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au naturel
November 3, 2010 10:43 AM   Subscribe


 
Two words: witch hazel.
posted by No Robots at 10:46 AM on November 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


Not in my vicinity.

[yes yes, off to rtfa but needed to make my emphatic point first]
posted by The Lady is a designer at 10:47 AM on November 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


ah, over dramatization of the situation

She contends that a soapy washcloth under her arms, between her legs and under her feet is all she needs to get “really clean.” On the go, underarm odor is wiped away with a sliced lemon.
posted by The Lady is a designer at 10:49 AM on November 3, 2010


Like all things, it depends on your definition of success. Plenty of people in Williamsburg, Brooklyn 'succeed' quite fine without ever making the acquaintance of a bar of soap, a toothbrush, a laundry machine, underwear or basic lessons in manners.
posted by spicynuts at 10:50 AM on November 3, 2010 [4 favorites]


Are these unwashed getting oral because if so...man...I don't even know how to follow up with that.
posted by stormpooper at 10:53 AM on November 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


You'll pry my shower from my cold, dead, dirty hands.
posted by kbanas at 10:53 AM on November 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


Can you succeed? Maybe.
But the question is why?

I know that YMMV, but I am sure that I am not alone that a nice hot shower on a cool morning or after an intense day exercising or working is more than just getting clean, but it is one of the joys of modern living.
posted by bitteroldman at 10:53 AM on November 3, 2010 [27 favorites]


"No more than three" showers a week is basically one every other day. Depending on your lifestyle and physiology, this sounds perfectly reasonable to me. In fact that's about (!!!) the schedule that I'm on. And I use a little baking soda instead of shampoo. And in the summer, I use baking soda instead of deodorant too.

PEOPLE DOING WHAT THEY GOTTA DO, BEING THEMSELVES just doesn't seem like the big scary story this writer thinks it is.
posted by hermitosis at 10:54 AM on November 3, 2010 [10 favorites]


It's kind of a hard subject to gauge because if you know someone isn't washing, you are probably getting a bad impression of that non-activity. Like, you have 10 coworkers 3 of whom never shower and 1 of whom stinks. You can tell that 1 person isn't showering and conclude that it's a bad idea. You never know about the other 2.
posted by DU at 10:54 AM on November 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


Okay, it's ridiculous for this to be a trend. It may be a trend in news coverage, but that doesn't mean that the variation in people's hygiene approaches is a trend.
posted by entropone at 10:55 AM on November 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


The Week asks, "Can you succeed without showering?"

Sure, but only if you're downwind.
posted by schleppo at 10:55 AM on November 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


Deodorant clogs your emotions.
posted by breezeway at 10:56 AM on November 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


One thing people who feel inclined to believe that they don't smell bad when they don't wash needs to understand is this: you don't smell your own odour the way other people do. Boy, do you not.

Now get a bloody wash like civilised human beings, you idle, soap-dodging gets.
posted by Decani at 10:57 AM on November 3, 2010 [11 favorites]


Needs a "whoresbath" tag.
posted by Joe Beese at 10:57 AM on November 3, 2010 [9 favorites]


It also depends on how oily you are naturally, where you live, and how you live. Living in coastal California, you can survive on showering “no more than three times a week,” and less if you haven't been “working out vigorously.” But some people have really oily hair by nature, requiring something to address what starts to look like "greasy hair." But if you have to trek around in a full suit in hot weather, you'll get stinky.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:58 AM on November 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


These "some people" pictured in the NYT appear to be folks who never have to be near dirt for any reason save a spot of organic gardening, can change clothes several times a day, and who are lying their fucking faces off.

So the real question is, "After you succeed, can you stop showering without coming off as an insufferable asshole?" Hm, I *wonder* what the answer to that might be?
posted by mobunited at 10:59 AM on November 3, 2010 [12 favorites]


Was there any substantiation to the claim that antiperspirant contributes to Alzheimer's? Or is that an urban legend? I seem to remember it having something to do with depositing aluminum in the brain, but that sounds like a myth. But my memory, she's not what she used to be.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 10:59 AM on November 3, 2010


This is genuinely weird to me. Every day I shower (twice on gym days), use deodorant, and even a hint of high-end cologne. And I still regularly wonder if I'm a disgusting, ungroomed slob. Doing what these people suggest is unthinkable.
posted by naju at 11:00 AM on November 3, 2010 [8 favorites]


I haven't used deodorant for many years, and even the brutally honest and persnickety Mrs. Everichon has not commented. I do like a hot shower, though, mainly for the hedonic aspect.
posted by everichon at 11:00 AM on November 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Good lord, Balrog, it's right there in the first freaking article. *facepalm*. Teach me to rtfa.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 11:00 AM on November 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't shower very often [we don't have hot water, and our apartment is unheated], nevertheless, I get along just fine. I attribute it to the fact that everyone in Baltimore smells bad. I don't have much to add beyond that.
posted by cloeburner at 11:02 AM on November 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


In response to the not-showering trend, I submit the following: on a Bus Eireann journey from Dublin to Limerick (I was going on to Ennistymon), we stopped at a little town along the way to pick up some passengers. A young man got on and sat next to me. His hair hadn't been washed, and the collar of his coat had a ring of grease that indicated that he wasn't in the habit of washing his hair frequently. And he scratched his scalp every 20 seconds from then until we got to Limerick. Echh.

I have other, similar stories of being trapped on a bus with someone who was clearly dirty and smelly from not having washed.

I really hope this doesn't become a trend.
posted by LN at 11:02 AM on November 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


[insert snide joke about the French here]
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:03 AM on November 3, 2010


Unless its a retrotrend back a couple of hundred years when showers and baths were once a season or considered bad for the health.

Some might argue that the bathing rituals of the Romans went too far, and in part the asceticism of the early Middle Ages was a reaction to the hedonism of imperial Rome that found such expression in their public bathhouses. Many of the early Christians took an entirely different viewpoint than the Romans about the body, regarding it as a place of sin to be conquered by the spirit. Dirt and disregard for excessive personal hygiene were regarded as appropriate responses to a sinful world, while bathing and personal luxury were regarded as excessively (or sinfully) indulgent – attitudes that to this day still find occasional expression in our culture. But as the plagues that periodically ravaged Europe during the Middle Ages demonstrated, personal hygiene plays a practical as well as a spiritual role. Via

I had this habit in undergrad but as someone said above, a nice hot shower can be addictive and now I just couldn't imagine going without - even on a weekend when I've been surfing the blue instead of getting out of the pjs all day I'll still have that habitual shower to nip out to the grocery

then again, which engineering undergrad is the epitome of je ne sais quoi anyway?
posted by The Lady is a designer at 11:03 AM on November 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Deodorants, specifically the fragrances used in deodorants, are mild allergens to me, and I've found that spending my spare time scratching at my pits just doesn't look right. (For much the same reason, I don't use fabric softener sheets.)

So I've abandoned the idea of deodorant in most cases, but I do shower every morning and vigorously attend to the pits. If that's not enough, I apply an alcohol-based disinfectant and really kill the stink (the tingle means it's working!). I don't generate enough odor to get through two shirts in an indoor work setting most days. And if I do, I've been known to slip into the bathroom for a touch-up.
posted by parliboy at 11:03 AM on November 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


(insert snide joke about double-posting here)
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:04 AM on November 3, 2010 [13 favorites]


I almost never use shampoo. I have curly dry-ish hair and every shampoo I've ever used just makes it frizzy and poofy. I do shower and rinse my hair every day though, because it feels awesome and otherwise I feel kinda gross. I agree with hermitosis above though, 3 times a week probably wouldn't get you very stinky if you changed clothes and stuff.
posted by ghharr at 11:05 AM on November 3, 2010


I grew up in a household where showering and hygiene and "grooming" were next to (or replaced) godliness. My parents are still shocked when I visit them and don't shower or shave.

I think I became aware that this was a deeply-ingrained generational thing when I visited Disneyland with them recently, and noticed that the toiletries in the Disney hotel room we stayed at contained a quote from the Mickey Mouse Club on the back. To paraphrase, it said, "Is everybody fresh and clean and ready? Then, on we go!" Looking at pictures of my parents in the 50's, they looked like they and all their classmates and friends were members in good standing of the Mickey Mouse Club.

So this was the message passed on to our generation and future generations: "If you don't look neatly groomed, and you actually smell like a natural person and not like [some cloying scent], you are poor, insane, or carry disease."

Personally [TMI], I don't shower often, and more for relaxation than any other reason. I have never gotten the frank pull-aside that I smell; in fact, the women I have dated over the years (except one) have actually enjoyed my Purity of Essence.

That said, baby-wipes are great for your ass; it's the shit-stink that really hits my nose the wrong way. Other than that, people smell pretty OK!

Save water! Don't shower so often!
posted by not_on_display at 11:05 AM on November 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


How do you wake up in the morning without a shower? And how do you get rid of bed-head without washing your hair?

Seriously, showering is about more than cleaning for me anyway. Crazy kids...
posted by pixlboi at 11:06 AM on November 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


You know how all you nasty motherfuckers got bedbugs? And you're all like "Aw man I got bedbugs and I don't know why!" You know why? It's cause you nasty. Wash your ass.
posted by ND¢ at 11:07 AM on November 3, 2010 [69 favorites]


I'm with everichon -- it must be twenty years since I have used deodorant or antiperspirant but even the most perceptive and blunt of intimates have told me I have no odour of any sort, beyond the trace produced by my choice of soap or shampoo. If I go 24 hours without bathing or showering, though, all bets are off. If nothing else, I start to feel slightly slimy.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 11:07 AM on November 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


What are we, French?

If I'm walking near one of these people with my boombox blasting, and they ask me to turn it down, I'll request they do the same with their odor first. It's part of the public contract; respect others' space and senses. Covering your stink with scent (even hypo-allergenic) is akin to putting on headphones and then singing along at the top of your lungs.

