For many people, taking a nice shower is one of the best ways to keep cool and clean throughout the day, but according to a new study, this practice may not be as beneficial as initially thought.

A team of infectious disease experts from Columbia University has discovered that while taking a shower can remove the unpleasant odor that the body had built up throughout the day, it is not as effective at eliminating bacteria as much as what many people believe.

In fact, study co-author Dr. Elaine Larson of Columbia's School of Nursing says washing hands regularly may be even more helpful in keeping people protected from illnesses.

According to the new study, taking baths too frequently can make a person's body more susceptible to various health issues because it often leaves the skin dry and cracked. These openings on the skin provide bacteria and other infection-causing microbes a way to enter the body.

Larson pointed out that this often occurs in aging people because their skin becomes less hydrated and thinner, making them more likely to contract infections.

Dr. C. Brandon Mitchell, a dermatology assistant professor from George Washington University, agrees with the observations of the Columbia University researchers that many people tend to take baths too often.

He explained that washing the skin can remove its natural oils as well as the population of helpful bacteria, which actually support the body's immune system. He also echoed Larson's advice to avoid using too much antibacterial cleansers during bathing.

Mitchell added that in terms of people's health, taking a shower once or twice a week would be enough.

The areas that people should focus on cleaning during baths include the armpits, groin and butt, which Mitchell says are the ones that produce secretions that have strong smells. As far as the other parts of the body go, they don't require too much soaping.

"Your body is naturally a well-oiled machine," Mitchell said. "A daily shower isn't necessary."

The findings of the study are featured in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.

Photo: Steven Depolo | Flickr 

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