My dirty little secret: I only shower twice a week. (But I bet I smell as sweet as you!)
- Like Prince Harry, Clover doesn't wash her hair very often
- She's saved a fortune on shampoo, and decided to cut out some showers
- She now has more free time and healthier skin and hair
By CLOVER STROUD
PUBLISHED: 23:15, 5 June 2013 | UPDATED: 23:15, 5 June 2013
Au natural: Clover Stroud sometimes showers as infrequently as twice a week
A girlfriend kept me waiting for coffee the other morning, eventually bustling into the cafe trailing a cloud of expensive-smelling body lotion and damp apple-scented hair, gushing apologies she'd had to 'jump in the shower' before she could leave the house.
Sipping my lukewarm cappuccino, I resisted the urge to confide I hadn't had a shower for three days, and my blow-dry was a week old. If she was to sniff my hair she'd smell - well, my hair.
Confessing I don't shower every day - in fact, why don't I admit that sometimes I can shower as infrequently as twice a week - feels like I'm breaking one of the last great taboos.
Perhaps this is because daily, and even twice-daily showers, have become the norm for many.
Smelling perfumed all over is seen as the ultimate expression of feminine allure.
This, in my opinion, is a load of smelly hog-wash, because if you met me, you'd never guess I'm one of the great unwashed. I don't stink, people don't back away, handkerchief to nose when I walk in the room and neither do I look grubby.
My hair always looks healthy and glossy and my skin crystal-clear, but a daily shower isn't something I slavishly factor into my morning ritual, even though I have many girlfriends who rise an hour before their family to scrub, blow-dry and chemically spritz themselves to a state of fragranced perfection.
While you might raise your nose in disgust at the thought of sharing airspace with such an unashamed soap dodger, the dirty truth is I'm not alone.
A whopping 41 per cent of men and 33 per cent of women don't shower daily, according to a survey this week by tissue manufacturer SCA, while 12 per cent have a proper scrub only twice a week. All of which is music to my less-than-squeaky-clean ears.
I'm not an advocate of dirt, but there's a difference between keeping clean and covering yourself in gallons of water and products every day.
Sometimes a good old-fashioned, stand-up sink wash is all you need to maintain basic standards of hygiene, and you'd be surprised how long you can go between hair washes if you put your mind to it.
Every night I brush my hair with a natural bristle brush which removes the concentration of natural oil from the roots, where it tends to gather and make hair look greasy.
I've also discovered that when I'm not exercising, if I simply splash water under my arms, I seem to produce less sweat than when I spray myself with endless antiperspirants.
So, yes, some days I don't put any deodorant on at all. It took a bit of courage to try at first, but it really works.
I noticed our obsession with feminine cleanliness in Boots. Gone are the days when a bar of Pears soap and bottle of Timotei counted as a passable cleansing regime, as it did for my mother's generation.
I found myself assaulted by thousands of fragranced cleansers, gels and lotions designed to rid my body of the suggestion it was anything other than a perfumed, polished temple of loveliness.
Women spend millions of pounds trying to get rid of - or at best mask - our natural aromas, as if being human and female is somehow dirty. From foot deodorisers and mouthwashes to 'intimate wipes', there is no part of our body allowed to smell as nature intended.
Who knows the financial cost of all this preening. But the price to the planet is high, with the average person estimated to use 150 litres of water every day.
I started cutting back on showers a year ago when I noticed my skin feeling dry after bathing. Initially, I compensated by slapping on moisturiser, but the problem only got worse.
Soap dodgers: Both Prince Harry and Jessica Simpson are said to prefer using dry, rather than liquid, shampoo
I now know some dermatologists believe daily cleansing with hot water and chemical-rich soaps, rather than nourishing the skin, strips it of the essential oils that keep it soft.
Without daily showers, my skin began to feel more supple, and my hair - which I now washed no more than twice a week - looked better than it had done in years.
I'd been washing it every day since I was a teenager in the Eighties. I blame Wash & Go, which hit the market as I hit adolescence.
With its combined cleanser and conditioner, it was so quick and easy to use it encouraged a generation to wash their hair daily.
Little did I know that by doing this I'd also been depleting my hair's natural sebum - the oil our scalps secrete to fight bacteria - and it reacted by producing more of it. The result? A frustrating cycle of greasy hair however often I washed it.
It wasn't until a camping trip last summer that my husband noticed my hair looked fresher and sexier now it was being washed less.
'Without daily showers, my skin began to feel more supple, and my hair - which I now washed no more than twice a week - looked better than it had done in years.'
I decided to carry on with this approach once we got home and have saved a fortune on shampoo. It was then a natural progression to cut out some showers altogether.
I spend the time I've gained every morning doing something I enjoy, like wallowing in bed.
According to Elizabeth Shove, professor of sociology at Lancaster University, daily showering is a modern obsession.
She points out that showers were only fitted into UK bathrooms in significant numbers in the Seventies. Prior to that, in most households bathtime came once a week.
'It's amazing how quickly daily showering became normal, even though it isn't about getting clean, because it takes more than 24 hours for dirt to accumulate,' she says.
'Instead, the daily shower has shifted in meaning from cleanliness to freshness and invigoration, so that showering's now a part of waking up rather than actually getting clean.'
More worryingly, the water and products we slather ourselves with might be doing harm, she says.
Alternative health practitioner Jo Kuszmar says: 'Water in cities is packed with chemicals, and hard water is harsh on the skin.
'Combine that with many of the chemical-heavy “cleansing products” on the market, and your daily shower could represent a toxic attack on the natural structure of your skin.'
Kuszmar believes excessive showering and exfoliation could be linked to the apparent rise in sensitive skin conditions such as psoriasis.
In hot water: 41% of men and 33% of women have revealed they don't shower daily, while 12% have a proper scrub only twice a week
'The chemicals in water and cleansing products are relatively harmless used alone, but we don't understand their effects on health and wellbeing when they react with one another,' she says.
It's even more sinister to learn researchers at the University of Reading have raised concerns about a possible link between parabens, the chemicals used as preservatives in many shampoos and cleansers, and breast cancer.
Maggie MacDonal, of Environmental Defence, which educates people on environmental issues affecting their daily life, says: 'Parabens mimic human hormones, specifically oestrogen. Considering some breast cancers are tied to oestrogen exposure, it's advisable to avoid oestrogen-mimicking chemicals in cosmetics.'
But my decision to ditch my daily shower isn't just about saving time, money and natural resources.
I prefer being slightly unwashed. My skin looks tighter, and my thick and often unmanageable hair behaves better.
I even skipped a wash on my wedding day last year, since squeaky clean hair is impossibly slippery to put up. I felt sexier and more myself.
Smell also played a huge role in my initial attraction to my husband. I find the fresh scent of a real man far more attractive than the most expensive aftershave.
I'd far rather snuggle up to him when he smells of himself, rather than of chemical cleansers, and he says the same about me.
And let's not forget bed-head hair is considered sexy. Kate Moss, Kirsten Dunst, Chloe Sevigny, and Mischa Barton - none of these sirens have super-groomed glossy hair.
Perhaps, like me, they are happy in their own skin. That's why I won't be going back to washing every day. In an over-processed world, I believe it's good to be a little bit human.
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