Rethinking the Saturday Night Bath

Friday, June 15, 2018

If you’ve read those charming prairie pioneer books like “Little House on the Prairie,” or if you’ve just watched some old westerns on late night television, you may have come across the quaint old tradition of the Saturday night bath. We tend to chuckle gentle over this practice, but remember, indoor plumbing is a relatively modern convenience. Hauling and heating enough water to fill a tub and luxuriate in the hot water was hard work.

Today, most adults in America hop in the shower at least five times per week, and around 10 percent of us shower more than once per day. But there appears to be some scientific evidence that this kind of cleanliness isn’t necessarily next to godliness, and it might actually be harmful to your health, not to mention putting a strain on the environment. Taking a hot shower and lathering up with antibacterial soaps and shampoos can dry out your skin, making it more susceptible to infection.

Still, waiting until Saturday night might be a bit much for most of us. So, just how often should we bathe? Like most of life, there is no one size fits all answer. If you work in a labor-intensive job where you sweat profusely, you probably need to shower every day to remove the perspiration that is left behind, which can serve as a breeding ground for harmful bacteria. But if your occupation is more sedentary, you can probably get away with showering two to three times per week. If you just like the feel of a daily shower, here are some tips from the University of Pittsburg Medical Center.

  1. Turn down the temperature – Hot water can lead to dry, itchy skin. If your skin is red after a shower or bath, the water is too hot.
  2. Take shorter showers – Spending less time in the shower not only helps your skin feel better, saves water (and money!).
  3. Ditch anti-bacterial soaps – Unless your health care professional recommends otherwise, regular bath soap is just fine for removing most harmful bacteria for normal bathing. Stronger soaps can strip away your skin’s natural oil barrier. A mild, fragrance-free body cleanser or oil might be a more soothing choice.
  4. Pat, don’t rub – When it comes time to dry off, use a soft towel and pat your body rather than rubbing it down, leaving your self a bit damp.
  5. Moisturize (it’s not just for women!) – Your skin is your body’s largest organ, and if it’s not comfortable, you’re not comfortable! Use light, noncomedogenic, water-based moisturizer right after you bath while your body is still damp to lock in moisture and keep your skin feeling soothed and fresh.