Showering. It’s a ritual that most of us take at least a few times a week, whilst some even do it daily. Most of us enjoy a shower and can see the benefits of taking them, but there’s one question that fiercely divides opinion.
How long should we shower for? Some people seem to hop in and out, done after just a handful of minutes, whilst others swear by showering for up to thirty minutes or more. So what is the optimum shower time? Is there one?
Although the most important thing is to make sure you bathe regularly in the first place, the experts say that there is such a thing as too short, or too long, showers. In this article, we’ll be answering the age-old question. How long should a shower take?
How Long Should You Spend In The Shower?
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that the average shower in America lasts roughly eight minutes. Happily, according to the experts, that is practically slap bang in the middle of the recommended shower time of five to ten minutes.
The average person, then, spends about the right amount of time in the shower.
Of course, how long you spend in the shower is also determined to a great extent by what you’re doing whilst you’re in there.
Whilst a basic clean and rinse of the body should take no more than ten minutes, performing more complicated personal hygiene tasks, like washing/conditioning your hair or shaving your legs, can take fifteen minutes or more.
These are important tasks in their own right, so if you end up running over 10 minutes to get these things done, don’t worry too much about it.
Can You Shower For Too Long?
The biggest risk is posed by over-showering as opposed to under-showering. Whilst our skin needs water to stay hydrated, long, hot showers can create skin problems, especially for those already suffering with skin conditions like dermatitis or eczema.
The problem with long showers is that showering with hot water for long periods of time actually has the reverse effect of what a shower should do for the skin.
A brief warm shower will hydrate the skin and cleanse it, and combined with the application of a moisturizer after the shower will lock the moisture into the skin, keeping it healthy.
On other hand, whilst a long hot shower might seem like a treat on a cold winter’s morning, you won’t be doing your skin any favors.
Rather than locking moisture in, you’ll be stripping your skin of the natural oils and opening up your pores, which will allow moisture to escape.
The cold, often dry air of winter makes it a particularly bad time to linger in the shower for too long- especially if you suffer from eczema.
Your skin is likely to be especially dry and sensitive at that time of year, and the heat of a long hot shower can damage the skin’s surface and cause inflammation.
If you’re environmentally conscious, too, it’s worth noting that shorter showers are better for the environment. They use less energy to warm the water (in the case of hot showers) and are much more efficient in terms of water usage.
Can You Shower For Too Short A Time?
Whilst over-showering can damage your skin, under-showering is not without its consequences either. Unsurprisingly, the biggest risk associated with not showering for long enough is inadequately cleaning the skin.
Every human has a host of organisms and bacteria that live on the skin, known as normal flora, that are actually there to help protect our skin.
Nonetheless, not showering for long enough can tilt the balance too far in favor of these organisms and lead to the overgrowth of bacteria and flora on the skin.
One result is to increase the chances of skin infections. However, another outcome of consistently under-showering is the risk of developing body odor.
No one wants to gain a reputation for smelling, so if you want to avoid this you should dedicate at least five minutes to each shower session.
Does Shower Temperature Matter?
We’ve hinted at it so far, but you’ll probably not be surprised to learn that the temperature of the showers you take matters. In truth, there are benefits to hot, warm, and cold showers.
Scalding hot showers, as we’ve already established, aren’t great for your skin, stripping its natural defenses and leading to dry and itchy skin. It’s worth noting that this is an issue that becomes more pronounced with age as the skin thins.
However, the steam generated by a hot shower can be great for dealing with a cold or a chesty cough by loosening the mucus blocking your airways.
Warm showers have the effect of soothing the skin, and are much better for people with skin conditions than hot showers. They also help to keep the water bill down.
Cold showers are a great way to cool off on a hot day, can calm aggravated or itchy skin, can help reduce muscle pains and soreness, and perhaps most importantly, can jolt you awake in the morning!
How Often Should You Shower?
Of course, how long you actually stand underneath the showerhead is only a small part of the calculation. You also need to give some thought to how often you shower. For the vast majority of people, once a day or once every other day is fine.
However, it goes without saying that playing sports or partaking in other strenuous physical activities may merit more than one shower a day to clean the body of sweat.
A shower should take between five and ten minutes. Overshowering can strip your skin of natural oils and dry out the skin, whilst showering for less than five minutes may not clean the skin thoroughly enough to prevent body odor and other side effects.
Warm or lukewarm water is preferred as it is less harsh on the skin than hot water. Shorter (though not too short!) and cooler showers also have the added benefit of being better for the environment.