The stereotype of the French is that they do not prioritize personal hygiene like frequent showering or using deodorant. However, stereotypes are often inaccurate generalizations. So what are the showering habits actually like in France? Do French people shower every day? How often is a normal shower routine in France? Here, we’ll examine the evidence behind the stereotypes and statistics on shower frequency, cultural attitudes, and influencing factors like climate and water usage policies.
Do the French shower daily?
According to a 2020 survey, 77% of French people report showering at least once per day. This is a high percentage, but lower than some other European countries like Spain (86%) and Italy (84%). Overall, daily showering is a common practice, though not quite as ubiquitous as in some neighboring countries.
The stereotype that French people do not shower daily may stem from a minority of individuals who do not follow this practice. The survey found 15% of French shower 4-6 times per week, 6% shower 2-3 times per week, and only 2% shower once per week or less. So while less frequent showering is not the norm, there is more variability and leniency around shower routines compared to some cultures.
Shower frequency by age and gender
Showering habits differ somewhat based on age and gender. According to the survey:
– 84% of 15-24 year olds shower daily, compared to 75% of 45-65 year olds.
– 80% of women shower daily, compared to 73% of men.
So younger generations and women tend to shower slightly more often than older generations and men in France. But daily showering is common across all demographic groups.
Cultural attitudes towards showering
The French place a high value on good personal hygiene and grooming. Frequent showering is seen as part of being civilized and sophisticated. At the same time, the French can have a more relaxed attitude compared to some cultures when it comes to strictly regimented schedules and routines. The French are not known to rigidly shower at the very same time every single morning like clockwork. There is an acceptance that reasonable people can differ on exactly how often showering is necessary to stay fresh and clean.
Looking further back in history, daily bathing was not always the norm in France. In the 1700s and 1800s, full immersion baths were still relatively rare. For the urban poor, communal bathhouses were accessed occasionally, while the wealthy had private baths in their homes. Through the late 1800s, Paris opened public bathhouses to improve hygiene conditions. By the early 1900s, indoor plumbing became more widespread in French homes, enabling more frequent bathing. So the cultural standard of a daily shower is a more modern development in France, not a long-standing historical tradition.
France’s climate likely influences bathing habits to some degree. Northern France bordering England tends to be cooler than the warmer Mediterranean south. In cooler weather, showering or bathing daily helps fight chilliness and maintains comfort. In very hot climates, showering is refreshing and helps cool the body. So France’s varied climate zones support frequent cleansing.
However, climate variation alone cannot explain showering trends in France. Neighboring England has an even cooler climate, yet British showering frequency (65% daily) is much lower than France. Clearly cultural attitudes play a strong role as well.
Water usage policies
France does not have any sort of national restrictions or regulations limiting shower times. Some local regions or cities have explored reducing water wastage by setting limits on showerhead water flow rates. But most households do not face externally enforced limits on long shower use. Any water conservation efforts must come from individual choice, not top-down policies.
That said, the French are keenly aware of the need to reduce water wastage in daily life. Even without enforced limits, many French people aim to conserve water out of environmental consciousness. This leads some to choose slightly shorter or less frequent showers. But this ecological mindfulness does not generally translate to extreme rationing of water use for hygiene.
Beauty and cosmetics
The French place high value on beauty, fashion and personal appearance. France is known worldwide for cosmetics and perfumes. With this cultural focus on aesthetics and cosmetics, it makes sense that frequent cleansing is valued. Excessive body odor or greasy hair are seen as unattractive. Daily washing keeps skin and hair fresh, clearing the palette for applied cosmetics and perfumes.
|Product category||French market size|
|Skin care||€2.8 billion|
|Hair care||€1.7 billion|
France is one of the top consumers of cosmetics products in Europe, including categories like fragrances, skin care, and hair care. This demonstrates the strong cultural focus on personal grooming and aesthetics that supports frequent cleansing habits.
What about the stereotype that French people eschew deodorant? This may have origins in real cultural differences, but the reality is more nuanced.
Surveys show that 88% of French people use deodorant at least occasionally. However, regular daily deodorant use is less common, at around 50-60% of the population. By comparison, deodorant use in cultures like the United States is estimated at around 75-90% of adults using it daily.
So while the majority of French people do use deodorant, they may employ it a bit less frequently than some other Western cultures. But the difference should not be overstated. Deodorant use is still widespread and the norm among French people.
Negative health perceptions
Many French people have concerns about the potential health risks of aluminum-based deodorant ingredients. These underarm products are applied directly to the sensitive skin and lymph nodes near the armpit, allowing absorption of chemicals into the body. The traces of aluminum absorbed are believed by some to pose health hazards like breast cancer or Alzheimer’s disease. While no conclusive link has been proven, caution about frequent deodorant use is understandable for those who harbor concerns.
The French appetite for natural health and beauty products also likely reduces deodorant use somewhat. Plant-based or mineral salt deodorants are growing in popularity. These natural products may not provide 24-hour odor protection like conventional antiperspirant formulas. But they allow some body odor management while avoiding synthetic chemicals. For those who view some scent as natural and healthy, particularly outdoors, these products help minimize offense to others without compromising on using natural ingredients.
In summary, the majority of French people today shower or bathe daily as part of their regular grooming habits. Frequent cleansing is seen as necessary for sophistication and taking care of one’s appearance. There are some variations by age, gender, climate and ecological concerns that may lead a minority to shower slightly less often. But daily bathing is the clear norm and cultural expectation nowadays in France. The stereotype of the rarely-washed French person is outdated and inaccurate. At the same time, the French may use deodorant a bit less routinely than some other cultures, due to a combination of health concerns, preferences for natural products, and a relaxed attitude that some natural scent is not inherently unhygienic. But deodorant use remains commonplace among the majority. In the end, the French find a balance between valuing good hygiene and aesthetics without being chained to rigid perfectionism. The French take cleanliness seriously while retaining some flexibility about when, where and how it must be achieved.