If you want to or got to do it for your own self, cool. But don't be self-righteous about it, and don't make it out as some kind of lifestyle choice.
posted by Eideteker at 11:07 AM on November 3, 2010


I hope these people use moist toilet tissue if they have lovers.
posted by Summer at 11:08 AM on November 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't shower very often [we don't have hot water, and our apartment is unheated]

Wait, but you have Internet?
posted by randomination at 11:09 AM on November 3, 2010 [6 favorites]


IDK, I've noticed it really depends where in the world you are. In NYC, no matter what the season, I definitely need to shower every single day or I feel gritty and disgusting. But when I was in Beijing, every other day was fine - which seems really weird, in retrospect, as Beijing is far more polluted.

Anyway, I definitely agree that most people who are utterly certain that their extended periods of nonbathingness has not led to noticeable odor are, in fact, just unaware of their own odor. Sorry dudes. Someone had to tell you eventually, so it might as well be strangers on the internets.
posted by elizardbits at 11:10 AM on November 3, 2010


"Some people have all but abandoned the idea of soap, shampoo or deodorant and yet still have friends, relationships and jobs."

Yes, but this is true only for alternate definitions of the variables "friends," "relationships" and "jobs."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:11 AM on November 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


Needs a "whoresbath" tag.

[insert snide joke about the French here]


We call it a pommy bath around here.

Seriously, though, in truly hot climates people are often a lot less stinky and flaky if they wash two or three times a day in cold water, without soap.
posted by Ahab at 11:11 AM on November 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


A lot of people are taken aback when I tell them I only shower once-a-week. It's a hard thing to imagine, because our culture has so closely identified the act of showering with numerous little things, like waking up, looking fresh, and not smelling.

I do put on deodorant, clean clothes (except for pants), and brush my teeth every day, but I definitely do not shower, and no one ever knows better, till I tell them, and then they're like, you're a dirty bastard! I tell them it's all in their head, because that's exactly where it is. I know when I smell, I know when it's time. If I actually went to the gym and got exercise other than walking, or if I worked in a labor-intensive job, I would certainly shower more frequently. But given my current lifestyle, I do not need to shower every day, no sir, and no one is the wiser.
posted by krysalist at 11:12 AM on November 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


I don't shower very often [we don't have hot water, and our apartment is unheated]

How is that legal? Does your apartment have an occupancy permit or are you squatting in an abandoned warehouse?
posted by octothorpe at 11:12 AM on November 3, 2010


Seriously, showering is about more than cleaning for me anyway.

This - for me at least. Those who have been close enough to me to have been around when I shower have often been amazed about how quickly I shower. But the fact of the matter is that showering isn't really about cleansing for me a lot of the time (other than shampoo in my hair) -- it's about waking up.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 11:12 AM on November 3, 2010


I had a plan.

I have this gift membership at a redonkulously swanky gym. I figured if I can't make myself go to this (obnoxiously comfortable Dollhouse-resembling) gym, then I just fundamentally can't gym. Thus, the plan.

I would only shower if I was at the gym. That's it. I'd have to make a choice between being stinky or being active. This would play straight into my deep-seated vanity and force me to gym.

I ended up developing a love of long baths.
posted by The Whelk at 11:12 AM on November 3, 2010 [8 favorites]


I'm oily and sweaty and have long hair. I shower every day, and wash well (with soap!). When I do something really smelly like hang out next to a campfire or the like, I'll break out the shampoo. Otherwise, I just give my hair a thorough rinsing in the shower, comb it out afterwards, put it in a ponytail, and that's it. Nope, scalp doesn't itch, hair doesn't stink, oil doesn't drip, dandruff doesn't appear. Perhaps I'm lucky. Last year, I washed my hair when camping season was over, just about this time of year, actually, then didn't wash it again until the season started up again in the spring. 4 months, I think it was. It'll likely happen that way again this year. Come smell my hair, if you want.
posted by MrMoonPie at 11:13 AM on November 3, 2010


and no one ever knows better, till I tell them

Or, so they tell you...
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:13 AM on November 3, 2010


Washing with a washcloth every day is washing. And lemon is a deodorant. This is not about people who don't wash. This is about people who don't wash the way we do.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:14 AM on November 3, 2010 [13 favorites]


Also, people! Learn how to use perfumes! The only way I should be able to tell if you're wearing a scent if if my head is literally buried in your chest and by then I would presumably have more important things to think about.
posted by The Whelk at 11:16 AM on November 3, 2010 [6 favorites]


Man, I wish I was like you shower-free folks. I am a lazy-ass motherfucker, and if I could get away without showering or shaving any more than I do, I totally would. But I am also a sweaty beast, and if I don't take care, I stink. Like, bad enough to gross myself out.
posted by restless_nomad at 11:16 AM on November 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


I know this is a trend because I'm pretty sure most of these people are riding on my daily bus commute.

I suppose it's cultural/learned but I literally cannot leave the house if I haven't had my morning shower. I just feel *icky*, and can't imagine subjecting other people to my "Purity of Essence". I think I also have an unusual sense of smell, because I smell things other people can't, and am often obsessed when I think I detect myself giving off an odd odor (which probably no one can even smell but me).
posted by hincandenza at 11:17 AM on November 3, 2010 [6 favorites]


Have always loved that my husband, thehuman Bear, smells clean at all times. He does this by way of frequent (but very short) showers and regular laundry (using energy efficient machines and full loads.) It's always seemed another indication of how truly considerate and polite he is.

I used to work with someone who rarely showered. I avoided being around him, though he was a very competent man. And I know I wasn't the only one . . . people discussed it, although mostly they just shied away from him and his office.

Hey, it is a choice, and it has social effects for most people who decide to skip washing.
posted by bearwife at 11:17 AM on November 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also, people! Learn how to use perfumes!

Yeah, there are a few older men in my office who need to have their cologne usage very strictly metered by some sort of system that only distributes a certain quantity per 24h period, because 45 minutes after they've left the room you can still smell them.
posted by elizardbits at 11:19 AM on November 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


I take showers twice a day, once in the morning, once before bed (except on weekends when I'm not going anyplace). It may be a vestige of my overcommercialized 1960s/1970s childhood, but I don't really give a crap. I'm a Pisces, water is my element. If I could just laze and soak in a constant hot bath in and out all day long in an endless cycle, like a deep-sea mussel or Pompeii worm, that's what I'd do. If it washes away beneficial microbes, well, they'll be back.

I lived in an RV, basically homeless, for months on end during a part of my childhood, and the thing I missed most during that time (other than a refrigerator) was hot water for showers/baths. So screw the privilege of being able to strut around and claim that you don't stink or that you go unwashed because it's trendy. Try being homeless for a few months and see how you feel about being unwashed.
posted by blucevalo at 11:20 AM on November 3, 2010 [9 favorites]


I will be happy to submit myself to the smell test at the next meetup.
posted by hermitosis at 11:21 AM on November 3, 2010


No. The reason people don't comment on your smell is because they like you and they don't want to offend you. But if you go more than two days without a shower and you don't wear deodorant, you smell.

And maybe that's not such a bad thing, maybe humans should get over the fact that as animals we do, in fact, smell. But you don't magically "lack an odor." You smell, my friend, oh yes.

You smell like soup. And I'll never tell you this, but it's true. Also, if you don't brush your teeth every day, try this trick. Lick the back of your wrist and let it dry. Smell it. That's what your breath smells like.

posted by Baby_Balrog at 11:21 AM on November 3, 2010 [9 favorites]


I only shower once every 3 days or so. No one has ever told me I stink. I use a non-antiperspirant deodorant with about the same frequency.

I found that when I have periods where I shower every single day, and apply antiperspirant every day, if I stop, within hours I actively begin to stink. My skin turns oily and I look and feel gross. It's only when I've stuck to the 2-3-showers-per-week regimen for a while that the BO subsides.

My theory is that excessive washing causes the body to overcompensate, creating far more oils and odors than it normally would naturally. If you shower every day, then stop for a day, you're going to absolutely stink. If on the other hand, you only ever shower once a week, you can probably go a week and a half before you gain a noticeable funk. Someone once told me something about deodorants (especially the antiperspirant kind), clogging your pores with aluminum and chromium oxides, and that turns the sweat putrid or something, causing you to become dependent on the deodorant. Not sure I believe that though.
posted by inedible at 11:22 AM on November 3, 2010 [8 favorites]


Of course, eating a healthy diet and drinking lots of water is supposed to help with scent too. Also perhaps genetic, certain health problems, and uh... who knows what else. When I was a teenager, deodorant was all that allowed me any vestige of a social life. These days, I can live without it.
posted by Stagger Lee at 11:22 AM on November 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


The extra italics represent my eyes watering.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 11:22 AM on November 3, 2010 [6 favorites]


I was homeless for a year and a half, and still found a way to shower every day, and do laundry every week. There's just no excuse for being unclean, except if you're a bastard with antisocial personality disorder.
posted by hincandenza at 11:24 AM on November 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Alternately: Enjoy showers now, while we still have clean water to spare? ;) HELLO WATER CRISIS!
posted by Stagger Lee at 11:24 AM on November 3, 2010


I will be happy to submit myself to the smell test at the next meetup.


You have a talent for pick-up lines herm.
posted by The Whelk at 11:24 AM on November 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


I didn't have a working shower for a month while we had contractors replace the bathroom floor and joists before the whole thing fell into the room below. I had to keep a gym bag packed so I could shower in the gym in my office building and that sucked. I hate not being able to take a shower first thing in the morning and going to work with my hair sticking up. How do non-showering people deal with hair? No amount of combing or brushing will make my hair sit down in the morning without getting it wet first. Do they just wear hats all the time?
posted by octothorpe at 11:25 AM on November 3, 2010


The year I spent in Germany back in the 80s as an exchange student, I was taken to task by ALL THREE of my host families for daily showering. I mean, I changed my habits while I was living with my first host family... They told me that they'd heard of the American habit of taking a full shower every day, and that they wouldn't put up with me wasting their water or electricity with such nonsense. By the time I arrived at the second household, I had grown accustomed to washing every 2nd or sometimes 3rd day, but even then I was told that they didn't shower every day, and that they'd heard about the American habit, etc etc...

