Skip to content

These Are the Body Parts You're Not Washing Enough, Say Dermatologists

From head to toe, these are the parts of your body that require some extra scrubbing.
FACT CHECKED BY William Mayle
woman after shower

It was Ben Franklin who once famously said that there is nothing certain in this world but death and taxes. I would like to add one more thing to that list: People fighting online about how often to shower. (Remember the great "wash your legs" debate of 2019?)

While it can be argued that most people don't need to wash their hair as often as they do, there are other body parts that lots of us accidentally overlook in our bathing routines. "Generally speaking, we are living in a society of over-washers," says Joshua Zeichner, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and an associate professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. "We don't necessarily need to shower every day, but specific areas that tend to get dirty should be washed on a regular basis."

"Body parts that can be smelly are the ones that need love," adds Mona Gohara, MD, associate clinical professor at Yale School of Medicine, Department of Dermatology. It's a good rule of thumb to follow (with some exceptions, as you'll see shortly). From your head to your toes, these are all the parts of your body that you should be washing way more frequently than you already are. And for more great ways to take better care of your body, don't miss The Surprising Habits That Can Cause Lasting Damage to Your Body, Say Experts.

1

Behind the ears

Female ear and hands close-up. Copy space. Torn paper, yellow background. The concept of eavesdropping, espionage, gossip and the yellow press.

While most experts say that it's counterproductive (and even risky) to clean inside your ear canal, the skin behind your ears generally needs some extra TLC. "The skin behind the ears can become quite oily, allowing yeast on the scalp to grow to higher than normal levels," says Dr. Zeichner. "This contributes to dandruff, flaking, and itching." He recommends that you wash behind the ears every time you wash your hair, or more frequently if needed. And for more excellent advice for living a smarter life, learn why Watching This One Movie Can Actually Improve Your Life, Says New Study.

2

Feet and toes

Pain in the foot of the elderly
Shutterstock

Both doctors say we all should pay more attention to washing our feet and toes. "You should wash the skin between your toes on a daily basis," says Dr. Zeichner. "Because of the moist environment between the toes, it is a breeding ground for microorganisms like bacteria and fungus." Be sure to clean all of the nooks and crannies on your feet, Dr. Gohara adds.

As for your legs, Dr. Zeichner says that they only need to be washed when the skin is visibly dirty. Guess we can consider that debate settled…until the next time someone brings it up online. For more on your feet, read up on the One Body Part You're Not Exercising But Should, Say Experts.

3

Fingernails

woman suffering from pain in wrist at home.
Shutterstock

According to the CDC, you should also be cleaning underneath your fingernails every time you wash your hands. (The more you know!) Per the CDC, this habit helps prevent the spread of germs, which can get caught underneath your nails. But this shouldn't overly complicate your hand-washing routine—just make sure to dedicate a few extra seconds to lathering your nails with soap and water. An inexpensive fingernail brush can help, too.

4

Belly button

Young woman in black midriff tee shirt

This is another place that Dr. Zeichner says goes frequently unwashed. But you shouldn't skip it, as he says microorganisms and dirt can build up in this area. (It can also smell, says Dr. Gohara, making it well-worth a wash.) Dr. Zeichner recommends washing inside your navel with soap every day.

5

Your Rear

arms up squat
Shutterstock

Yes, we're going there. Dr. Zeichner says that you should wash your butt cheeks regularly, especially if you work out, sit all day, or get sweaty. "A sweaty environment, combined with friction of the clothing against the skin, can increase your risk of developing folliculitis, which is an infection of the hair follicle," he says.

You should also carefully clean your anus after each bowel movement, Dr. Zeichner adds. This helps prevent bacteria buildup and keeps your clothing stain-free. "If toilet paper is not enough, a fragrance-free towelette can be useful," he says. Or maybe it's time to invest in a more environmentally-friendly bidet to keep things squeaky clean.

6

Your groin

taking cold shower
Shutterstock

Cleaning the delicate skin around your groin area can help keep the area dry and free from irritants or germs—reducing the risk of infections. "Sick to gentle cleansers in sensitive areas," advises Dr. Zeichner. "Because the skin is thin in these areas, it is more at risk for potential irritation. Be thorough, without over scrubbing." So whenever you shower, give your external bits a good (gentle) wash and rinse.

7

Hands

Woman sitting on a sofa and rubbing her hands.
iStock

You'd think this would be obvious during a pandemic. But a January 2021 survey conducted by the Bradley Corporation found that only 57 percent of Americans wash their hands six or more times per day, and 53 percent say they wash their hands after returning from a trip outside the house—a decline since the brand's previous hand-washing survey in April 2020. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that you should be washing your hands for a full 20 seconds several times a day, including every time after you use the bathroom, before, during, and after preparing food, and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. This is crucial to help prevent the spread of bacteria and diseases, including COVID-19.

8

Armpits

Back of athlete young man stretching arm shoulder before workout in the park. Trainer male warming up preparation body before running at outdoor. Healthy lifestyle concept.

This should be a no-brainer, but it was on Dr. Gohara's must-wash list for a reason. Your armpits can trap sweat and bacteria, leading to body odors. It's a good idea to wash them every time you shower, and after you exercise or play sports. Oh, and speaking of exercise—see here for the 3 Workouts Proven to Change Your Body Shape.

Jessie Van Amburg
Jessie Van Amburg is a freelance writer and editor who has covered health, nutrition, and lifestyle topics for top media outlets including Women's Health Magazine, TIME.com, and Well+Good. Read more