Why Aren't These Famous Guys Bathing? And Do the Experts Agree With Them?
ILLUSTRATOR ELAINE CHUNG
The only kind of dirty I want to experience comes in the form of a Christina Aguilera song and its corresponding video. It’s a bop to remember, and I will question anyone that doesn’t like it. But right now, my magnifying glass is hovering over Jake Gyllenhaal. Mind you, not for anything particularly nefarious—I am troubled by his bathing habits. Yes, behind those baby blues and dimpled smile lies a man who evidently does the bare minimum to clean himself.
In a recent interview with Vanity Fair—about fragrances, no less—the actor stated: “More and more I find bathing to be less necessary, at times.” He did note that he brushes his teeth and has good manners, so at least there’s that. But then he went on to say that “there’s a whole world of not bathing that is also really helpful for skin maintenance, and we naturally clean ourselves.” Anything in excess, of course, is never advantageous (unless it’s good manners). Not bathing regularly, however, is really disturbing to me. And it would appear that Gyllenhaal is not the only celeb that adheres to this practice.
Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis.
Brad Pitt—beautiful Brad; why, Brad?—has expressed his aversion to soap and water. He merely uses baby wipes that he swabs under his armpits. Lack of time and having a large brood to run after are to blame, apparently. Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis, too, have come out in support of this anti-bathing movement, revealing that they seldom take showers. And Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard have also chimed in: “You should not be getting rid of all the natural oil on your skin with a bar of soap every day,” said Shepard.
There is, as I have come to find, some truth in Shepard’s logic. “Some celebrities do not want to wash their bodies every day with soap, as it strips natural oils from the skin. Some do not see it as necessary,” Dr. Elizabeth Mullans, a board-certified dermatologist at Uptown Dermatology, tells me. “And I agree, it is not necessary to take a daily bath or shower as our body cleans itself.”
“The skin possesses a natural barrier comprised of oils, and plays host to beneficial bacteria and other microorganisms,” explains Dr. Jeremy A. Brauer, a clinical associate professor at Ronald O. Perelman Department of Dermatology, New York University. “These can be disrupted by prolonged hot showers as well as extensive use of soaps, and exfoliation, and scrubbing.”
'The skin possesses a natural barrier comprised of oils, and plays host to beneficial bacteria and other microorganisms.' — Dr. Jeremy A. Brauer
All this raises the question: Have I been doing it all wrong? I’m a firm believer that cleanliness is next to godliness. Every morning, without fail, I brush my teeth; wash my face, sans soap; and take a piping-hot shower, deep scrub included. Depending on the day I had, I will do the same before bed. It’s a ritual that was instilled in me from an early age. I was taught to present myself with distinction, and looking oily, greasy, and disheveled just doesn’t do that for me. Smelling sublime also ranks high in my book, and, from my experience, no amount of body spray or cologne can hide one’s natural musk. Thankfully, the actions of the privileged few, as if often the case, need not apply to everyone.
“I recommend bathing about once a day for the average adult, although those with sensitive skin or eczema-prone skin may only need to bathe every other day in order to prevent dryness,” says Dr. Lindsey Zubritsky, a board-certified dermatologist. “One can occasionally shower more than once a day if they are particularly dirty from outdoor activities, exercise, or heat.”
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Bathing is a deeply personal ritual, suffice it to say. Everyone's biology and routine differ, which means that no one person takes a shower the same way, nor should they. “This is highly variable and depends on your individual lifestyle and daily exposures,” Dr. Brauer says. “It's about more than just the frequency, but also duration, temperatures, products used, and where they are applied.” Not only that, but one's career and socioeconomic status also play an important role.
A scene from Parasite that shows Choi Yeon-gyo disgusted by the scent of her driver, Kim Ki-taek.
Indeed, there is a stigma placed on certain groups in society that are deemed "less than" when it comes to this idea of not bathing. It's worth watching the Academy Awarding-winning film Parasite, which takes a close look at how smell and appearance could cause a divide. For many from historically marginalized groups, forgoing daily showers simply isn't an option.
“As celebrities came forward and shined a light on not showering, it sparked discourse on how hygiene is looked at differently for everyone,” says Dr. Mullans. Whether it's the functional divide between work-from-home jobs and manual labor or the class divide between workaday individuals and fantastically wealthy celebrities, the concept of not bathing regularly takes on different shades of meaning when you apply it to different groups. And there's no getting around the fact that the groups that already have the upper socioeconomic hand are the ones that can more easily get away with abstaining from soap for a while.
'As celebrities came forward and shined a light on not showering, it sparked discourse on how hygiene is looked at differently for everyone.' — Dr. Elizabeth Mullans
Put bluntly: Brad and Jake are able to skip a few showers or baths because they have the luxury to do so. They are not being held under a magnifying glass by society. I, however, have absolutely no problem putting them under my lens. Dudes, clean yourself. Almost every derm is saying so. You don’t have to do it frequently if preserving the oils in your skin is what you’re after. But if you’re building up a funk, don’t reach for the baby wipes. It reeks of privilege. (This also applies to any bro out there that thinks it’s OK to heed their example.)
I’m hoping this will be one of those fleeting celeb trends that doesn’t pass muster. But in the event that it does, best believe that I’ll, to paraphrase Christina Aguilera, ring the alarm and start throwing elbows.
This story originally appeared on Esquire.com. Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.