Hollywood power couple Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher sparked debate when they revealed they only bathe their kids when they can “see dirt” — but experts say a relaxed approach to personal hygiene is perfectly acceptable.
Angela Spencer, a UK pregnancy, birth and parenting expert with over 20 years’ experience, told FEMAIL that while there are stricter rules about when and how babies and toddlers should bathe, it matters much less once children reach primary school age.
She suggested that parents should bathe their children at least twice a week, although “common sense” should prevail.
“If they’ve had a busy day, got dirty and need a bath, take a bath,” she said. “But if you’ve had a lazy day, nobody really is that dirty. I went back to the top and tail scenario. That also includes brushing your teeth and hair.’
The American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD) offers similar advice, stating that children between the ages of six and 11 should only bathe at least “one or two” a week, although bathing more often won’t hurt.
Angela warned that there are also dangers of “over-bathing” children, especially if they are young, as their sensitive skin can dry out with water and have strong reactions to products.
Candid: Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis admitted to only giving daughter Wyatt, six, and son Dimitri, four, a scrub if they look physically dingy; the family is pictured in 2017
Speaking on the armchair expert podcast, Ashton, 43, and Mila, 37, insisted there’s “no point” in bathing daughter Wyatt, six, and son Dimitri, four, unless necessary.
Mila, born in Ukraine, explains: ‘I didn’t have hot water as a child, so I didn’t shower much anyway… But when I had children, I didn’t wash them every day either. I wasn’t that parent who bathed my newborn babies—ever.’
Ashton added: “Now here’s the thing: if you can see the grime on them, clean them. Otherwise it makes no sense.’
The comments have sparked an online debate, with social media users divided over how often children should be bathed.
One mom tweeted, “I agree with them on this. Bathing two small children every day is a lot of work. Plus, it can really dry out their skin. If they spend the day outside in the mud, they need a bath, a crispy hair bath (sometimes). Swimming pools also count.’
A second agreed: ‘You don’t have to do it every day unless they are playing outside in dirt/mud or swimming in lakes/ponds or playing sports. I was in charge of the baths when I lived with my younger siblings and they had them every other day, maybe every two days, unless I saw they were dirty.”
The comments have sparked an online debate, with social media users divided over how often children should be bathed. Some said it was disgusting not to look at children every day
But other parents were shocked by the suggestion, with one saying, “I bathed four kids every day. Each. Day. I worked and had no money like her to hire help. Lots of work, wtf!? That’s your job as a parent to keep your kids clean.’
Another hospital worker insisted: ‘The ‘I don’t wash my kids unless there’s dirt’ crowd are the ones who are constantly at the doctor/ED because their kids have skin infections, ringworms, lice, bad cough, etc.
‘As a hospital employee, we can see who is bathing their children and who is not.’
The risks of washing TOO often
Angela explained that there are dangers of ‘over-bathing’ children, saying: ‘Our skin and hair aren’t really made to be stripped of its natural oils and protection every day by overzealous hygiene routines.
“Of course things like washing your hands when you go to the toilet are a must and also having a clean face before you lie on a pillow, but one of the reasons we can get allergies and actually get sick from insects is because we have not let our natural immunity inside and out and are strong.’
Angela said it is especially important for children to strengthen the immune system in the coming months after more than a year of pandemic disruption.
She continued: ‘Kids have been isolated for a very long time because they didn’t go out much and also from each other.
“Many have also had to sit in front of a screen for hours a day, which we knew before the pandemic was not good for their health or well-being.
‘Then they are suddenly reduced to interaction with each other and of course with germs, bacteria and other viruses. As a result, many children do not have a strong immune system and become very ill with a high fever and ongoing illness.
‘It’s important to make sure your kids are getting enough vitamin D (outdoors of course whenever possible, take a good multivitamin and remember that ‘a little dirt won’t hurt’ or in my opinion is a must!
“Just be sensible and use common sense when it comes to hygiene.”
The American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD) recommends bathing children ages six to 11 at least once or twice a week, depending on their activity level.
The organization explains that children in this age group should also take a bath if they have become dirty from play or sports, spent time in a pool, lake, ocean or other body of water, worked up a sweat or have body odor.
Once puberty starts, children should take a bath or shower daily and also wash their faces twice a day to remove oil and dirt.
The rules around babies and toddlers are slightly different, Angela explains.
“When a baby is born, it’s actually important not to bathe them right away unless absolutely necessary, as their skin is covered in a protective substance called vernix, which is beneficial to be absorbed by the skin.” ‘, she said.
“After those first few days, a bath once a week should be enough for a new baby, after all, they don’t really get up to get dirty. While they get a “top and tail”, as my own mother called it. every night making sure their hands, face, and diaper area are nice and clean is okay in between those weekly bath times.
“Once kids are mobile, it’s a whole new ball game as they explore, get messy, and you want to develop a good bedtime routine.
“While a night of baths before bed to unwind from a fun-filled day can go a long way toward creating a better sleeping environment, I would stay away from harsh chemicals and bubble baths every night as it’s not good for the skin.” – but a little water play is guaranteed to relax a child.’
When children reach school age, a little flexibility is perfectly acceptable.
“However, there has to be some clear common sense between it being okay to ‘top and tail’ for a night or two and neglecting your kids’ hygiene,” Angela continued.
“Consistently matted and unbrushed hair, consistent dirt in fingernails and toenails, a child who always has a smell are all signs of neglect.
“If you’re a parent who likes to let your kids be ‘free’ in nature, set a weekly or even bi-weekly ‘no excuses bath time’ and make sure they go up and down in between because you really don’t want your child have to go through an unpleasant illness because they have contracted worms by not washing their hands after using the toilet or by accidentally coming into contact with animal feces, or a nasty stomach flu.
“We want children to build their immune systems, but still need to be aware of their health and well-being.”
dr. Jennifer Crawley, a dermatologist and consultant for Childs Farm products for sensitive skin, added that regular baths are important because they help remove invisible irritants — but said there’s no hard and fast rule about how often children should bathe.
She said: “For kids four and up, it’s fine to bathe them every day, as long as there’s something super hydrating in the water. It is also essential that you use a moisturizer once they are out of the bath to replenish the skin barrier, lock in moisture and keep the skin hydrated.
“There’s nothing wrong with bathing your kids less often. However, it is a great way to bond with your child, help him with his development and have some playtime.
‘Regular bathing can also remove irritants that can linger on the skin and may not be visible to the naked eye. It also encourages regular hydration, which helps replenish and build the skin barrier.’