We tend to believe the more we shower, the cleaner we are. We vigorously lather up our bodies with soap to kill any germs lingering on our skin, but rinsing off every day could lead to more bacteria than we started with. So, how often should we actually shower?

The answer: It depends. Those of us who work strenuous labor-intensive jobs, live in hot, humid areas, or exercise should shower daily. It's not about body odor, but the perspiration left behind on our skin that provides the breeding ground for bacteria to grow. Excess oil can clog the pores, leading to facial and body acne, or acne-like red bumps and pustules.

However, regular bathing can be harmful to the body if we don't perspire much. It dries the skin, which can open gaps for infection-causing germs to slip through. Frequent bathing while our skin is already dry may increase the odds of developing a weaker immune system because it strips the skin of natural oils while disrupting the skin's immune system-supporting bacteria.

There's no clear-cut difference between a shower or bath, though baths are more gentle for people who have skin conditions like dermatitis and eczema. 

“People think they’re showering for hygiene or to be cleaner, but bacteriologically, that’s not the case.” Dr. Elaine Larson, an infectious disease expert and associate dean for research at Columbia University School of Nursing told TIME.

Woman under the shower How often you should shower depends on various factors, like perspiration and skin type. Photo courtesy of Jody Lee Smith, U.S. Marine Corps

Larson has found antibacterial soaps and cleaning products we use in our homes aren’t any better than plain old soap at lowering the risk for infectious diseases. Moreover, scrubbing and exfoliating doesn’t do much to our skin.

So, what's the ideal shower frequency?

Doctors say when it comes to our health, once or twice a week is recommended. However, we can shower daily and not lather our whole bodies. Focusing on areas that produce pungent smells, like our pitts, butt, and genitals is a better alternative for those who like to shower more frequently.

Washing our hands and clothes will help remove the dead skin cells and grime our bodies accumulate without us suffering an ill health effects. However, the chemistry of each person’s skin is different, including our scalp, so showering everyday may not be as dangerous to some as it is to others. Relatively speaking, if you’re in good health, skipping a shower every once in a while won’t do any harm.