looking professional after working out at lunch

A reader writes:

I work out during my lunch break (we have a fitness room and full locker rooms on-site) and have a question about professionalism. Normally I work out, throw on some fresh deodorant, brush my hair, change, and go back to my desk. Recently I’ve been running outside and have gotten considerably sweatier than I did using machines inside. I don’t have time to shower and wash my hair and whatnot; that would take my whole break. I don’t go back smelly or anything, but I am often flushed and frequently put my hair up when it was previously down since it’s sort of sweaty (can’t tell when its up).

Assuming I don’t have any meetings just after, is this okay? If I didn’t have long, high-maintenance hair, I would just take a shower and go back. If it makes a difference, my director (male) also runs at lunch. I assume he showers. I’ve been here 3 years.

There are two separate issues here: (1) appearing flushed and with your hair up when it was previously down, and (2) possible sweatiness.

The first doesn’t strike me as an issue at all. I’m assuming that by the time you’re back in your office, “flushed” means more of a healthy glow and not beet red, but even if you are beet red for a bit, that’s going to subside pretty quickly. And lots of people put their hair up partway through the day when it starts to becoming an annoying presence around their face, so I wouldn’t worry about that either.

The real potential problem here is the sweatiness. If you’re coming back in looking highly sweaty — or worse, smelling sweaty — that’s an issue. And while I know you’re saying you’re not coming back smelly, are you sure? It’s certainly possible if you lucked out in the body chemistry department, but it’s also the kind of thing that can be hard to know about yourself. If there’s someone at work you’re reasonably close to, you might simply ask them. (And yes, I realize that’s a potentially awkward conversation. I might word it as, “You’ve seen me after I run at lunch — do you think I’m crazy to not be showering afterwards?” … which is less awkward than “Do I reek?”)

But really, given that you’re describing your state as “considerably sweatier,” I’m thinking that the answer here is a compromise between no shower and a hair-washing extravaganza: How about just a 90-second body-only, keeping-your-hair-out-of-the-water shower? That sounds like it solve the whole thing.

{ 323 comments… read them below }

  1. Michele*

    I agree that you should definitely be taking a quick shower before returning to work after working out.

    1. The IT Manager*

      +1 We all bring our own experiences to these comments and mine are influenced by living in south where after a lunchtime workout and shower I could still be sweating at my desk for half an hour or so because my core temperature heated up so much and the locker room was not terribly cooling. It was so hot and humid in the mornings that you could work up a sweat walking to the office from your car.

      All that said, if you are getting even a little bit sweaty on your run, I think you need to shower. You may not need to wash your hair, but I think the showering in non-negotiable if you sweat.

      I find that lunch time is not long enough for me to squeeze a worthwhile workout in when I consider I have to change, workout, shower, change back into work clothes, and apply a tiny bit of makeup. I’m jealous of men, who can shower and wash their hair in 5 minutes, do not have to dry it, and don’t have to put on makeup.

        1. AB Normal*

          Me three! I actually use a bit of powder to remove shine and a lip gloss, but with short hair and clothes that are easy to put back on, I get ready before my male counterparts who also shower after running during lunchtime :-).

    2. WorkingMom*

      I used to work out during lunch religiously, and had quite a little routine down. If I just went to the gym and did weights, I only got a little sweaty. In those cases I would first wipe down all the “main” areas that get the sweatiest with a body wipe. Then I used baby powder on those areas to soak up any remaining sweat – especially on the soles of my feet before going back into dress shoes, etc. Then of course there was deodorant, body spray, a little baby powder in the hair if it called for it. (And of course clean socks and underwear.)

      Now – if I ran outside or went to hot yoga, I took the fastest shower known to (wo)man. Depending on how sweaty my hair was – I would either wash it very fast and give it a super fast once-over with the blowdryer, just so it wasn’t sopping wet. Then I’d put it up, do my make up, use the baby powder /deodorant routine again, and so on. Each day, I got faster and faster, haha. I had a modified make up routine that was faster, and I didn’t need blush or anything, really it was just powder and mascara.

      It CAN be done – it just takes practice!!

        1. AVP*

          LOVE dry shampoo. I also use it when traveling to make my hair look “alive” on the other side of a red-eye.

          1. Angora*

            Try Batiste Dry Shampoo 5.05 oz. Tropical. I get it from amazon.com If someone asked me at that work, I may not be willing to answer it if they did smell. And change your undergarments (especially your panties) before returning to the office. Does no good to clean-up and put sweaty underwear back on.

            If you are unwilling to do the full shower; do a sponge bath; the full torso.

          2. Chocolate Addict*

            Am I the only one that can’t make dry shampoo work for me? It always comes out white on my dark hair. Any tips?

            1. Phoenix*

              Hold it further from your head and don’t focus it on one area for too long. I also find that brushing it in with a slightly damp, soft-bristled brush helps diffuse the color a bit, too.