These were not middle-class people I was living with. They were all MUCH more wealthy than anyone I've ever really been around before, living in a high-class exurb outside of Hannover. They'd often wear the same jeans / pullover sweater every day, changing only the polo shirt and underwear underneath them every day. And that was typical of most of the students in my class in school. It wasn't uncommon to see someone wearing the exact same outfit every day for the entire school week.

It changed my views on showering and bathing in general. During the workweek, I do shower every day, but if I'm not at work or on weekends, I don't worry about it as much. It's really not required for healthy skin/hair, or even to keep from being offensive smelling. There are other ways to be socially presentable.

I wonder sometimes how much of the grooming habits we do have (daily bathing, deoderant, etc) are really necessary and how much of them are a product of social programming by Gilette and other grooming product manufacturers to make us feel insecure with our own selves and thus need to purchase their products regularly.
posted by hippybear at 11:25 AM on November 3, 2010 [19 favorites]


"So screw the privilege of being able to strut around and claim that you don't stink or that you go unwashed because it's trendy."

It's more laziness than anything. The way it starts is: you don't shower once for work or school or whatever because you don't feel like expending the effort. No one seems to notice. You do the same thing the following day. And then the day after that. Eventually you realize that you don't smell horrible, that you're not ostracized and that maybe showering daily isn't actually necessary after all.

It only seems trendy because now the NYT has written an article about it. I've been showering once-a-week for 10 years now, and apparently once-a-week is enough for me and mine.
posted by krysalist at 11:27 AM on November 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


[few comments removed - let's keep it clean]
posted by studentbaker at 11:27 AM on November 3, 2010 [11 favorites]


Where do you hide money from a hippie?
posted by Sailormom at 11:28 AM on November 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


I happen to fall into the category of people who don't shower every day and don't care. I used to ask people if I smell, even after working out, and as it turns out... the answer was always, "Why are you asking? You don't smell at all." Quite a few people said I even had a really nice scent. So much for showering. I was shocked. Maybe it's body chemistry or the fact I change clothing quite a few times a day... but showering every day proved to be an assault on my skin, triggering (as the article mentions) eczema and flakiness. Deodarant? I haven't used it in years. Do I even own any??? On the other hand, I know quite a few people who need to shower every day, and some twice a day. It might have to be with what is in your sweat, the quantity of sweat, and what kind of bacteria are on your skin more than anything.
posted by foxinsocks at 11:32 AM on November 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Inside a hollowed-out copy of the Fountainhead?
posted by elizardbits at 11:32 AM on November 3, 2010 [11 favorites]


When I was job hunting I read all the different "life at work" and "finding a job" blogs and chats I could. And the one thing that came up, time and time again is: "my co-worker/employee stinks, how should I tell HR." No one wants to tell you to your face.

I can understand not showering if you're financially unable to somehow, but otherwise I don't get it. And I don't particularly even like showering...I have to keep a towel hanging over the shower curtain bar to dry my face because I can't stand the feeling of having water around my eyes. (TMI?)
posted by JoanArkham at 11:36 AM on November 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


(I suppose that should be "financially or medically.")
posted by JoanArkham at 11:37 AM on November 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Okay, here's the straight dope I got from a leading dermatologist: Deodorant and anti-perspirants are a hoax. Sweat has no smell. Except for flop sweat. It has its own glands and is excreted briefly as part of our fight-or-flight response under conditions of high stress. Anti-perspirant and deodorant are powerless against flop sweat. The good news is that if you are in the kind of high-stress situation that produces flop sweat, how you smell to others is usualy the least of your worries. All you need to do to keep your underarms smelling fresh is to wash daily and avoid stress.

So what makes some people stink so bad? According to this dermatologist (a former president of the national organization) it is simple: dirty clothes. And by dirty, she means clothes that have been worn more than one day. When you take your shirt off and hang it on a chair overnight, the bacteria it has picked up from your skin has a chance to grow on the cloth as if the underarm parts were a petri dish. When you put it back on, the bacteria interacts with your sweat and body heat -- and it stinks. Even if you've showered before putting it on.

So when you're on the subway or in a cab, and someone nearby stinks to high heaven, in most cases, what you're smelling is a dirty shirt or dirty underwear. Not necessarily a dirty person. So, to sum up, all you need to do to smell good is wash your body (not necessarily your hair) daily and change your clothes daily. Deodorant is a total and complete hoax and does not contribute one iota to your being a sweet-smelling person. This is the best advice you'll ever get in your life, and it comes to you at no cost from the pen of Randolph P. Fazenmeyer III.
posted by Faze at 11:38 AM on November 3, 2010 [11 favorites]


Must be my European background. Growing up, we didn't even have a shower. And once we got one, we used it on Saturday evenings only. This American obsession with spraying yourself with chemicals after you've wasted untold gallons of water still seems ridiculous to me.
posted by monospace at 11:39 AM on November 3, 2010 [5 favorites]


There's a big difference between "finds that the current US norm of showering every day is not appropriate for their dry skin/eczema/whatever" and "never showers or washes because they're STICKING IT TO THE MAN."

Those of us with ultra-dry skin also tend to sweat less, so the daily shower tends to be unnecessary as well as undesirable. I'm not sticking it to the man, I just don't want to disintegrate into a dusty heap o' flakes.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:40 AM on November 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


I recall that doctor George Sheehan, the guru of running, had an idea that there were two kinds of sweat: that which was from nerves and the good kind, smell-less, from exercise. He once visited
a guy in California, stayed at his home. They went out running a good hard number of miles in warm weather. The guy, commenting on George's notion: I ran next to him, close by. His theory is definitely wrong!
posted by Postroad at 11:40 AM on November 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


ND¢: "You know how all you nasty motherfuckers got bedbugs? And you're all like "Aw man I got bedbugs and I don't know why!" You know why? It's cause you nasty. Wash your ass"

Completely wrong. Bed bugs are parasites, and filth is not an attractant.
posted by Gin and Comics at 11:41 AM on November 3, 2010 [11 favorites]


hippybear, I had similar comments from friends in Ireland, who expressed disgust with my penchant for showering daily. But then again, I was less than convinced by their arguments - they claimed showering daily was worse for the skin than skipping a day or two between showers, but would tell me this with whiteheads clearly visible on their own faces...
posted by LN at 11:41 AM on November 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


But yes, as my Mom says, always wear clean clothes!
posted by monospace at 11:41 AM on November 3, 2010


Clearly these are people without frizzy hair.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:41 AM on November 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


I work with small children, dirt, sweat, and poop. Man, do I ever shower every day and you're probably grateful. Though I will admit that part of it is the bedtime ritual/relaxation aspect of it, which I think is still a cromulent reason to shower.

But does everybody need to? If I had a desk job, I probably wouldn't feel so bad about skipping a day and just washing my armpits/lady bits separately and calling it done.
posted by sonika at 11:42 AM on November 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


I will be happy to submit myself to the smell test at the next meetup.

Remember: this is the internet, where other people's suppositions trump your experience.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 11:42 AM on November 3, 2010 [4 favorites]


Sweat has no smell. Except for flop sweat.

What? I just went without showering for like 3 days the last time I was sick and, um, I smelled. Also, I notice I smell a lot less while exercising if my pits are shaved, but not 100% less.

I have totally given up any pretense of dignity on Metafilter at this point, right?
posted by JoanArkham at 11:46 AM on November 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


it is simple: dirty clothes. And by dirty, she means clothes that have been worn more than one day.

Dang. I regularly wear jeans twice in a row. I hope this isn't as awful as you're making it out to be.
posted by naju at 11:47 AM on November 3, 2010


Sweat has no smell. Except for flop sweat.

I dare you to come within five feet of me after I've finished a 5k in the July heat and say that.
posted by octothorpe at 11:51 AM on November 3, 2010 [4 favorites]


My own "I should be clean enough if I just wash" story is pretty much that I apparently didn't smell very good for a while until someone I respected who cared about me said something. After which I started wearing deodorant and the problem was reportedly solved.

I also tried not using shampoo for a bit. That experiment went quite a bit better, particularly when my hair is short -- the pattern people describe where your hair is kindof greasy for a day or two and then things seem to even out was my experience. However, as my hair gets longer I find that I just feel like using shampoo and/or conditioner.

Okay, here's the straight dope I got from a leading dermatologist: Deodorant and anti-perspirants are a hoax. Sweat has no smell.

Interesting. Doesn't track my experience, but interesting. Also, wouldn't the scent infused into most deodorants at least have some masking effect?
posted by weston at 11:55 AM on November 3, 2010


Yes, bodies do smell even without dirty clothes on them. I seem to recall someone saying in the vagina thread that taste is 1000% better after taking a shower.
posted by Melismata at 11:57 AM on November 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ultimately, everyone stinks, but some people stink orders of magnitude more than others. I've known people who could easily shower once a week or less, use little or no deodorant, and they'd still smell of nothing. I suspect they may be aliens or robots.

I've known others who, at the slightest hint of physical activity or stress, exude an oily miasma that makes the eyes water. I shared a house with someone who bathed once a week and washed his clothes once a month. After he moved out I had to repaint his room and change the carpet, because there was no other way to remove the stink.

I think most of us are somewhere in the middle, and this 'trend' is just some of the less-scented amoung us being a bit smug. Untimately though, I expect we'll evolve to a point where humans give off a faint hint of bergamot, but only when rubbed.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 11:58 AM on November 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


Just because one showers less, doesn't mean their general opinion consists of: "I don't care if my BO offends every olfactory organ within a 15 block radius! - Let them bask in my musky scent for it is natural and appealing to them deep in their lizard brains"

But the one who showers every day or more tends to say: "I don't care if my artificially manufactured scent stings every eye on this subway car! Let them bask in my scientifically engineered chemical haze for it has been shown that through years of conditioning, their lizard brains have come to enjoy it!"
posted by empatterson at 11:58 AM on November 3, 2010 [5 favorites]


Nah, people just are different, and have different levels of stinkiness. A really close friend of mine told me recently that she never wore deodorant. I had no idea. She never really needed it. I'd worked closely day and night and then day again with her, for years, and I never knew she didn't use anything. She never smelled bad.

