Bath vs shower: which one is more beneficial to overall health and hygiene

Yes, baths are great for people with skin conditions such as eczema (it’s more what you add to the bath – in this case, oats), but they’re not quite as beneficial as showering.

All in all, a shower is actually better for your skin due to the fact that showers expose the body to less water than a bath. Whether it’s a bath or a long shower, exposing your skin to too much water can strip it of its natural oils. With too much water or frequent showering, the skin’s surface can break down, leading to irritation and inflammation.

To go one step further, showering and/or bathing too frequently can cause more harm than good. Exposing your skin to too much water more often than you should can dehydrate your skin, wash away beneficial bacteria, leave your skin irritated and/or inflamed and increase risk of infection. The skin does a pretty efficient job of cleaning itself, so you don’t need to scrub yourself down all the time to stay hygienic.

Some people prefer soaking for hours in a relaxing bubble bath whilst others prefer a quick and refreshing shower, but which one is actually preferable?

After a heated debate on the GLAMOUR editorial call, we’ve grilled Medical Director, Dr Earim Chaudry from wellness platform Manual, on the benefits of bathing and showering and which option is actually the best for your health and hygiene.

Are there specific benefits to bath over shower and visa versa?

The ideal way to keep yourself clean is to take short, lukewarm showers and only use soap around the groin area, feet and armpits – basically anywhere that gives off odour after a particularly hot day or a workout.

Your average bar of soap is designed to to remove oils from the skin, so using that soap all over your body means you might be stripping your skin of some beneficial natural oils.

Are there specific instances where you should pick one over the other? E.g. bath for sleep or a shower after a sweaty workout

If you’ve had a particularly stressful day and need to wind down, baths are incredibly beneficial to your wellbeing. Hot baths before bed can be great for you because they warm us up. Increased body temperature at night helps synchronise our natural circadian rhythms, leading to better, deeper sleep, along with increased overall wellbeing. Decreases in stress hormones (like cortisol) have been reported with warm bathing as well. It has also been shown that water bathing may also help the balance of the feel good neurotransmitter, serotonin.

A 2018 study conducted in Japan looked at the correlation between people taking baths and overall health (both mental and physical). In the study, researchers from the Japan Health and Research Center, Tokyo City University and Jichi Medical University found a significant drop in fatigue, stress and pain in those taking baths compared to those taking a shower.

How often should people be washing to stay hygienic?

There’s a lot of conflicting advice out there on how frequently people should bathe or shower. Many dermatologists out there would recommend a shower every other day or two to three times a week. In warmer weather conditions, you might not feel comfortable with that frequency, so taking a shower every day certainly isn’t the end of the world. That’s especially the case if you’re highly active as well.

If you want to try showering every other day, on the days that you don’t shower, give yourself a sponge bath and wash your face, armpits, and groin with a washcloth.

For optimal skin health, don’t shower using hot water, use warm or lukewarm water instead and limit shower time to 5-10 minutes. This is not only good for you, but also beneficial to the environment.

The conclusion

When it comes to hygiene, the environment and your skin, short, lukewarm/warm showers are the way to go. If you’re looking at mental wellbeing and improved sleep, then try hot baths at night to relieve muscle tension and get your body temperature to a good place.

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