If you want to get ahead in life, you’d better show up looking clean and smelling fresh. From childhood, we learn the virtues of regular bathing and grooming as though our lives depend upon it. The irony is that for the most part, they do — at least socially. But in our Instaworld, hygiene has added implications for self-image and social media as well as social acceptance.
The average American bathes six times a week, shampoos five times a week and flosses four times a week. They also brush their hair and teeth about twice a day, according to a recent survey by Ipsos.
In the U.S., “bathing is at least as much for aesthetics as for microbiological reasons,” says Elaine Larson, professor of Epidemiology at Columbia University.
Not surprisingly, men and women follow some practices differently. Men bathe and wash their hair a bit more than women, as it can take women hours to style their hair. Across age, more people agree that personal hygiene directly ties to self-image than to how others perceive them. Three out of five women “strongly agree” that personal hygiene ties directly to how they perceive themselves. Just half of men believe the same.
“This is likely driven by the fact that people feel added pressure to capture Instagram-worthy moments and achieve mounting ‘likes’ to boost their self-confidence,” says Kristy Click, client partner at Ipsos and a beauty and consumer goods expert. “Brands have an opportunity to use social platforms as the trigger to prompt people to think about their personal care products. Use the platforms; promote the benefits that persuade you can help Millennials earn their status.”
You can’t be too clean for Millennials
Millennials significantly more agree that personal hygiene ties to how others perceive them. Nine in 10 men of this generation say when it comes to feeling confident, taking a shower is just as important to them as the outfit they choose to wear, per another Ipsos study.
Affluent Millennial men are now as likely as women their age to say their external appearance is extremely/very important to them, according to an Ipsos Affluent Intelligence study. “This is interesting to marketers because it represents a group with more spending power than the general population,” says Amy Sizemore, client partner at Ipsos and a personal health care expert. “However, they don’t always know exactly how to achieve the look they want, so this is an area of opportunity for marketers to intervene and provide some guidance.”
Women also are more likely than men to say sanitation habits are very important versus important. That includes washing hands after using the bathroom. The same goes for changing undergarments and clothes daily and sanitizing mobile devices, living spaces and work spaces.
“This is less about the need for consumer education on how bacteria spreads, etc., and more about consumers realizing that staying clean is only one part of the equation,” says Sizemore. “Making sure that food is handled correctly, making sure that sick people stay home, etc., are far more impactful at this point than whether or not they have washed their hair on a given day.”