Have you ditched the shampoo — and deodorant, too? Apparently, a growing number of people are foregoing daily American cleanliness rituals, at least according to a NY Times article from last week. “The Great Unwashed” is what the newspaper calls these people, whose habits range from washing their hair less frequently — as recommended by many salon stylists! — to washing their hair not at all.

We’ve certainly written about shampoo-free living at MNN before, and reader reactions have ranged from enthusiastic “Me too!”s to shocked “No way”s. But the NY Times story covers not just hair cleansing rituals but showering habits and deodorant use, too. Like many Asians and Europeans, Americans are choosing to forgo daily showers, citing environmental reasons, natural beauty and health benefits, and even pure laziness. Perhaps more dramatically, some of the article’s interviewees are eschewing deodorant, claiming the product simply isn’t necessary.

Slate calls NY Times’ piece a bogus trend story — mainly because its interviewees are not so much unwashed like the headline promises, but less washed or underwashed. The author Jack Shafer makes an excellent point though — that unwashed clothes often play a bigger role in body odor than unwashed bodies:

Folks who bathe daily but wear the same unwashed clothes over and over quickly turn ripe. Folks who skip bathing for a few days but still don freshly laundered garments every day radiate a relatively charming fragrance. I’ll bet that every bath-averse person named in the story puts on clean clothes every day and that a good number of them slip on something different at the end of the work day.
Though I do have a friend who I think could give some of her sweaters a good wash (Do I tell her?), I don’t think it’s necessary to don fresh clothes everyday, regardless of showering frequency. A quick smell test can quickly separate the clean from the odoriferous, with no need for unnecessary laundering.

But in any case, I like how both the NY Times and Slate articles show “normal” people embracing something less than the hypervigilant clean we’re often pushed to pursue by shampoo and deodorant companies. And now, I'm wondering if my own hygiene rituals could be simplified.

I fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum of the underwashed. I wash my hair a few times a week and haphazardly apply a natural, aluminum-free deodorant on the days I actually remember. But I do shower almost every day. Why? I’m very allergy-prone, to everything from cats (They are my kryptonite) to pollen to simply less-than-pristine air, which in smoggy Los Angeles, is the default. Every time I have tried to cut back on showers, I’ve found my allergies have gotten worse.

So now I’ve just accepted I’ll shower after every time I work out — which is five to six times a week. I do take military showers though, which I believe — in addition to being water-wise — actually get me cleaner! Soap up when the shower isn’t running, and you’re less likely to miss spots.

What are your hygiene habits? How often do you shower and wash your hair? And where do you stand on deodorant?

MNN homepage photo: evilerin/Flickr

Is deodorant-free the new green?
Ditch the tyranny of daily showers! Are more people embracing a shampoo-free, deodorant-free lifestyle as the new clean?