              I use Suave brand, if that matters. I hope you make it work for you, it’s a huge timesaver sometimes!

            2. Any*

              I’ve heard plain cocoa powder can work well for dark hair? I’m rather blonde so I usually just use corn starch

            3. Anon*

              Batiste also makes a dark colored dry shampoo. You still need to let it sit a few minutes then brush to deal with the dullness, but no white cast. I wish I could buy it by the case!

            4. LD*

              I have dark hair and I’ve never had the problem with white powder showing in my hair…not sure why. One of the things I do is to hold my hair up a layer or so at a time and spray lightly under each layer. Then I use my finger tips to rub my scalp a bit and finger comb at the roots. It seems to work well.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Yes to the wipes. I’m doing stair climbs (twice a day, three floors, six times each) and they are great. I change my shirt and put my hair up, then the change back/wipe routine. I have a small fan under my desk to blow on me and cool me down too, so I’m not continuing to sweat. It’s not so bad when the weather is cooler–the stairwell isn’t as stuffy and I don’t sweat as much.

        If we had showers, I would totally do that. But we don’t.

        1. JuniorMinion*

          Dry shampoo is the best! Skip the expensive stuff and just go right for the PSSST!!!! (:) yes thats actually the name). Baby powder in your roots will work as well.

          I think it depends on how much the letter writer sweats… if you are a religious runner (like I am) you might notice that you start to sweat less / I think some of its genetic too… my boyfriend likes to joke (hes a major sweater) that we do the same workout together but hes a sweaty mess while I just glisten. Now, that being said if I was going to run 400s around the track I would probably need to shower but a 3-4 mile jog in normal conditions( <85 degrees out) wouldn't have me needing to shower. When I don't have time to shower I like to use the spray deodorant (so I can really layer it on as its inoffensive in scent), use some more perfume, and put some dry shampoo in my hair and maybe splash my face / refresh my makeup (which is minimal – BB cream + mascara). Bobbi Brown is quoted as saying that if you have time for only one thing have it be mascara so I do that.

          I've also perfected the marine style shower and can shower (with hair wash) in ~6 minutes. If you are feeling a bit uncomfortable about the no showering I highly recommend this. Figure out the essentials for your routine and pare it down (for me these are get in shower, soap, while rinsing soap off shampoo hair, rinse shampoo out of hair hop out of shower – dry off, put clothes on, put on BB cream + mascara, run blowdryer over hair, put hair in bun so no one knows its still a bit wet) I can do this routine in <10 minutes. As a side note, I work with all men and they really don't notice these things. They might notice if I came back with purple hair one day, but I have had a wardrobe malfunction before at work and come back from lunch in a whole new dress and had no one notice… just to make you feel a bit less self conscious .

          1. wanderlust*

            I don’t know, I think maybe religious runners care less that they’re sweaty, but the sweat itself isn’t less. At least not for me. I run marathons and peak around 40 miles a week during training and I am a sweaty, sweaty mess regardless of distance. I looked like I jumped in a pool after my last run… although I do live in the South, so, summer.

            I’m mainly impressed that anybody can run at all during the middle of the day and come back to work not looking like a hot mess. That is not my gift. Would that we were all Taylor Swift on exiting the gym… but alas, it is not the case.

            1. coffeedevil*

              I’m just loving the references to ‘working out religiously’ and being a ‘religious runner’ and picturing a whole new gym idea – ‘Jog for Jesus’. Sorry it isn’t very PC, but I love the thought of a whole bunch of joggers, nuns perhaps, with crucifixes bouncing all over the place as they ‘pound the pavement in prayer’. Or am I in need of more sleep…
              But OP, I agree on using wipes or a change of clothes for the afternoon – I assume there is a reason why you don’t exercise after work to avoid the issue?

              1. JuniorMinion*

                I swear I didn’t mean it like that….clearly my word choice arsenal could use some help…although you’ve got me laughing at my desk right now :)

                Also wanderlust – I am in Houston and If I ran outside now I wouldn’t stop sweating for the rest of the day – I am strictly a midday treadmill monkey in the hotter months. Sometimes I run on the weekends outside and finish up looking like I went for a swim and need to lay on the hardwood floor in the AC afterwards to even get myself to stop sweating profusely before I shower

                1. wanderlust*

                  I hear you – I am in Dallas, so I get up at the crack of dark to run before the pavement turns to lava. I don’t like treadmills very much.

              2. Evilduck*

                One of my favorite New Yorker cartoons is a guy running through the park with a cross on his shoulder, saying to another jogger, “I’ve accepted Jesus as my personal trainer.”

            2. TL*

              It’s gotta be genetic. I’m not a heavy sweater and I ran XC in south Texas. Even when I could barely stand after a race, it was rare for me to have anything more than a healthy glow and I never take more than 5 minutes to stop sweating – generally I’m done sweating by the time I’m back in the locker room.