Then she admitted to a deep-seated embarrassment of ingrown leg-hairs. Who cares? Bodies do different things. As long as you're not putting anyone else out, you're good. And I think the ingrown-hair terror was just as much a symptom of people needing to sell you things as the perception of the necessity of a daily shower. You're good? You don't stink? What you're doing is working? Sounds great.
posted by lauranesson at 11:58 AM on November 3, 2010 [4 favorites]


It occurs to me reading this, doesn't acne start around the same time that kids start showering regularly? (as opposed to little kids, who get like a weekly bath, right?) I know there's a lot of stuff going on at the same time (hormones, puberty, etc.) but I wonder if suddenly going to a daily shower exacerbates it.
posted by condour75 at 11:59 AM on November 3, 2010


Also, I thought Thursday was fake nytimes trend day. Is this just a day early?
posted by condour75 at 12:01 PM on November 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


But what does Del think?
posted by Hoopo at 12:01 PM on November 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


There is a young intern at my place of work who seems to have taken this ethos to heart. Great kid, friendly, helpful - but BO that would blow your socks off. The kind of BO that you can taste - even when you mouth breathe to avoid the smell. I had to vacate my office for a good half hour after he came by to update my computer.

I checked in with his superiors to make sure there was no medical issues at the root of the problem - but no - he was just not concerned/aware of it being an issue. I'd like to think he was part of a political movement - but I think that is giving him too much credit.
posted by helmutdog at 12:01 PM on November 3, 2010


Okay, so I buy that one only needs to shower so often. Myself, I tend to fall into camp of scrubbing one's armpits, feet, and groin, and rinsing everything else. I had dry skin, and I think that helps it. What I am baffled by is how on earth people who don't shower daily manage to get their hair to remotely behave. Maybe it's just my curly hair, but I think of showers less as time to get clean and more as points when my hair is reset to its least ridiculous state.
posted by Schismatic at 12:04 PM on November 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Jeez, am I the only one who works in a dusty shop all day? When I shower every evening, the water comes off me grey. Damn right I shower every day! When I drive home at night, scratching my hear fills my nails with sticky sawdust, so, yeah I use a tiny amout of shampoo. For the record, a rats ass I couldn't give for the opinions of others. I gross myself out at the end of the day. I suppose if you "slave away" in an air conditioned office all day, showering may be optional. I would leave a crime scene outline on the sheets if I didn't.
posted by Redhush at 12:04 PM on November 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


FWIW, there is a grain of truth in what Faze posted (even tho' it's Faze!). Sweat doesn't smell. But it does create the moist environment that bacteria breed in, and those bacteria produce the odor we associate with stank. But I put on clean clothes every day, and if it's more than 60 out, I'm sweaty (and smelly) by 10am. Even with antiperspirant (recently, I've tried the spray-on stuff, and that doesn't seem to have an effect).

People are usually polite about it at meetups, though. And some women actually enjoy my brand of man-stank (or mank). But not everyone needs to be subjected to my masculine aroma.

On preview:

'Must be my European background. Growing up, we didn't even have a shower. And once we got one, we used it on Saturday evenings only. This American obsession with spraying yourself with chemicals after you've wasted untold gallons of water still seems ridiculous to me.'

'But the one who showers every day or more tends to say: "I don't care if my artificially manufactured scent stings every eye on this subway car! Let them bask in my scientifically engineered chemical haze for it has been shown that through years of conditioning, their lizard brains have come to enjoy it!'

What "chemicals" are you talking about? I use soap and either unscented or lightly scented deodorant/antiperspirant (again, I have sensitive skin and loads of allergies). Bathing/showering does not equate with massive amounts of "chemicals." Indeed, I am trying to reduce the amount of volatile chemicals on my person, including the aforementioned natural bacterial output.

(As for the wasting, I hope to have grey-water recycling in my home when I am eventually (if ever) a homeowner.)
posted by Eideteker at 12:06 PM on November 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


I liked Jack Shafer's take on this in Slate:

A slightly less bogus headline for this story would read "Some People Who Don't Have To Bathe Every Day Don't."

Yeah, pretty much.

I've never used deodorant since I was a teenager. I'm 47. Nobody's ever complained about it. I guess I don't need it.

People who work in office jobs with AC can probably get by with showering every other day. I can testify from personal experience that this does not work if you work in construction.

I have to wash my hair about once a week before it starts getting icky, except in the summer when it gets sweaty. Other people have to do it more often because their hair is oilier.

Our media has "discovered" that people bathe and wash their hair on different schedules based on when or how often they need to, and use or don't deodorant for the same reason.

It's a story! "The Great Unwashed"! Only - they do wash, but at different times! And sometimes they use different soap-like products!

Oh, great newspaper from the great metropolis, show us the way, enlighten us. What would we do without your insightful investigative reporting.

(I can't imagine why print media is in any kind of trouble.)
posted by nangar at 12:07 PM on November 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


I wash my long hair once a week. I shower three times a week on average. I change my clothes (maybe not pants, because I'm operating with a limited quantity of maternity clothes right now), especially underclothes, every day. I use deodorant, not anti-perspirant, brush my teeth, etc, every day. I'm very sensitive to whether or not I am stinky, and I am not stinky. My hair and skin are MUCH happier - no more itchy scalp, no more huge dry patches on my arms - since I've gotten into this pattern.

Now, if I could have a long hot bath every day, I'd do it. But that's for relaxation, not getting clean.

I don't think basic, reasonable hygiene requires full-body bathing at least once every 24 hours. Depends on what you're doing in that 24 hours and what kind of stink that results in afterward.
posted by Lulu's Pink Converse at 12:07 PM on November 3, 2010 [6 favorites]


I wonder sometimes how much of the grooming habits we do have (daily bathing, deoderant, etc) are really necessary and how much of them are a product of social programming by Gilette and other grooming product manufacturers to make us feel insecure with our own selves and thus need to purchase their products regularly.

Yes, absolutely.

However, to beanplate this thread further:

Weather and climate make a difference. Its different in the arctic than it was on the equator.

Also, culture.
posted by The Lady is a designer at 12:07 PM on November 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


And before you say I contradicted myself, I said I *tried* the spray-on deodorant stuff. Out of desperation. Because bathing is not enough in the summer swelter of the humid NYC climate. A brief trial revealed that it did not make much of an impact; I've gone back to the standard underarm antiperspirant application.
posted by Eideteker at 12:10 PM on November 3, 2010


How do non-showering people deal with hair?

I mist mine with a spray bottle, as do many people who take baths or who don't wash their hair each time they shower.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:11 PM on November 3, 2010


Little kids are pretty universally terrible at wiping their butts, so the ones I know usually get every-other-day baths, and I am grateful for it.

I was under the impression that the first sweat (after a shower) doesn't smell -- it's when that sweat dries, and you sweat a second time (therefore activating the first, dried-on, funkified sweat), that you start creating fumes. his may be one of those false "facts" that you pick up as a kid that ends up not being true at all.

I really don't like smelling other people's unwashed bodies -- underarm chicken soup stank makes me want to vomit -- and I hate cologne and perfume almost as much. I don't want to be forced to smell anyone I'm not touching/hugging/smooching.
posted by chowflap at 12:11 PM on November 3, 2010


If you play a full contact sport, you have to shower pretty shortly after training. There are occasionally staph outbreaks at wrestling/mma/bjj gyms. Best to wash right after training.
posted by wuwei at 12:12 PM on November 3, 2010


Someone once told me something about deodorants (especially the antiperspirant kind), clogging your pores with aluminum and chromium oxides, and that turns the sweat putrid or something, causing you to become dependent on the deodorant. Not sure I believe that though.

Good, because it's a load of rubbish.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:13 PM on November 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


But the one who showers every day or more tends to say: "I don't care if my artificially manufactured scent stings every eye on this subway car! Let them bask in my scientifically engineered chemical haze for it has been shown that through years of conditioning, their lizard brains have come to enjoy it!"

Oh please.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 12:13 PM on November 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


"Also, culture."

Does anyone else remember the guy who was on the Howard Stern show ages ago who purported to be able to judge someone's nationality/heritage by smelling their armpit sweat? It was proved bogus, but I think it was an interesting premise; people from different areas likely have different bacterial cultures, which in turn produce different odors. Though I think where you live probably has more to do with it than where your ancestors are from.
posted by Eideteker at 12:15 PM on November 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Though I do have some sympathy for these people. My mother has never had to spend a cent on deodorant of any kind; it's hard to believe it when you're not one of the few, but some people just don't smell bad.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 12:16 PM on November 3, 2010


Gosh, this thread is filling my mind with research ideas. I wonder if this is also related to body pH. Folks with more alkaline or acidic (someone mentioned lemon juice?) skin also probably play host to fewer odor-causing bacteria.
posted by Eideteker at 12:19 PM on November 3, 2010


I like showering for the sheer pleasure of it, but I am also a Reeker. If I went three days without showering y'all would know about it. If I was the crazy dude on a street corner who hasn't seen a shower for months paint would be peeling for blocks around.
posted by maxwelton at 12:21 PM on November 3, 2010


Okay, here's the straight dope I got from a leading dermatologist: Deodorant and anti-perspirants are a hoax. Sweat has no smell. Except for flop sweat. It has its own glands and is excreted briefly as part of our fight-or-flight response under conditions of high stress. Anti-perspirant and deodorant are powerless against flop sweat. The good news is that if you are in the kind of high-stress situation that produces flop sweat, how you smell to others is usualy the least of your worries. All you need to do to keep your underarms smelling fresh is to wash daily and avoid stress.

