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I want to begin by making it clear that I shower at least once per day, wear deodorant at all times, and while I am not a neat freak, I take care of my personal hygiene. I am asking this question out of curiosity, not in an attempt to justify being filthy.

I would imagine that humans have been in the habit of bathing frequently for a relatively short period of time, and that prehistoric humans rarely, if ever, bathed their entire bodies, and only washed specific parts of their bodies when it was actually necessary (i.e., if they had to remove mud, blood, etc).

Even today, we tend to bathe for reasons that have nothing to do with health. We do it out of habit, and for social reasons (e.g., not wanting to smell bad). These are aesthetic and cultural motivations, not related to health.

To be clear, I am not asking about washing hands, which obviously does have positive effects; I am interested in the question of whether bathing the entire body is beneficial or detrimental.

Is there any health benefit or detriment, whether related to skin health, hair care, internal health, or anything else, from bathing the entire body?


  • <Comment deleted.> Please do not answer in comments. An actual answer, though, with references, is always greatly appreciated. – anongoodnurse Aug 8 '15 at 15:03
  • I have two friends who almost never wash their hands. They get sick less than my friends who wash their hands all the time. So, without a controlled study, it's hard to know if even washing hands has a positive effect. It seems like it should, but it's hard to know without good data. – RockPaperLz- Mask it or Casket Jan 30 '16 at 1:28
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One big problem here is that it's difficult to do double blind studies. One is then forced to use more theoretical arguments, but because medical science is not a hard science like physics, such arguments are not very reliable. The best we can then do is argue from biological plausibility, in this case we should take serious the fact that Homo Sapiens evolved more than 200,000 years ago while people only started to take baths relatively recently. The adaptation via natural selection over hundreds of millions years since the first land animals evolved is thus still relevant for us. The human microbiome consisting of all the microbes that live on our skins, in our intestines is known to play non-trivial roles, but we don't know a lot about how this impacts our health (from rigorous randomly controlled trials)

This means that the null hypothesis should assume that never washing, bathing or taking showers is beneficial for health over even occasionally doing so. You should need strong evidence to overturn this null hypothesis. Such strong evidence is lacking, what evidence there is there is consistent with this null hypothesis. E.g. we can read here:

One hunter-gatherer community was found to not only have a higher diversity of bacteria, but only one in 1,500 suffered from an allergy - compared with one in three in the UK.

Theoretical arguments can e.g. be found here.

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In my question I link above, I have listed 7 reasons why you should take a bath:

If you are about to think that not shower/bath because it's make your skin dry, there are other reasons to reconsider. According to Medical Daily1, there is 7 reasons to take a cool shower:

  1. Increases Alertness
  2. “Seal” the pores in the skin and scalp
  3. Improves Immunity and Circulation
  4. Stimulates Weight Loss
  5. Speeds Up Muscle Soreness and Recovery
  6. Eases Stress

However, in one of his book, Intimate Behavior2, Desmond Morris has explained the deep down reason why we feel relax when bathing as well as swimming.

It is because we try to mimic the feeling when we are inside our mother's uterus. When our senses start to develop, the first tactile feeling we have is the amniotic fluid. And since inside the womb, we are fed and protected, so we attach the safe feeling to the soaking feeling. Therefore, when we bathing or swimming, it will instinctively trigger the relaxation. Other benefits are the consequences of this.


  1. Medical Daily, 7 Surprising Cold Shower Benefits For Your Body And Skin
  2. If you interest in this topic, I suggest you to read the whole book. Another thing that attached to the safe feeling is the mother's heartbeat. Music has beat.
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  • 1
    Care to explain why, downvoter? – Ooker Sep 28 '15 at 9:17

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