For many families, bath time is a struggle. For this reason, many parents will be glad to know that a daily bath may not be necessary for their children, according to dermatologists from the American Academy of Dermatology.
“Depending on their age and activity level, most children only need a bath a few times a week,” said board-certified dermatologist Robert Sidbury, MD, MPH, FAAD, associate professor in the department of pediatrics and division chief of dermatology at the University of Washington School of Medicine. “For children, a few germs here and there are healthy, as this is how their bodies learn to fight off bacteria and build stronger immune systems.”
To help parents figure out how often their child needs to bathe and wash his or her hair, Dr. Sidbury recommends that parents consider the following:
1. Age. In general, children ages 6 to 11 years old need to bathe only two to three times per week.
2. Hair type. Children ages 6 to 11 generally have to shampoo their hair only once or twice a week until puberty starts. However, children of African descent or children of any age with dry or curly hair need to shampoo their hair only once every 7 to 10 days. After sweating heavily or swimming, they can rinse and condition their hair and continue to shampoo regularly once every 7 to 10 days.
3. Activity level. In addition to their regular schedule, children should bathe and wash their hair whenever they get dirty, such as when playing in the mud; after being in a pool, lake, ocean, or other body of water; and whenever they get sweaty or have body odor.
4. Puberty. When puberty hits around age 12, children should start showering daily and shampooing their hair every other day or daily. The exception to this is children of African descent and children with dry or curly hair. By age 12, these children may bathe daily and continue to shampoo their hair once every 7 to 10 days. Around this time, children should also start washing their faces every morning and evening to remove dirt and oil.
Since conditioners are designed to help moisturize dry and damaged hair, conditioning isn’t necessary for most children, says Dr. Sidbury. However, children with long, wavy, or curly hair may benefit from a little conditioner to prevent tangles. The conditioner should be applied mostly on the body and ends of the hair and not on the scalp.
“While these guidelines work well for most children, every child is different,” said Dr. Sidbury. “If your child continues to have body odor, or if your child’s hair or scalp seem too oily or dry after following these guidelines, see a board-certified dermatologist.”
Dr. Sidbury notes that these guidelines are not meant for children with eczema or other skin conditions, as these children should bathe as often as directed by their dermatologist.