experiment and mercifully sending me to the shower.

Beyond that itch — which was more on me than ShowerPill (at no point is it advised to only use ShowerPills for five days) — the wipe’s glaring deficit is that it isn’t equipped to handle hair. As such, it’s best complemented with a dry shampoo, which worked moderately well for me.

If anything, I found the biggest constraint to be psychological. I’ve come to rely on a hot shower as an integral part of my morning routine, wherein I can problem-solve, meditate and strategize the day ahead. It’s fair to say that patting myself down for three minutes each morning with what amounts to a giant wet-nap left me feeling less than 100 percent.

The ideal ShowerPill consumers, then, are probably those for whom standard bathing is the most difficult: the elderly and bedridden. “Such products have been used and tested extensively in health care,” says Elaine Larson, an infectious disease expert at Columbia University School of Nursing. She points me to a number of scientific reports on the topic, one of which concludes, “The disposable bath is a desirable form of bathing for patients who are unable to bathe themselves in critical care and long-term care settings, and it may even be preferable to the traditional basin bath.”

Diana Schmidtke, a celebrity grooming expert whose clients include George Clooney, Ben Affleck and Wagner Moura (Pablo Escobar on Narcos), tells me, “In a pinch, I can see how this product could help out. It’s a great concept for those who like to work out outdoors during their lunch breaks and then need to head back to work.” She adds that because of her heavy travel schedule, it’d be ideal to have a ShowerPill after a long flight to freshen up on the plane before landing and heading directly to a meeting.

That said, she does think it’s healthier to shower with water every day, especially for those who sweat while they sleep.

And in the end, she and I reach the same conclusion: “I still prefer the feeling of a shower,” she says. “It’s refreshing, clean and awakening!”

Which, for me, beats a bath in a bag every time.