Since the 1940's, Americans have been told to shower daily, and we've been mostly obliging. A growing movement of people who might smell like the inside of the train during rush hour claim that this isn't necessary.
Some say that since manual labor is no longer standard for American workers, corresponding amounts of sudsing are superfluous.
To the converted, there are many reasons to cleanse less and smell more like yourself. "We don't need to wash the way we did when we were farmers," said Katherine Ashenburg, 65, the author of "The Dirt on Clean: An Unsanitized History." Since the advent of cars and labor-saving machines, she continued, "we have never needed to wash less, and we have never done it more."
Please, no one show this article to my upstairs neighbor, who I can smell descending the stairs on the daily.
Other people are opting to go without washing their hair, and sales of "dry shampoos" are skyrocketing.
While it may offend the delicate sensibilities of some in society who are accustomed to the scent of our overly perfumed bodies, showering less actually boasts personal health benefits.
Resist the urge to recoil at this swath of society: They may be on to something. Of late, researchers have discovered that just as the gut contains good bacteria that help it run more efficiently, so does our skin brim with beneficial germs that we might not want to wash down the drain. "Good bacteria are educating your own skin cells to make your own antibiotics," said Dr. Richard Gallo, chief of the dermatology division at the University of California, San Diego, and "they produce their own antibiotics that kills off bad bacteria."
Additionally, there's a lot of money to be made by telling people that they need to use self-cleaning products every day or face being socially ostracized, especially for women. Ads that play on a woman's fear of having an unpleasant odor have been pervasive for generations ( notably in this "EW YOUR VAGINA SMELLS! DOUCHE WITH LYSOL!" ad from 1926 and this WANT A RAISSE? HOPE YOUR VAGINA DOESN'T SMELL! ad from earlier this year). We'd all do ourselves a favor by stopping and parsing out what is being sold to us, and why we feel like we need to buy it.
I welcome this trend, as I've been skipping the occasional shower for years out of sheer laziness and now I can tell everyone it's because I'm doing it for my health and to make a social statement.
The Great Unwashed [NYT]
Image via Wikipedia.