Not since we begged the question of whether it's a good idea to brush teeth in the shower has a hygiene-related topic had the potential to generate such debate. An informal poll found wide-ranging opinions on the day versus evening shower -- some people can't get through the day without starting it with a good scrub down, whereas others simply can't settle in for the night unless they're squeaky clean. Then there are those who prefer to go with the flow based on schedule and exercise habits.
All the conflicting opinions causes us to wonder whether one time of day is superior to another for the purpose of showering? Often, the answer to such a seemingly innocuous question isn't as simple as one would think. Let's look at it from a few different angles.
The Sleep Factor
Although many people prefer a morning shower to help them wake up, the evening shower is actually a valuable tool for winding down at night, particularly for those with sleep problems. "If we are looking at showering strictly from a sleep perspective, there is no question that someone should be showering at night vs. in the morning," explains Bill Fish, certified sleep science coach with Tuck.com, noting that the human body thrives on structure and routine.
Indeed, research has shown that a soothing, warm bath or shower before bedtime raises the body temperature enough to set the tone for a good night's rest. Raising your body temperature and then allowing it to cool seems to hasten sleep. "If you make it a point to shower roughly 30 minutes prior to going to sleep each night, your body will begin to know that the sleep ritual has begun and you will begin to naturally feel sleepy after your nightly shower," he adds.
Laurelei Litke, a digital marketing content expert at HealthLabs.com in Houston, swears by this recommendation. "As an insomniac, having a nightly routine is so important," she says in an email. "I like to take a warm shower about an hour before bedtime, but I leave my room pretty cold. Controlling my body temperature is a big part of falling asleep for me!"
On the other hand, a regular morning shower could be a must for people who need an extra jolt to get going. "Research shows that there is a positive aspect of water in improving our ability to become awake faster. Showering in the morning is refreshing and makes us feel clean and ready for the day — something to pay attention to if we want to boost our confidence," says psychiatrist Dr. Damian Jacob Sendler via email.
The verdict: Evening showers are best for people with sleep problems, but if you sleep well and need it to feel alert in the morning there's no harm in showering when you rise.
Dermatologically speaking, there's not much difference between morning and nighttime showers. "It does not matter whether you shower in the morning or at night as far as the skin is concerned," explains Dr. Anna D. Guanche with the Bella Skin Institute in an email, although she does note, "If you have difficulty sleeping, a warm shower or bath could help you fall asleep, and good sleep is great for your skin."
Overall skin health aside, some people prefer to wash the grime and allergens of the day away before hitting the hay. "I hate going into bed dirty," emails Tonia Luk, a stay-at-home mom who lives in a Rockville, Maryland.
Spring Hill, Tennessee-based Peri Krichbaum concurs with Luk, although her evening showers actually started for a different reason. "I started doing that when my allergies got bad," she emails. This is actually a great strategy for people who suffer from allergies and asthma, as pre-bedtime showering removes pollen and other allergens from the hair and skin. What started out as necessity soon became habit for Krichbaum, however. "Now I need to shower at night to go to wash off the day and go to bed clean," she says.
However, early morning exercisers often smartly shower before heading off to work. The feeling – not to mention smell – of dried sweat is anything but comfortable!
The Verdict: Evening showers are ideal for people with asthma and allergies. Otherwise, shower whenever you feel like it because your skin won't know the difference.
The Hairy Situation
Once again, the morning versus night debate must take into account specific characteristics of the individual's hair. People with fine and/or oily hair are generally advised to wash up in the morning, otherwise hair will appear flat, dull and possibly greasy. Jenny Dell, a fundraising expert in Thomasville, Georgia has a full head of very fine hair. "If I sleep on fresh fluffy hair for even a few hours, I wake up looking like a wet cat," she explains in an email, adding that the morning shower is non-negotiable for her.
On the other hand, people with thick hair can really choose either time, depending on the style they seek, but many do opt to shower at night in order to skip the heated tools, which can damage hair if used too often. Or else, their hair may be naturally on the dry side and doesn't need to be shampooed more than once a week.
If you wash your hair at night, make sure it is totally dry before turning in, because the prolonged moisture can cause microbes to build, potentially resulting in dandruff or other scalp irritations.
The Verdict: People with fine hair should shower in the morning. Otherwise, do whatever suits your schedule and style.