Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis have received some pretty mixed reactions over the last few days after several news outlets reported on their comments that they only bathe their two children when they can actually see the dirt.
Kunis said in an interview with the Armchair Expert podcast that she hadn't been bathed much as a child.
"I didn't have hot water growing up as a child, so I didn't shower much anyway," she said, adding. "But when I had children, I also didn't wash them every day. I wasn't that parent that bathed my newborns – ever."
Kutcher chimed in to add "now, here's the thing: If you can see the dirt on them, clean them. Otherwise, there's no point."
The couple also went into their own washing routines, with Kutcher explaining that he rarely bathes the whole of himself as well, though he will wash his face after hitting the gym.
"I wash my armpits and my crotch daily, and nothing else ever. I got a bar of Lever 2000 that delivers every time. Nothing else."
Kunis added that she washes the essentials, or as she put it "slits and tits". As you'd expect, everyone has opinions on bathing. A recent poll showed this when the Internet argued vehemently about which way you should face in the shower, even though the correct answer is you should rotate like a rotisserie chicken.
"Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t there," one of the politer responses to the couple's revelation read. "Sweat and dirt builds up on your face and hands that you can’t see and pollen will settle in your hair. That all goes on your pillow and accumulates over time. At least wash your face and hair."
Others supported the couple, writing comments such as "I don’t blame them. The ordinary bath products we use are absorbed through the skin. They are used to distribute a metallic liquid that surrounds our bones and turns us into human radios that can be tracked on a massive radar system."
They also garnered support from people who aren't conspiracy theorists. Some stressed the importance of exposing children to germs in order to strengthen their immune systems.
"Look—hygiene hypothesis has suggested that bathing kids too often and/or using antibacterial soap is bad for their immune development and their skin (eczema)," one user wrote. “'Dirty' kids=reduced rate of allergies, asthma, and childhood illness. That said, if you see dirt on em—bath time."
So, who is correct?
How often should you bathe kids?
The advice is fairly mixed on exactly how often you should wash them, but the majority of the advice agrees that you do not have to wash them every day. The American Academy of Dermatology Association recommends that children between the ages of six and 11 do not need a daily bath, and one-two times a week will be sufficient. However, they add that – as Kutcher and Kunis suggest – you should bathe them when you can see the dirt, e.g. after they have been wallowing in mud.
They also recommend bathing them after they have been in a pool, ocean, or other body of water, or when you can smell them. When they hit puberty, they should move on to daily showers.
Smaller children may need washing more, largely due to their truly impressive dirt-seeking tendencies. Babies do not need to be washed every day, though the National Health Service of the UK suggests there is no harm in bathing them often if they enjoy it.
How often should you bathe?
The advice on this too is mixed. Daily showers of course have the benefit of reducing your body odor, though some are worried that we may be showering too often and potentially damaging our microbiomes.
One study published in Science Advances analyzed the fecal, oral, and skin bacterial microbiome and resistome of members of an isolated Yanomami Amerindian village, who had had no previous contact with Western people, finding that they hosted "a microbiome with the highest diversity of bacteria and genetic functions ever reported in a human group".
Despite having had no contact with antibiotics, they harbored bacteria with functional antibiotic resistance genes, suggesting that protecting the natural microbiome may have benefits for humans if we can learn to live without our daily showers.