You Can Stop Showering! (Pretty People Say It’s Totally Cool)

Shower Time by Jiuck

Did anyone else wish that Catherine Saint Louis’ Sunday Styles story came with a scratch and sniff test this week?

It’s filled with all these really pretty people, like the super cute organic skin care maker, the built L.A. actor guy, and also this completely hot eyeglass salesman who don’t bathe or wear deodorant with any regularity and thus, must battle against the unwashed stigma every single day like so:

The few times Mr. Felix has mentioned on a date that he goes without deodorant, he said, things have quickly turned, well, sour. “It’s weird, but I don’t smell,” Mr. Felix will announce. Then, he said, “the comment is always, ‘You think you don’t smell.’ ” (Mr. Felix admitted that he lives in horror of having the rare fetid day.)

Time for an over-share: I take at least one no-shower day per week, more out of laziness than any higher environmental health calling. And by the end of the day, I can smell myself. Um, a lot. So I’m puzzling over this one.

On the one hand, I love the whole less is more beauty ethos (as championed by those infrequent showerers over on No More Dirty Looks). Post-Beauty U, I’m having fun cutting down on a lot of the beauty work that became non-negotiable while I was there. Again, lazy (and cheap!) but: Basically every time I run out of a personal care product right now, I’m making a game out of seeing how long I can last without it. So far, I’ve nixed facewash and hair spray (honey, baking soda, and apple cider vinegar are filling in nicely). I did cave and buy conditioner after about a week of tangled straw hair, but I’m about to use up the last of my body lotion and shower gel any minute now. Anything. Could. Happen.

Plus, as Saint Louis explains, there are plenty of great reasons for showering less from healthy bacteria to not over-drying your skin. And you can’t turn around right now without falling over yet more research about all of the chemicals in our personal care products. Just last week, Anne C. Steinemann, PhD, a professor of environmental engineering at the University of Washington, published a new study that found an average of 17 unlisted chemicals in 25 commonly used scented lotions, soaps, shampoos, cleaning supplies and other consumer goods. Of the 133 different chemicals detected, nearly a quarter are classified as toxic or hazardous under at least one federal law.

On the other hand: I have definitely smelled friends who have gotten on this bandwagon and have maybe, ah, adjusted to how they smell sans soap? So if people are telling Mr. Felix, “you think you don’t smell,” I’m thinking maybe they are politely trying to give him a hint.

Which brings us to the key question: Why is smelling funky considered such social death anyway? Because it’s a (subtle yet pervasive) beauty standard, of course. I started out joking about all the pretty people in the article, but it’s also no accident that the NYT managed to find such fresh-faced beauties to be the spokespeople of Team Dirty. If they’d shown a bunch of older, less conventionally attractive, or — God forbid! — fat people, they couldn’t even have done the story. Because unattractive people not smelling great is not news.

So I guess, we’re doing a funny kind of reclaiming thing here, by saying “hey, you can skip showering and still be totally attractive!” And I like all the environmental health and just-be-lazy reasons for the message. But — maybe because walking around potentially stinky is one beauty hurdle I’m personally not ready to leap over yet — it’s still sitting more like “here’s one more thing beautiful people get to do that the rest of us can only dream about.”


PS. Don’t forget to vote today. Good work.

[Photo: 283/365 [shower time] by Jiuck Gomez via Flickr’s Creative Commons.]



Filed under Beauty Labor, beauty standards, Ingredients

17 responses to “You Can Stop Showering! (Pretty People Say It’s Totally Cool)

  1. I shower most days during the week but definitely not every day. Usually any smells that I do notice are lingering on my clothes and not my body. In that case I can get away with changing my clothes and not showering.
    I ran out of deodorant months ago and never replenished my supply. I don’t think I smell, but who knows.

  2. oliviacw

    I do think it depends a lot on the individual’s body chemistry. I need to bathe and use antiperspirant nearly every day (not just deodorant) or, ick. On the other hand, my husband never uses even deodorant, and he can often not shower for several days and still smell fine if he hasn’t been doing physical labor.

  3. I think that there are two kinds of people in this arena–people who can go without showering every day, and people who can’t. I also think that it may depend on your phase in life.

    For instance, I went for a stint in college without daily showering. I shared a bathroom with three other girls, and there just wasn’t time unless I woke up at 5 am (which I was not going to do). Let’s just say, in retrospect, that wasn’t the best idea ever. The hormones of an 18 year old girl are just not up to the job of letting her not shower.

    But now it’s 20 years later, and I have two kids, and a vastly different hormone mix. Not showering every day came about from not having a minute to myself after my son was born. I also stopped shampoo about two years ago. Results? My hair looks awesome (I wash with water only, and if I really have to put something yucky in my hair for an event, I wash it out with a non-SLS shampoo), and I don’t stink. And believe me, I have enough very good friends who will tell me if it’s bad (usually this comes in the form of an offer to watch the kids while I go take care of myself for a while, but this has only happened a couple of times in the last few years).

    I also think that the less you shower, the less you need to. This is especially true with the hair thing. When you go no shampoo, your hair will go crazy for a few weeks until it gets used to not being washed with SLS. If you have conditioner in it, it will look waxy. But after several weeks of hair detox, you need to do whatever your no shampoo regimen is far less often. (I also highly recommend natural applesauce for stripping conditioner out of hair. Learned that one from my kids by accident.)