First of all, lets distinguish between eccrine and apocrine sweat glands. The bulk of sweat produced by the body comes from eccrine glands and is odorless. Apocrine sweat glands are activated at puberty, located at the genitals, under the arms, nipples (modified), ears (modified), and eyelids, and act primarily as sexual scent glands. They are larger, more deeply embedded in the skin and produce a different type of sweat which is thicker and contains carbohydrates, proteins and lipids. This mixture can be quickly attacked by the bacteria that live on our skin that then produce odor. In addition, microorganisms growing on the skin also digest sebum, which is secreted by the sebaceous glands, and produce odor. The effects of the odor that is a byproduct of that digestive process can be magnified by not changing one's clothes or failing to run them through the laundry.

In addition, diet and illness (especially liver and kidney dysfunction) have a great deal to do with whether our sweat has an odor. Genetics also plays a strong role. A person's natural and bacterial-induced body odor can be affected by major histocompatibility complex (MHC) molecules, which play a role in autoimmunity. Racial differences also matter.
posted by zarq at 12:24 PM on November 3, 2010 [17 favorites]


Interesting, Eideteker. I have really acid skin--all of my saxes and flutes have the lacquer on the keys and where the thumbs live worn away as a testimony to that--and I am a low-smeller according to the husband.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:24 PM on November 3, 2010


To add to what zarq said, there is a Parkinson's Disease smell (one of the sequelae of Parkinson's is increased sebum secretion). My dad's neurologist said that sometimes he could tell that someone had Parkinson's just from their smell alone.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:26 PM on November 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


I will say though that not-showering certainly isn't going to work for everyone. I had a roommate who smelled so bad that you could smell his BO on my cat. He also had medical issues at the root of it, but it could have been controlled much better with more frequent showering/washing of clothes.

Everyone has an odor. Most people's is pretty benign. That doesn't mean there aren't outliers.
posted by sonika at 12:26 PM on November 3, 2010


I have oily hair. I used to wash it every day with Herbal Essences shampoo for oily hair. Result: hair that stuck together in limp, greasy locks by the end of the day.

I tried doing the no 'poo thing. Result: hair that stuck together in limp, greasy locks all the time.

Now I wash it 2-3 times a week. Result: hair that doesn't begin to get oily until day 3. Day 1 looks the best (I don't style, just brush and go au naturel), day 2 has less volume but still looks ok, day 3 has to be washed or put up in a ponytail or bun until it gets washed that night.

My body washing schedule is roughly the same. I always wear clean clothes and deodorant, and my job consists of sitting in an office. All told, I'm fairly comfortable with this.
posted by cereselle at 12:26 PM on November 3, 2010


But these people do shower - in attention.

"But Mr. Felix, who is in his early 30s and doesn’t want to be taken for a hippie, is cautious about disclosing that he doesn’t wear underarm protection to people he dates. "

Right, that's why he provided his full name and color photo to the NYT.

[Mr Johnson said] “Right now it’s cool to appear like you don’t care about what you look like,”


Next week, the NYT interviews a dozen people who only wipe their asses after having had the runs. Trendsetters!
posted by r_nebblesworthII at 12:30 PM on November 3, 2010 [4 favorites]


Does anyone else remember the guy who was on the Howard Stern show ages ago who purported to be able to judge someone's nationality/heritage by smelling their armpit sweat? It was proved bogus, but I think it was an interesting premise; people from different areas likely have different bacterial cultures, which in turn produce different odors. Though I think where you live probably has more to do with it than where your ancestors are from.

Also, diet. If your intake is mostly dairy products, (or meat products, or vegetables, or carbohydrates) you may smell different than someone with a more varied, or simply a different diet.

I don't have time to hunt them down now, but there have been a couple of interesting studies done. The first had to do with earwax. East Asians tend to have a different type of earwax than Europeans. Earwax is generated by a modified apocrine gland. Apparently, the gene that dictates the nature of your apocrine glands can affect the composition of what they secrete. This can create racial differences in body odor

The second study had to do with gross anatomy. Africans have larger, more shallowly-embedded apocrine glands than Europeans. East Asians have smaller, more deeply-embedded apocrine glands than Europeans or Africans. Of the three groups, East Asians seem to have less of a problem with strong body scents.
posted by zarq at 12:33 PM on November 3, 2010 [4 favorites]


Admit it. Everybody stuck their noses in their shirts and took a whiff.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 12:38 PM on November 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


> He also had medical issues at the root of it...

When I was in university there was a fellow who would often use the same computer lab as I did, and he smelled so strongly that sometimes I'd smell him before I saw him. And it wasn't regular B.O., it was a sickly/sweet aroma like rotting fruit. He didn't appear to be someone with hygiene problems, so I always wondered what medical condition could cause such an unfortunate problem.
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:40 PM on November 3, 2010


Of the three groups, East Asians seem to have less of a problem with strong body scents.
Do you mean East Asians don't tend to smell as badly, or that East Asians don't tend to mind body odor as much, as others?
posted by MrMoonPie at 12:41 PM on November 3, 2010


I shower basically every other day, and it takes me a year or longer to go through a stick of deodorant. Yet, my wife marvels at how I don't stink. She's not just nice about it, she's definitely told me when I do.

I think a lot of this has to do with natural body chemistry, but also climate. The guy claiming he showers 3 times a week? He's in Los Angeles! Unlike the East Coast here, sweating works! It evaporates and cools off the body. Here, a sweaty person remains sweaty until otherwise acted upon by a towel. It's like Newton's first law of stink.

The other complicating factor is clothing. As mentioned before, sweat itself doesn't stink, but provides nutrition for stinky bacteria. Showering does little for your stink if you're not properly washing the clothes that also stink.

Finally, I once had a guy-on-the-couch situation, the dude showered once a week if even. We just really weren't sure how to bring it up to him that his bathing habits weren't up to snuff. That's the problem, really: there's a vast difference between "stinky" and "oh god I'm gonna vomit." Unless it's gotten to that latter point, you kind of just politely decline to mention it, maybe obliquely offer use of your shower if they stay over (which they'll inevitably decline), and that's it. Then eventually you both move on with your lives until one day you're reminded of him by a Metafilter post.
posted by explosion at 12:43 PM on November 3, 2010


Metafilter: Tell us of your personal grooming habits!
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:45 PM on November 3, 2010 [4 favorites]


For five days while a new well was being drilled at my place in the sticks, I had to wash up with stove-heated bowls of water from an 18 L dispenser the drillers left off. I managed to stay clean regardless, and realized the shower or two I took every day was a First World extravagance. Now that I can shower any time I want, I only do so every third day and, I assert, do not smell putrified, plus my skins softer.
posted by drogien at 12:45 PM on November 3, 2010


What are we, French?

Xenophobic dickwads, maybe.

I wonder sometimes how much of the grooming habits we do have (daily bathing, deoderant, etc) are really necessary and how much of them are a product of social programming by Gilette and other grooming product manufacturers to make us feel insecure with our own selves and thus need to purchase their products regularly.

Wallowing in one's own filth is something Western Europeans spend the post-Roman bit of history venerating. The Japanese, Chinese, Turks, Arabs, Egyptians and whatnot were horrified by our filth. They didn't have Gilette.
posted by rodgerd at 12:46 PM on November 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wallowing in one's own filth is something Western Europeans spend the post-Roman bit of history venerating. The Japanese, Chinese, Turks, Arabs, Egyptians and whatnot were horrified by our filth. They didn't have Gilette.

From the Via

In this regard, bathrooms – in the sense of a room that is devoted to bathing and personal care are as old as civilization itself. Evidence of sophisticated bathing facilities dating back to 2000 B.C. have been found in the palaces of Knossos and Phaistos on the island of Crete. Hittite houses in Anatolia (c. 1400 B.C.) contained paved washrooms with clay baths. The Greek cities of Pylos and Tiryns had bathrooms with water supply and drainage systems, and later Greek vase paintings indicate that the Greeks used showers. Bathhouses in India, common in palaces, monasteries, and some wealthy homes as early as 200 B.C., contained steam rooms, sitting areas, and swimming pools.

wonders when its going to become TMI about fellow MeFites and should she mention that Asians with drainholes in bath rooms and toilets think use of paper is icky when there's soap and water
posted by The Lady is a designer at 12:52 PM on November 3, 2010


Do you mean East Asians don't tend to smell as badly, or that East Asians don't tend to mind body odor as much, as others?

We're stretching the limits of my memory here. If I recall correctly, the study said that East Asians had fewer, more deeply embedded (in the skin) apocrine glands that produced less sweat (perhaps as an adaptation to cold climates) and which was overall less likely to cause strong odors.

I'll see if I can locate a link this evening. Assuming it's even online.
posted by zarq at 12:57 PM on November 3, 2010


Some shirts hold onto stench particles better than others. I wash shirts after every wear and launder them as the tag recommends. The stink remains. I had to throw out my favorite sweater because I would reek after wearing it for 5 minutes.

I haven't shaved my legs since August 2005. When do I get cool points for that?
posted by giraffe at 1:00 PM on November 3, 2010


I think I became aware that this was a deeply-ingrained generational thing when I visited Disneyland with them recently, and noticed that the toiletries in the Disney hotel room we stayed at contained a quote from the Mickey Mouse Club on the back. To paraphrase, it said, "Is everybody fresh and clean and ready? Then, on we go!" Looking at pictures of my parents in the 50's, they looked like they and all their classmates and friends were members in good standing of the Mickey Mouse Club.

The quote on the back of the toiletries is from the original Mickey Mouse Club: "Everybody neat and pretty? Then on with the show!"

http://www.mainstgazette.com/2007/11/everybody-neat-and-pretty-then-on-with.html
posted by mintymike at 1:10 PM on November 3, 2010


The year I spent in Germany back in the 80s as an exchange student, I was taken to task by ALL THREE of my host families for daily showering. I mean, I changed my habits while I was living with my first host family... They told me that they'd heard of the American habit of taking a full shower every day, and that they wouldn't put up with me wasting their water or electricity with such nonsense.

