Do You Really Have to Shower After Sex?
After a year of incessant handwashing and focus on germs, soaping up after any type of activity may just seem like the norm. And with a post-vax summer here—and a ton of horny people eager to throw down IRL after a year stuck sexless in quarantine—this season may be one of the best for acting out your steamiest fantasies.
There can be a psychological component that informs people’s views about showering after sex, [...] Scrubbing off can help some people feel better about their bodies.
Whether it’s from sweat or other bodily fluids, that sticky post-romp feeling might mask temptation to skip the after-sex snuggles and proceed directly to the nearest shower. But should you? Not necessarily. "You can shower every time [after sex]," said Maria Sophocles, M.D., a New Jersey-based OB-GYN and host of the livestream GyneCollege, where she answers questions about vaginal health and sex. "But it’s important to know what you’re not preventing."
Why do people shower after sex?
Post-coital showering habits vary for all kinds of reasons, and for many, the quarantine has made a major impact. Dan, 42, based in Toronto, said he's showered less in lockdown. "I’ve found that if I’m working from home, I really don’t care or feel the need to shower every day." Instead, he cleans himself up "every other day," but that can change depending on the week. The quarantine didn’t have an impact on his post-sex shower habits, as he typically doesn’t shower after sex. "[I’m] usually pretty tired," Dan added. "And the idea of showering after sex isn’t all that appealing."
Like Dan, Amanda, 32, based in Massachusetts, also showers less often than she did before, in part because months spent indoors have given her less incentive to clean herself up for the outside world. She believes this isn’t a bad thing, however, arguing that "it's better for your skin and the environment to shower less!" When it comes to sex after showering, Amanda revealed that she does it sometimes if "we get super sweaty or are going out [afterward]."
Beyond the physical act of showering, there can be a psychological component that informs people’s views about showering after sex, Sophocles noted. Hopping into the tub and scrubbing off can help some people feel better about their bodies. On Reddit, some users also expressed concerns that their partners might perceive them negatively if they don’t shower after sex.
According to Anya Laeta, a sex and relationship coach based in the Bay area, some people are more sensitive than others to sweat, smells and body fluids, which can make the idea of cleaning up right after the deed feel more enticing. Still, it all comes down to choice. "Whether to shower or not [after sex] is really a personal preference," she added.
Are there any real benefits to showering after sex?
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are a common post-sex problem, which can occur when harmful bacteria gets into the urethra and eventually wind their way into the bladder and kidneys, potentially leading to pain during urination, pelvic discomfort and other symptoms.
Approximately 50 to 60 percent of adult women will have at least one UTI in their lives, according to a 2019 review published in the Therapeutic Advances in Urology and the "sudden, rapid and painful" onset of UTIs is a source of anxiety for many. Although it’s less common, men are also at risk for getting UTIs, and approximately 12 percent will have symptoms of at least one UTI in their lifetime, according to the American Urological Association.
While some believe that washing your genitals before and after sex can help prevent UTIs, Sophocles disagreed. "People who have frequent UTIs either don’t have enough estrogen to keep tissue healthy in the vagina, or the bacteria is getting in there from sex," she noted. She says the act of sex is what introduces bacteria into the system, but showering or wiping "won’t impact that at all."
Vaginal douching, which is a method for washing out the vagina using water mixed with other products (usually vinegar, baking soda or iodine), is practiced by as many as 1 in 5 women in the U.S. between the ages of 15 and 44, according to 2015 statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But Sophocles isn’t a fan of it, either. "Psychologically, [women] feel like it’s part of cleaning the body because the vagina is a cavity that’s dirty and needs to be cleaned," she noted. "[But] the vagina is self-cleaning, much like an oven.”
Douching can actually "stir up" normal bacteria, Sophocles noted, and potentially create problems. Douching increases the risk of vaginal infection, according to a 2020 study published by the Journal of the Turkish German Gynecological Association.
A post-sex shower might be helpful after anal sex, however, as a way to rinse off any lubricants or body fluids. This is especially true if the fecal matter is in the mix, as it contains harmful bacteria that may lead to vaginal irritation. An enema, which involves pumping water or saline into the rectum, can help dissolve any stool that may be left over from your last bowel movement and may make anal sex feel more hygienic.
The drawbacks of showering after sex
The only real negative to showering after sex, according to experts, is that you run the risk of alienating your partner, especially if they’re not jumping into the tub with you to wash off.
"I think that post-sex cuddle and glow is precious bonding time," Sophocles said. "When people feel like they have to jump up and [shower] immediately, I think it totally can take away from intimacy."
Laeta agreed but also sees it as an opportunity to talk with your partner and find a great common ground. For instance, if you don’t care about post-sex showers but your partner does, rather than letting them rinse off without you, ask if they’d like you to join. From there, the possibilities are endless. "Shower time together is more exciting when you slowly and sensually soap, rub and massage each other," Laeta said.
So, should you shower after sex?
Showering after sex, Sophocles said, can "feel good psychologically," especially if you’re concerned about general hygiene. So if you want to do it, by all means, suds up. Just don’t expect it to be a substitute for good safe sex practices.
If you’re worried about how your partner will feel if you jump into the shower each time after sex, Laeta’s advice about finding ways to incorporate them into your scrub-down routine could be a helpful way to keep those warm post-sex feels going strong. It can also be a great excuse to get dirty all over again, but in ways that are truly sexy and satisfying for both of you.