How Often Should You Wash Your Hair, Shower, and Other Hygiene Tasks?
Doctors weigh in on how often you should be washing your hair, hands, body, and more.
Good personal hygiene is critical for living a healthy life. That's because, as New York-based cardiologist Steven Reisman, MD, explains, washing your hair, brushing your teeth, and showering regularly helps get rid of germs, parasites, and other potentially infectious agents. "On a daily basis, we come into contact with germs and viruses that can cause illness," he says. "Prevention with a regular program of personal hygiene is important to avoid getting sick."
And while you're likely already aware of which basic hygiene tasks you should be doing, you might not realize just how often you should be doing them. We talked to doctors and other experts to get the low-down on how frequently you should be washing your hair, your hands, your feet, and more. Chances are high there are some hygiene tasks you're falling short on and others you're actually doing too much!
How often should you wash your hair?
How often you should be washing your hair seems to be a popular question these days. And while some say you should wash your hair every day, others claim less is better. That's because there is no single answer to how often people should shampoo—it comes down to both personal preference and hair type.
"Every person's hair is different in terms of their age, ethnic background, activity level, and hair type—which all determine how often to wash your hair," dermatologist Shilpi Khetarpal, MD, told the Cleveland Clinic.
She notes that older women, African American women, and women with drier hair in general should wash less often. "Even with daily exercise, you don't need to wash your hair daily," Khetarpal says. "I typically advise patients to keep to a standard hair washing schedule, whether it is three times per week, weekly, or once per month, regardless of activity level."
How often should you take a shower?
You might be surprised to hear that you're probably showering more than necessary. According to Medical News Today, some people—namely, less active older adults—can get away with showering just once or twice a week. Children between the ages of 6 and 11 only need to take a shower every few days, while teenagers should be taking a shower daily. And, of course, people who do lots of exercise need to shower more often.
Basically, if you feel clean, then don't worry about showering for no reason. Bathing more than necessary removes good bacteria from the skin, making you more prone to infection.
How often should you brush your teeth?
You should be brushing your teeth every morning and every night before you go to bed, says Kelly Hancock, a registered dental hygienist and oral health blogger with Toothbrush Life. Hancock also suggests cleaning between your teeth at night to strengthen them and to give your toothpaste a chance to "work [its] magic."
And while cleaning between your teeth is important when it comes to oral hygiene, that doesn't necessarily mean you have to floss per se. According to Daniel Balaze, DMD, a Southern California-based dentist, many people use interdental picks, soft picks, rubber tips, water picks, and hydro-flossers to clean between their teeth instead.
How often should you wash your hands?
According to WebMD, it's not the number of times you wash your hands per day that matters; it's the situations in which you need to make sure to wash up that do. So, what are those situations exactly? Before, during, and after you prepare food; before you eat; after you use the bathroom; after you blow your nose, cough, or sneeze; after you touch an animal; after you feed your pet; and after you touch garbage.
How often should you cut your nails?
While getting a manicure may be an indulgence, cutting your nails is an important personal hygiene task. At the end of the day, both your fingernails and your toenails "should be kept short as needed because dirt can cause infection," says Matthew Ross, co-founder and COO at The Slumber Yard. Though there is no secret formula for how often you should cut your nails, when you notice dirt collecting under your nails, break out the clippers.
How often should you wash your sheets?
Most of us tend not to think too much about cleaning and changing our sheets, but they actually harbor a ton of bacteria and germs, according to Ross. In fact, they need to be washed far more frequently than you think. "It doesn't matter how many times you shower each day. You should be washing your sheets and pillow covers weekly," he says. "By doing so, you're getting rid of bacteria and resetting your sleep environment."
How often should you wash your feet?
People tend to skip this important personal hygiene task because they are under the assumption that getting their feet wet and soapy in the shower is good enough. However, according to Velimir Petkov, DPM, a New Jersey-based podiatrist, you should wash your feet daily.
"Your feet get covered with bacteria much like the rest of your body. They can also get sweaty if you wear closed shoes or collect dust and dirt if you walk around barefoot," he says. "Failing to wash them thoroughly can cause unpleasant smell, a staph infection, athlete's foot, and plantar warts."