Filthy Germans /jk/. This is quite different across Europe. In Sweden, f.ex., it's taken for granted that you shower every day. My theory is that at least part of this stems from plumbing. In Sweden, you have good plumbing with hot water and good pressure. In France, you have very poor plumbing. In Britain, you have bizarre plumbing (hot water tap --- cold water tap??!) and terrible water pressure. And so on. When I came to CA, I was renting an apartment and was shocked at how poor the water pressure was, and how hot water ran out after 15 minutes or so, when I needed 20 minutes for my shower... and then, I was regularly upbraided by my landlord for taking "long showers", and lectured on how Los Angeles is a desert etc... my ears pricked up when I watched "Chinatown" and heard "Los Angeles is a desert"... hmm. In the end I learned to take short 15 minute showers, a useful time-saving habit that stayed with me (thank you, cranky landlord!). I conclude that showering habits have a lot to do with plumbing.
posted by VikingSword at 1:10 PM on November 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


I have friends who are granola and they totally use Tom's of Maine products.

And you know what? There is no point in using Tom's products because they don't work--esp. the deodorant.

Pew.

At their baby shower it was full of granola people and a couple who obviously never, ever use deodorant. The smell was so rank that I was wretching and me wretching out loud would have ruined the baby shower more than them stinking so bad that no one could sit next to them.
posted by stormpooper at 1:18 PM on November 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


Under the soap.
posted by Sailormom at 1:36 PM on November 3, 2010


In the end I learned to take short 15 minute showers,

Yikes! Short is under five in my book. Well under five.

Question - do these people exercise?
posted by IndigoJones at 1:36 PM on November 3, 2010


I would be scratching my own skin off if I didn't shower at least once a day. I am trying not to scratch my head and face and everywhere after reading this thread. I am going to wash my hands and disinfect all common surfaces right now.

(And I'm from SoCal and take very long showers... and grew up with decent water pressure in early to mid-century architecture in the pretty parts of LA.)
posted by SMPA at 1:37 PM on November 3, 2010


I tried going without underarm product in an attempt to escape the fact that the only female marketed product on the marked that wasn't an antiperspirant I was allergic to, or rather I tried one of those super organic citrus oil based roll ons.

I smelled like a dead goat. Within three days, my smell was bothering me.

It was so bad that after a long shower, soap, soaking in the bath and more soap it took judicious application of rubbing alchohol.

Similarly if I stop washing my hair and scrubbing my face, I break out. The least little oil out of my pores and suddenly it goes "ZOMG!" and starts swelling and cratering.
posted by Phalene at 1:37 PM on November 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


I do not need to shower every day, no sir, and no one is the wiser.
posted by krysalist at 7:12 PM on November 3


And you're sure about that, are you? Based on the fact that no one says anything?

*Shakes head*.
posted by Decani at 1:38 PM on November 3, 2010


It's more laziness than anything. The way it starts is: you don't shower once for work or school or whatever because you don't feel like expending the effort. No one seems to notice. You do the same thing the following day. And then the day after that. Eventually you realize that you don't smell horrible, that you're not ostracized and that maybe showering daily isn't actually necessary after all.

Let me back off from what I said above. If you like being unwashed because it's convenient or it feels better or whatever, totally cool. It's the faux-NYT-trend-article-grabbing (I won't use the "h" word, I'm trying to wean myself from it) unwashed that bug me, who think that talking about their armpit-lemon-squeezing lifestyle to a NYT Style reporter is the best way to get their names up in lights for 15 seconds.

Of course, easy target, etc., etc. Okay. But I still say, feh. Me, I just love showers/baths, for the reasons I stated above. (Plus, I stink.)
posted by blucevalo at 1:39 PM on November 3, 2010


[insert snide joke about the French here]

Not until you wash it.
posted by nomadicink at 1:42 PM on November 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


'"What are we, French?"

Xenophobic dickwads, maybe.'


Tongue firmly in cheek; I grew up in a partially-francophone household. ;)
posted by Eideteker at 1:45 PM on November 3, 2010


As a child I grew up in two houses (divorce). In one house daily showers. In the other, weekly. I do not remember noticing any smell difference between the occupants of the two houses.

I shower daily. It is a luxury.
posted by bukvich at 1:53 PM on November 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


VikingSword: In the end I learned to take short 15 minute showers, a useful time-saving habit that stayed with me (thank you, cranky landlord!).

*snickers* 15 minutes is an unacceptably long shower for most of us in Australia. At one point our local government was handing out 4 minute timers. I can be in and out of a shower in 2 minutes if I don't need to wash my hair - wet, soap, rinse, out.

And the idea that you ONLY get flop sweat in serious situations is ridiculous. In the early days of my career as a children's librarian I would carry deoderant for storytime days because I still got stage fright. Which meant I was RANK by the afternoon.

Everyone is different though - I hope baby anachronism gets her father's stink glands, not mine. He can go without a shower with no tangible signs until his hair gets so greasy that when he does shower the water beads off at first. If I don't shower I not only reek, my scalp explodes into flakes and this angry redness that creeps down onto my forehead.
posted by geek anachronism at 1:56 PM on November 3, 2010


Surprised that this popular AskMe hasn't been posted yet:

How can I become more of a closet dirty hippie?
posted by infinitefloatingbrains at 1:59 PM on November 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


There is no point in using Tom's products because they don't work--esp. the deodorant.

For real. I tried most of their offerings before realizing that perhaps rubbing my underarms with coriander wasn't a great idea.
posted by Lorin at 2:03 PM on November 3, 2010


If we're talking about setting "trends" that are in contravention with conventional wisdom, can we do something about the third meal of the day being the big one? I would much prefer it if our culture favored a big breakfast, moderate lunch, and light dinner. Better for digestion/sleeping, sure, but also would make going out to dinner so much cheaper (in theory).

Oh, and can we please get siesta in America? C'mon, you know most of you get tired between 2-4pm!
posted by Eideteker at 2:05 PM on November 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


Okay, here's the straight dope I got from a leading dermatologist: Deodorant and anti-perspirants are a hoax. Sweat has no smell.

Let's say this is true. Don't the bacteria that collects in the moist folds of our bodies smell? I thought that was the whole point of it. You have to wash off the sweat, to keep bacteria from breeding in the sweaty areas. But maybe I'm wrong. Either way, I shall keep on showering.
posted by davejay at 2:07 PM on November 3, 2010


I do not doubt that there are people who do not need daily showers. I am sure they exist. But I also know this: In my life, several people have told me that showers were not necessary. (I grew up in a place with a lot of old hippies.) In every single case, that person was clearly and obviously wrong. There is probably a group of people who don't wash regularly and also don't broadcast the fact - either audibly or by other means. But in my experience, yes, people need to wash.
posted by Nothing at 2:08 PM on November 3, 2010


Oh, and my showers take less than five minutes. Other people I have lived with have opined that's a crazy-short period of time, and they have no idea how I manage to do it. What do you people do with fifteen minutes in the shower?
posted by davejay at 2:08 PM on November 3, 2010 [1 favorite]



If we're talking about setting "trends" that are in contravention with conventional wisdom, can we do something about the third meal of the day being the big one? I would much prefer it if our culture favored a big breakfast, moderate lunch, and light dinner. Better for digestion/sleeping, sure, but also would make going out to dinner so much cheaper (in theory).

Oh, and can we please get siesta in America? C'mon, you know most of you get tired between 2-4pm!


I am behind this completely. Add in a siesta and then a light dinner (and) move the traditional bed time to 1am. Then, finally, I'll be in sync.
posted by The Whelk at 2:09 PM on November 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


What do you people do with fifteen minutes in the shower?

[more inside]
posted by The Lady is a designer at 2:16 PM on November 3, 2010 [5 favorites]


I seem to recall someone saying in the vagina thread that taste is 1000% better after taking a shower.

I bet this was a gay man.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 2:19 PM on November 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


I hated puberty, but mostly for the sweat. My sweat glands turned on like flood gates. If things got a little warm, I soaked through my shirts from pit close to my waist. I tried antiperspirant. Didn't work. It just gummed up my armpit hair. Deodorant? doesn't help the sweat and gums up my armpit hair.

So now what? A lot of observations. For the most part, I do what other people here have said: I keep clean and wear clean clothes. As an adult, I sweat, but less. I stink when I'm sick. Mrs. Plinth lets me know. Some shirts don't clean. They stink when I put them on right out of the wash. They're doomed. Into the trash or ready for being turned into tomato ties. Fresh sweat typically doesn't stink. When it festers (hello, bacteria!) it stinks. The exception is post ejaculatory sweat. My whole body smells like sex. Totally freaky.

Morning showers are thinky time. I need thinky time. I try to keep them fairly short. They could be much shorter, but then I don't get thinky time. I could go every other day, but I'd have to change clothes/bedding more often to compensate. When living in an area in drought conditions, it was recommended that showers be cut to the minimum. This meant: stepping in, turning on the water and getting just wet, turning off the water. Soap up, shampoo. Turn on the water - just enough to rinse. Done. That takes 5 minutes, if that. Hated the lack of thinky time.

So in sum: find out what works for you, then do it.
posted by plinth at 2:22 PM on November 3, 2010


Sweat has no smell.

Maybe not, but clearly many unwashed people do. There is a meat connection. Vegetarians and even moderate piscatarians smell less bad than heavy carnavores.

At least, in my limited experience.

By the way, all you water conservators, learn the way of the Navy Shower.
posted by IndigoJones at 2:25 PM on November 3, 2010


I am someone who doesn't have any under-arm odor at all. None what so ever. This is not delusion. I have had it confirmed by several independant sources. So I'm 35 and I've never worn deoderant. If I stank, I probably would use it, but I'm happy I don't have to. Strangely, I am also pretty oily. If I don't shower for a couple days, my hair looks saturated with bacon grease and my face is an oil slick.

I think not having under-arm stink is some kind of genetic thing, because my sister is the same way, and I've read that there's some kind of correlation with the type of earwax a person has (wet vs. dry) and whether they have B.O. What's really odd is this lack of odor/dry earwax combo is most commonly found in Asian people. My sister and I have strawberry blonde hair and freckles. Not Asian. Not even close!

