Presenting BYJU’S ‘What If?’ where you, the students, get to ask us your questions. It can be anything in the whole wide world but there’s just one condition: it should start with ‘What if?’ We’ll pick the most intriguing questions and feature it along with an illustrated explanation on The Learning Tree Blog.
To ask your question, fill-up the form here:
The latest question of the What If? series comes to us from 13-year-old Altaf Raza from Muzaffarpur, Bihar. He asks:
An important part of maintaining good hygiene is taking regular showers or baths. Showering once a day with water and soap helps get rid of dead skin, pollutants, excessive oils produced by the skin and other microbes stuck to your body that you don’t really need.
You might have skipped a bath for a couple of days due to some pressing circumstances. While it might have been slightly uncomfortable, you would probably not have noticed too many changes apart from some slight body odour. But what if you went 365 days without taking a bath?
Since it’s not a good idea for any of us to try out this disturbingly dirty experiment ourselves, we can rely on what experts like dermatologists (skin doctors) have to say. The first thing that you (and probably everyone around you) will notice is the smell, which you’ll start to notice in just a couple of days. This is thanks to the sweat, bacteria and dead skin that accumulate in areas with a lot of sweat glands – like the armpits, groin and the back of your ears. Can you imagine how bad the smell would be over a year? Pee-yew! You’ll never be able to go anywhere unnoticed ever again, and not in a good way!
After about a week without showering, the outer layer of your skin will start thickening due to a process called hyperkeratosis. This is due to the continued accumulation of dead skin on your body. Although you can’t see it, human skin is packed with dead cells that are constantly shedding. In fact, we lose about 30,000 to 40,000 dead skin cells every minute. So just in the amount of time it took you to read this far, you’ve probably lost a few lakh skin cells already. In about a year’s time, you would lose close to 4 kilograms of cells!
After about 30 days of no showering, you should start to notice all sorts of rashes, sores and itchiness popping up all over your body. This will especially be true in areas that accumulate more sweat. Soon, you’ll start to notice brown bumps, warts and fungi growing over your skin. Without regular exfoliation, your skin becomes a perfect atmosphere to harbour all sorts of microorganisms. Your skin will either become excessively oil or extremely dry. Either way, both conditions are ideal for the growth of bacteria and yeast.
After a few months, you’ll notice that the above-mentioned conditions have intensified. Your body would have become a host for thousands of parasites. Meanwhile, let’s take a moment to mention your long, greasy, uncut and unwashed hair. By now, your scalp would have accumulated a lot of dirt, dust and grime. When combined with the oily secretion from your scalp (called sebum), it would cause your hair to become matted and knotty.
While you may think that your naturally formed dreadlocks could make a cool style statement, constantly scratching your extremely itchy scalp all day will surely take away any possible cool quotient from the entire affair!
If you think a bad hair day (or year!) is a big issue, then you’re not going to like what this dirty decision will do to your face! Just like the scalp, the skin on the face also produces a natural oil called sebum. With the accumulation of dead skin, bacteria and the excessive sebum, your face will be a breeding ground for a serious case of acne. Over a year, your face would probably be unrecognizable, riddled with infected zits and pimples!
But it’s not all about looks and aesthetics here. A major consequence of the no-shower lifestyle is a weakened immunity and an increased risk of infection. Even if you get a small cut or bruise on your skin, it’ll be an open invitation for all the above-mentioned microbes to make their way through your body.
So all things considered, at the end of one year without a shower, how bad is it going to be? The good news is that you probably won’t die, so there’s always that small comfort! The bad news is that you would have probably picked up dozens of infections by then and will be far from a healthy individual. But the human body is surprisingly resilient. Once you start showering regularly, it’ll only take a week or so for most of the bacteria, fungi and other microbes to start disappearing.
Needless to say, most of this is scientific conjecture because obviously not too many people have gone that long without showering for the sake of science! You should definitely NOT try out this experiment at home either. Please do not skip showering for a year (or even a month or even a week for that matter!). But there is one man who came close to trying this out.
Rob Greenfield, an American adventurer and environmental activist, went for a whole year without taking a shower. But there were a few loopholes – he did occasionally swim in lakes and rivers and used chemical-free soaps and products to wash up. It was still quite a feat though and at the end of it, he admitted that it made him reconsider a lot of his lifestyle choices and came out of it a happier person.
Did you enjoy reading this? Check out the previous edition of the ‘What If?’ series:
Do you want to ask your own ‘What if?’ question? Fill the form below and stand a chance to be featured on the Learning Tree Blog.
Suraj Prabhu is a self-proclaimed audiophile and a jack-of-all-trades writer with a diverse set of interests. An amateur quizzer on the side, he claims that the first object he fell in love with was a book on flags at age 3. His favourite punctuation mark is the 'Oxford comma,' which coincidentally happens to be one of his favourite songs too!
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