    I’ll stop now. Obviously I have big opinions on this one. But I’ll also say that my kids have curly hair. They bathe every day because they’re kids and they play in dirt. But their hair gets a water-only wash on a daily basis and a non-SLS shampoo/no silicone conditioner wash once a week, and their curls are Awesome.

  4. Christina

    For the past year, I’ve showered only every other day. Sometimes I skip showering over the weekend. I’m on a Monday, Wednesday, Friday schedule lately.

    But I disrupt that schedule if I go to the gym or a smoky bar, or some other place/event that’s going to make my hair smell bad.

    It’s done wonders for my hair – my scalp isn’t as dry, my hair doesn’t get as oily and gross on the second day as it did when I showered every day. Second day hair holds curls and other styles better than my freshly cleaned hair. It’s also helped my skin – it’s not as dry as it used to get. My husband loves it; he says I smell more like me by the end of the off day.

    If I think I smell a little ripe, I just rub a wet washcloth over my body. No soap.

    I haven’t used deodorant or antipersperant in 8 or 9 years – since scientists started talking about whether it might be linked to breast cancer. To counter any potential stinkage problems, I shave my armpits regularly (this is key because hair hold smell better than anything – so I do it whenever I shower) and wipe a wet washcloth over them on the days I don’t shower.

    If I stink, no one has been rude enough to tell me.

  5. Christina

    Oh… and I don’t get pit-stains like I used to get…

    Don’t get me wrong. I still get the occasional stain. But it washes out.

    When I was using deodorant and anti-perspirant, it rubbed off onto my clothes and I ended up with rust-colored pit stains that wouldn’t wash out no matter how much stain remover or bleach I used.

  6. I think what I find somewhat disturbing about these trends is just that — they’re trends. If an individual doesn’t want to shower for whatever reason, go her. But it’s when it suddenly becomes somehow de rigueur within a social scene, it just starts to seem kind of lame: “Let’s protest arbitrary standards by setting up equally arbitrary standards of our own!” Being a real nonconformist (to beauty standards or anything else) doesn’t mean doing the exact opposite of what people expect; it means thinking for yourself and forging your own path.

    And for me, at the end of that daily path, there comes a shower.

  7. Ha. I just wrote an un-roast about liking the way I smell when I don’t shower. But despite that, I do shower a lot. Mostly because I assume other people don’t like me quite as much as I like myself 🙂

    Nice post!

  8. I actually only shower every other day, when my hair needs to be washed; of course, though, I shower when I’m really dirty or stinky. I don’t wear deodorant a lot, either, and I’ve never had anyone tell me I was stinky. And trust me – I can smell myself when I’ve gone off. I don’t know about being more attractive when unshowered, but it does give our natural people-smell more reign, and that’s really how we attract mates. So maybe there’s something to it?

  9. Mary Alice

    Wow ummm…. I’m not usually one to reply but this one got me. I shower everyday. Like you Virginia, if I don’t, it’s out of laziness. I don’t like how I feel if I don’t shower. And no deoderant?! Seriously?!! I can’t imagine and would not want to test what happens if I don’t use it. Maybe, as several people commented, my body chemistry is different and I’m just one of those people that can’t not shower and wear deoderant. I’m not saying it’s bad that other people don’t shower, if they don’t smell. I’m simply saying that I need to and am not ashamed to admit it.

  10. Somehow this reminds me of rich, beautiful kids dressing like the homeless–those who are privileged and in positions of power get to pretend that they sleep under a bridge every night. Not everyone gets to make this choice! On a more personal note, my husband is the least smelly person I’ve ever met, and he can get away with infrequent showers and no deodorant. Lucky dog.

  11. Alex

    I feel like smelling isn’t a beauty standard issue nearly so much as a physical reaction issue. We don’t dislike skunk smell because of beauty standards; we dislike it because it’s physically an unpleasant experience, like eating rotten food. And I think people being smelly is like that. It makes me feel kind of nauseous when someone really smells.

  12. Maggie

    I just realized the dude in the pic is totally nekkid, and just the curvature of the reflection is keeping him decent. It made me giggle.

    /12 years old

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  14. John

    I shower once or twice per week, and shower after any physical workout. I also rinse my hair daily. However, I don’t use any soap or shampoo. I just scrub with a luffa sponge and rinse off. After giving up shampoo, my hair is no longer flat and thus I don’t use conditioner, either. Body odor has never been a problem. Like Mr. Felix, I don’t advertise this, since too many people have preconceived notions about showers and body odor.

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  17. Alex

    I’ve never in my whole life showered every day (I’m 20). I shower every three or four days and every day I wash my armpits and girl-parts at the sink (but I do use deodorant every day). This is definitely from me being lazy, but also because my skin and hair are both really dry and wouldn’t be able to cope with hot water every day. It wasn’t until I was 16 that I found out other people shower every day and since then I’ve always lied and pretended I do.
    The point about different body chemistry is very interesting. I’ve always been a little confused/grossed out by the idea that some people sweat enough to need a proper wash everyday if they’ve not been exercising, but I should try to remember that everyone has different bodies.

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