Uh, anyway, I just wanted to clarify for some people that while, yes, dirty hippies often seem oblivious to their own smell, some of us not-so-dirty hippies genuinely don't have a smell.
posted by apis mellifera at 2:39 PM on November 3, 2010


What I am baffled by is how on earth people who don't shower daily manage to get their hair to remotely behave.

Long hair and a flat iron. It's so great waking up with virtually perfect hair.

It is time-consuming to blow-dry and iron so I shower with my hair in a shower cap for a few days, then start the process over. I have dry, dry hair, though.

I am an amazingly dry person - dry hair, dry skin, dry eyes. I can't stand those oil-free sunscreens, for instance, because they make me feel like my face has been baking in an over for hours. So showering every single day in the dry desert winter is not good for my skin. Gives me the itchies something fierce. But the weather is cool and dry so I'm not sweating much. I do shower one or probably twice a day during the summer here, though, because the heat is disgusting.

We all have routines that work for us. I wash my hair with conditioner, not shampoo. We use unscented laundry soap - no fabric softener, no dryer sheets, but I am quite inflexible about using antiperspirant because I find natural deodorants like Tom's of Maine make me reek like a dirty litter box.
posted by Squeak Attack at 2:39 PM on November 3, 2010


I wash my hair once a week since I use the wrap method of straightening, which is a giant pain in the ass that I don't want to do more than once a week. I shower daily but wear a shower cap. It doesn't get greasy until about day 6, but it looks fine in a neat ponytail. It seems to look greasiest around my temples, so I just use scentless dry shampoo there as needed. My partner gives it a sniff every now and then and says it always smells fine.

On the other hand, my little sister used to go 2 weeks without washing...until her boyfriend sniffed the air and asked what smelled like a ferret cage.
posted by emilyd22222 at 2:47 PM on November 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


I hate posting without reading the thread (and I will, just give me a couple hours), but I was thinking about this... in the shower.

Snarky response: wonderful, another group that thinks their shit doesn't stink.

Thought out response: I've always thought that bathing was part of the social agreement. I know it's a recent development, historically speaking, but isn't avoiding offending others part of the daily deal? Here, specifically, trying not to smell bad? I try pretty hard to make sure that people don't catch a whiff of me without deoderant (I've coined the phrase mulestench in reference to my pits without deoderant), and that, in general, my bodily stench isn't what people remember. I'd always thought that this wasn't an exception thing, just kind of normal. I don't want to force my odors on you, I'd like it if you don't force it on me.

We have so many ways of blocking social transgressions. With visual behavior, we can choose not to look. Is someone talking loudly to themselves on the otherwise quiet morning train? Headphones. But damn, in a small, enclosed space, someone stinks? There's not much we can do to avoid that. There are, sadly, a lot of times I'm not thrilled with having a strong sense of smell.
posted by Ghidorah at 2:54 PM on November 3, 2010


Ah. I see zarq already addressed the role genes probably play in body odor.
posted by apis mellifera at 3:05 PM on November 3, 2010


Woah, woah, WOAH curly/frizzy haired people who have whacktastic hair if they don't shower!

Consider that you're shampooing your hair too much.

Dry hair is frizzy and hard to style.

That's why so much hair product is essentially moisture/fake grease. Ditto conditioner.

I almost never have to brush my hair, never get bedhead.

I have crazy dry sensitive skin (after a shower it looks like someone has attacked me with claws, it's insane).

I also am blessed with only ONE armpit that smells. WTF, smelly pit? I hate you.
posted by the young rope-rider at 3:07 PM on November 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm allergic to most deodorants, they make my underarms become tender and red. Luckily, 4 or 5 years ago I was turned on to the crystal type of deodorants. It is effective for days, even in the 100+F sweaty bicycle riding days. One cylinder of it also lasts literally for years..

I tried to turn my room-mates onto it but they couldn't grasp the whole extra step of making sure your arm-pits were clean before using it.

If I can't smell you that's fine, I don't care. If you are stinking up my whole class-room because you think it is edgy to not wear deodorant I hate you.
posted by thylacine at 3:34 PM on November 3, 2010


I'm smelling you all right now.

Ya'll are .... de-lightful.
posted by Avenger at 4:00 PM on November 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


I believe it was Jim Gaffigan who said something like:

"Everybody has that one friend who's always telling them that people don't need to shower. 'Yeah, well, you do.'"
posted by Comrade_robot at 5:05 PM on November 3, 2010


I've gone on a number of long-ish backpacking trips, and after not showering for over 2 weeks and exercising hard and mostly wearing the same exact clothes the entire time, man do you stink. But I've realized recently that on the first day back from the field, I spend the entire time being startled by how strongly everyone else's shampoo and soap and cologne smell. And it's not an intrinsically nice smell either. It's just a really strong chemical smell. And then my nose gets used to it again, and I forget about it until the next time I come back from the field.

What I'm getting at, I think, is that people who claim to not smell because they shower all the time aren't really correct: they do smell. They just smell differently than they would if they hadn't showered, and Americans, at least, have decided that it is better to smell like soap and chemicals than it is to smell like bodies. So our noses adjust after continual bombardment and we only notice the aberrations. Not that I'm totally disagreeing with this practice, mind, because left on their own some people really can stink.

It's just that I see a lot of Americans assuming that American hygiene habits are somehow self-evident truths rather than a cultural thing. I know we do that about a lot of things (I blame Thomas Jefferson and the Declaration of Independence. Kidding. Sort of.), but the more I notice it--as an American myself--the stranger that seems.
posted by colfax at 5:12 PM on November 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


Geez, hasn't anyone ever been camping? I can wash every square inch of my body with soap, and rinse, and wash my long, thick hair with a gallon of water, a couple washcloths, and a basin. If I'm skipping the hair washing (which, I usually don't when camping- campfire hair smells BAD) I only need about a quart and a half of water. You don't NEED a shower to keep clean.

Also, the kid I knew who had the worst BO ever showered two, sometimes three times a day. I felt bad for the guy, until I realized that his diet consisted of about 80% low quality processed pork lunch meats. Then the rancidity started to make sense. I knew his sister, she did his laundry, so it wasn't his clothes that stank, it was him. One time, he took of his socks and shoes in the living room instead of the garage and made both his mom and his sister cry.

But yeah, aside from culture and occupation, this sort of thing is totally variable based on things like hair type and natural oiliness. I have incredibly dry skin and scalp, even my earwax is flaky rather than gooey (to the extent that I use QTips to rub Neosporin in my ears, rather than to get anything out), so if I were to take a hot water, soapy shower every day, I would be flaky disaster, lotion or not. Since cold water showers in the winter suck, I'll often opt for the camping type wash to save time and to keep my skin from falling off my legs.
posted by Leta at 5:21 PM on November 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Redhush writes "Jeez, am I the only one who works in a dusty shop all day? When I shower every evening, the water comes off me grey. Damn right I shower every day! "

Metafilter skews heavily to people who don't physically work for a living. It's pretty easy to tell most people who physically labour who don't shower regularilly.
posted by Mitheral at 6:06 PM on November 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


I felt bad for the guy, until I realized that his diet consisted of about 80% low quality processed pork lunch meats. Then the rancidity started to make sense.

[citation needed]

Unhealthy food might cause a lot of problems, but I don't think body odor is one of them.

Unless you use the food as a deodorant or something
posted by ymgve at 6:21 PM on November 3, 2010


The rule of thumb is simple: if people are going out of their way to avoid you, it's time to take a bath (or see a dentist).
posted by bwg at 6:21 PM on November 3, 2010


Diet does affect your body odor. There's a thread somewhere on ask.me where many folks confirm that vegetarians taste better during oral sex. My body odor changed after I stopped eating meat. I used to not like my smell when I hadn't showered, and now it smells fine.
posted by aniola at 6:51 PM on November 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


aniola: Diet does affect your body odor. There's a thread somewhere on ask.me where many folks confirm that vegetarians taste better during oral sex. My body odor changed after I stopped eating meat. I used to not like my smell when I hadn't showered, and now it smells fine.

Diet does affect the way you smell, but I don't think it's as simple as bad diet = bad odor. A bunch of spices and flavors seem to be expressed through the skin. Offhand I'd say garlic, chili powder, curry powder, asparagus, maple, cabbage, and alcohol would be the first suspects I'd name.

Also, I think a few diet-related things affect it as well, such as hydration and blood sugar.
posted by Mitrovarr at 7:39 PM on November 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


I have only one request for those of you who are male and who skip a day or more of showering. All in all, not a problem. But please, wash your f*cking balls. I like balls fine. During sex, I might even like them a little rank (too much info?).

But on the subway, in a closed elevator, at a party, perhaps I might not be interested in your balls? At that very moment? And boy, do they ever smell like festering baby juice stabbing its way forcefully into my nostrils when I am trying to take notes (on OTHER THINGS), think (about OTHER THINGS), or otherwise function in this our shared world.

I beg you, please, don't be a public nuisance. We all can smell your junk, and it's a rude stench from hell. Thank you for considering this.
posted by gorgor_balabala at 8:01 PM on November 3, 2010


I actually got my first big career break because the guy I replaced had really bad B.O. The team was working on a really big presentation that had everyone pulling late nights at the office, and 3 days before the thing was due, they just couldn't hang with smelly dude. Somebody did their best to politely bring it up, and the guy took it poorly, left in a huff, and took his files with him. Basically my interview was "can you start right now, and do you wear deodorant...you're hired"

As to personal hygiene, i'm firmly in the needs to shower daily, sometimes twice camp. The whole debate about regular sweat vs. flop sweat is kind of moot in my point, as I am really good at both. I'll bust out a good flop sweat if the walk/don't walk sign turns a little faster than I expected. Which is weird, as I'm not a very anxious or nervous person, and pretty solid under pressure. Also, at the slightest hint of warmth, I get going with the regular sweating as well. In the summer, I usually have to carry an extra shirt in my bag, as I've usually destroyed the first one by about noon. Which I know makes me sound like a sweaty disgusting mess, but because I have to freshen up during the day, it actually makes it seem like I'm always fresh as a daisy to the outside world. I've actually been complimented on my personal tidiness, which cracks me up because it really is a house of cards that could fall apart at any time.

I have a friend who barely sweats, emits no odor, and rarely uses deodorant. He would constantly bitch about what disgusting slobs the rest of us were, because after a few hours of being in the car, or playing ball or some other manly type pursuit, we'd smell, well, like a carful of guys. After years of trying to convince him otherwise, he's still convinced that he's "normal" and the rest of us aren't being honest about our hygiene regimens.
posted by billyfleetwood at 9:00 PM on November 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


thylacine, I've always had similar reactions to most deodorants/antiperspirants (my grandfather was the same apparently, and used baby powder all his life according to mom), and I swear by the Jason Aloe Vera deodorant. (No other variety, strangely enough.) I might have to give the crystal a try, though.

For me, a shower is just one of the great pleasures in life. Used to joke that I moved from California to Washington simply to be able to take a Really. Long. Shower.
posted by epersonae at 9:00 PM on November 3, 2010


The Card Cheat > When I was in university there was a fellow who would often use the same computer lab as I did, and he smelled so strongly that sometimes I'd smell him before I saw him. And it wasn't regular B.O., it was a sickly/sweet aroma like rotting fruit. He didn't appear to be someone with hygiene problems, so I always wondered what medical condition could cause such an unfortunate problem.
Diabetic?
posted by Decimask at 9:32 PM on November 3, 2010


I'm in the mostly every other day camp, and as long as I wear some form of deoderant (even the crystal kind), clean clothes, and it's cool weather where I don't get really active, I'm fine. In fact, I have hair and skin issues if I shower every day.

All of you saying that us every 2nd or 3rd day people just don't realize how gross we are, this link has a survey that shows that about one third of Americans are in the every other day to a few times a week camp. Do a third of the people you come across at work, in the bookstore, in restaurants, etc, reek? There's always the cases of people who seem truly unaware of their own stench, but 33% of people seems high enough to point to the possibility that this is, indeed, possible to do and still be a functional member of society.
posted by wending my way at 9:36 PM on November 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Hmm. This is a weird subject, much less a weird subject to get in heated debate about.

I shower daily, but occasionally, maybe a couple times a month, I'll get up and say "screw it" and forgo a shower. I make sure, though, to drag a rag across my stinky parts (I'll leave that to your imagination) and wash my face, or at least rinse my face with water. For dingy hair, if you throw a little baby powder on your hair and then just brush it out, it'll look like you just cleaned it in the shower. All this takes about 2 or so minutes.

Anyway, after a couple of very embarrassing events when I was in high school, I'm very self-conscious about B.O., even to this day. If I skip a shower, as long as I do the above steps (and even sometimes if I don't), there should be no problem. So in theory an every-other-day shower is totally doable*.

*Exceptions to this rule are the hot summer months and people who exercise frequently; SWEATING A LOT necessitates daily, perhaps even hourly showers.
posted by zardoz at 9:52 PM on November 3, 2010


I love how what I said about the unwashed not giving a damn about how they smell got conveniently skipped over for the more inflammatory statement I made about obsessive bathers and chemically enhanced products. I do, obviously know that there are more natural and non-chemical ways of managing body odours, but let me simplify my hyperbole.

I was trying to draw attention to the broader generalizations that people tend to make when they hear 'I don't shower daily'. The funniest of which was 'Are these unwashed getting oral?' down to the one about the unkepmt ring-around-the-collar guy who scratched his dirty head all the way to Limerick. Oh yes, and the ultimate laughing moment for me was "You smell like soup" - priceless.

Those of us who shower every few days or less (my personal best is six months without a full body shower or bath during the past summer) have our ways of dealing with personal hygiene without being cavalier about our natural resources while still maintaining respect for the sensitivity of others perceptions of our body odours by managing our hygiene accordingly.

I will gladly field questions on the subject for the curious.
posted by empatterson at 11:30 PM on November 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


I don't shower very often [we don't have hot water, and our apartment is unheated]

Wait, but you have Internet?


Always good to hear about well-ordered priorities. I once knew a ham radio guy who was archetypal. He had the best radios (Collins) and great fishing skills (QSL postcard personally signed by Yuri Gagarin, anyone?) What he did not have was doors between the rooms in his homely home ... just curtains.
posted by Twang at 1:47 AM on November 4, 2010


people from different areas likely have different bacterial cultures, which in turn produce different odors. Though I think where you live probably has more to do with it than where your ancestors are from.

As a kid in an international school I had the privilege of smelling stinky, sweaty kids of many different races and nationalities up close during P.E. And it definitely struck me that there is a difference between European-teenager-smell and African-teeneager-smell. I'm sure that there were differences between Asians and everyone else, too, but my nose isn't very sensitive and I wasn't *that* fascinated by the topic. But the African-teenage-boy-smell was so pronouncedly different from local teenagers that it stuck in my mind. Odd. I assume that given we all lived in the same place and didn't have much access to native food items of other countries, diet didn't play such a role.

Anyway, I shower daily, especially in summer. In winter, if I wipe myself down wet every time I've been to the loo, I can get by with showering every other day. I only wash my hair every second day. As a kid, I washed it every week but it got manky and I didn't like it.

And I'm surprised that people say showering is necessary for waking up or with bed hair - I shower in the evening because it relaxes me before bed time. And brushing is quite enough for bed hair, if you have straight hair.

My mother doesn't seem to sweat or smell and probably could get by a week without showering.
posted by Omnomnom at 6:04 AM on November 4, 2010


I have had it confirmed by several independant sources.

So how does one go around to random people and go "hey smell my pits. Do I stink?"'

You must be charming, hot, or pick people who are overly curious.
posted by stormpooper at 7:12 AM on November 4, 2010


"Sweat has no smell. Except for flop sweat."

I had a broken foot and couldn't shower for two months. I started to smell very, very bad, even before menstruation was added to the mix. I washed with a sponge, and I could wash my hair over the sink, but on a daily-weekly basis, this wasn't enough.

I don't mean to riff on geek stereotypes, but - I have engaged in geek activities which very much prove that one's smell is less noticable to oneself than others. Not caring about conforming to social standards is great, but not when it makes it hard to sit across a table from you.
posted by mippy at 11:17 AM on November 4, 2010


Americans, at least, have decided that it is better to smell like soap and chemicals than it is to smell like bodies.

Quite true. A person much better traveled than I am once explained how when he arrived in remote areas one of the first things he would be told by indigenous people is that he reeked of the smell of soap.

The whole offense over smell is a peculiar thing when you stop to consider it. When most people respond to farts, body order, dead animals, etc it seems to me like they are just over reacting. Now and again something is really pungent but I can think of few times that the smell from another person warranted such drama.
posted by dgran at 2:01 PM on November 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Stormpooper, I am both charming and hot ;)
Most of the people who've told me I don't have pit odor have been intimate enough with me to tell. Mostly boyfriends, but friends, too. I mean real friends--the kind that would be decent enough to tell me I stank if I did. With friends, the conversation usually takes place after some hours of physical exertion or time in the heat, and people start complaining about their failing anti-persperants. It's then that I disclose my weird lack of odor. Their curiosity usually does get the better of them, and they'll accept my invitation to smell my sweaty under-arm. (Maybe I have sick friends.) I always pass the smell test.

Frankly, I started thinking maybe something was wrong with me for a while. I mean, it doesn't seem normal. So I did a little googling and learned that I am not alone and this "condition" is not unheard of.

It always cracks me up when people who've never met me insist that I simply must have B.O., that I can't smell myself, etc. I still shower every day because other parts of the body do get a bit smelly, and I like clean hair. But no, no need for deoderant.
posted by apis mellifera at 9:22 PM on November 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


How do non-showering people deal with hair?

Not everyone has hair on his or her head, or if they do, it's short enough or nappy enough not to matter.

I stopped using deodorant and cut down on soap. I have very oily skin but it also gets very dry, so it's hard. I sometimes find that scrubbing with just water (not too hot) is better than using soap.

This article is good inspiration, thanks. So is that dirty hippie askme.

As far as soap goes, does anyone have any good, non-toxic (we use gray water for our backyard) suggestions? Everything really dries my skin out.

I broke my hip last year and was in a wheelchair for 3 months. I didn't shower or take a bath the whole time. I used washcloths. I survived.

So what makes some people stink so bad? According to this dermatologist (a former president of the national organization) it is simple: dirty clothes

I'll buy this. There's bad body odor, which is usually unappetizing but tolerable when necessary, and then there is blanketed-homeless-man body odor, which can be vomit-inducing.

(even tho' it's Faze!)

I loled.

Weather and climate make a difference.

I think it's the humidity more than anything else, which also possibly supports Faze's contention.

I've been at Burning Man with guys I know can have bad body odor, and even after a week in the desert without showering, they're not that bad.

But I wouldn't try that in a New Orleans or D.C. summer.

Though I think where you live probably has more to do with it than where your ancestors are from.

I would think diet would be a much bigger factor, which possibly explains how the guy could identify cultural backgrounds.

There is no point in using Tom's products because they don't work--esp. the deodorant.

Can you explain how the toothpaste doesn't work? I generally don't use toothpaste myself--my dentist said it was unnecessary--but toothpaste is toothpaste. Are you claiming Crest (with added sugar) is better than Tom's toothpaste? I dunno.

Also Tom's of Maine = Colgate/Palmolive. I'm sure they know how to make functional hygiene products.

I don't want to force my odors on you, I'd like it if you don't force it on me.

I don't really get this attitude at all. When you're stuck next to a godawful-smelling homeless man, you blame him?

I think the bigger "trend" here is that people are becoming more informed and making their own rational decisions about hygiene. I blame the Internet.
posted by mrgrimm at 1:32 PM on November 5, 2010


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