              1. Kay*

                I also think it may have to do with diet. My dad had high blood pressure and the dr. told him to lay off salt. We learned to cook and eat without seasoning our food with salt at all. Because salt soaks up a lot of water content in your body, if you don’t eat it, you’ll sweat WAY more. My dad can look outside a window at a hot day and start sweating practically. When he does the yard, he comes in completely drenched. I assume this works in the other direction as well. If you tend to eat more salt, you probably sweat less.

              2. Melissa*

                I don’t sweat very much either – I can do a heavy workout and just glisten, and I never have sweat running down my face or into my eyes or anything. But I think I still smell, and I feel kind of sticky afterwards so I just feel obligated to shower.

            3. Melissa*

              Yeah, this isn’t my gift either. I confine my running to before or after work because I need a shower.

      2. AnonyLiz*

        Wipes and Dry Shampoo will be your best friend. It is a quick fix to get nice and professional looking/smelling again.

      3. Bea W*

        Hot yoga – a full head under shower is non-negotiable. I had no idea humans were capable of sweating in such volume that it’s like they dove head first in a swimming pool of sweat.

      4. Nusy*

        +1 for the wipes. I always crammed my PE classes in the middle of my college routine, and there was no way in hell I would go in to any class sweaty! (I also tended to wear business/business casual to school, because why not.) Body wipe, or sponge bath if absolutely necessary, talcum powder, deodorant, fresh underwear, and I was out of the locker room and off to class in sub-5 minutes.

    3. Anonsie*

      Agreed, a rinse is all it takes!

      Unless it’s so cold in your gym that you don’t even sweat. I used to go to a fitness center that was downright freezing inside, and I just got up to “comfortable and not shivering” unless I did a lot of cardio. I normally just lift weights so I often went in with hair down and makeup still on and then went about my business as normal afterward, it was kind of cool.

    4. AMT*

      My wife used to have a boss who would work out during lunch and come back in soaked and smelling like sweat. It was gross to work with him for the rest of the afternoon. I always have a quick shower after my lunch workouts. It takes a few minutes. There’s no excuse not to.

    5. Anon*

      Agree. In my experience, people who are visibly sweaty are also smell-ably sweaty. The only way to really know whether you smell is to have someone 100% honest smell you to check, which most of us don’t have. (Obviously a coworker is not going to feel comfortable telling you that you smell!)

      I have long hair and when I need to shower without washing, I just twist it up tightly and wrap into a bun, and try to shower without getting my whole head under the water. The outside hairs might get slightly damp but it stays 95% dry. You can avoid even that with a basic shower cap.

      1. Purr purr purr*

        I agree! After my runs I always think I don’t smell that bad and then later on I smell my workout gear and it’s pretty grim. It might not be BO smell but it’s definitely a sweat smell.

        1. Kara*

          Yeah, I sometimes work out at lunch (I belong to a gym and mainly use that in evenings but use the gym at work if I know I won’t be able to go later) and used to see a colleague in there who would brag about not needing to shower afterward because he didn’t sweat much. He underestimated his BO. I always take a quick rinse-off if I work out at work.

        1. teclatwig*

          That’s my experience, too. In fact, the most frustrating thing about having shorter (but not closely cropped) hair is the difficulty I face in showering without wetting my hair. When it’s long enough, I can even use a pencil to make a bun when I inevitably forget the hairband.

      2. sunny-dee*

        I do the same. I found this spa set once at TJ Maxx that had a terry cloth headband in it, and I love it. It keeps the little hairs around my face dry so I don’t have to be as careful in the shower.

      3. Melissa*

        Personally if someone point-blank asks me if they smell, I am going to assume they desire honesty and oblige.

        And as someone who washes her hair once a week at best (I’m black, more would have it all fall out of my head) – shower cap! You can buy a whole pack of disposable plastic ones at a beauty supply or drugstore for a few dollars.

    6. BritCred*

      Agreed but please don’t do what one ex boss used to. He used to put muscle rubbing gel on that smelt like TCP and stank out wherever he walked all afternoon….

  2. louise*

    I do not understand these mutants who can work out over lunch! I go to a low intensity yoga class in air conditioning and am quickly drenched, with a beet red face that lasts a good hour or more after. My hair can’t recover. I’ve got some kind of water-works sweat gene, apparently.

    1. manybellsdown*

      My ex was like that. The man just did not possess sweat glands. He never ever smelled and rarely sweated.

      I’m with you – water works. And I have curly hair, so once it’s up it’s gotta stay up because it just molds into that shape. If it were me, I’d pin it up first before the workout, and then just shower my torso. It takes an hour or more to dry on its own and probably 30 minutes to properly blow-dry.

      1. Dan*

        I’m that way. I can sweat in the sun, but if I’m at the gym, maybe I’ll get a few droplets forming on my brow. Not sweating much makes it hard to feel like I’ve gotten a good workout in.

      2. PJ*

        “My ex was like that. The man just did not possess sweat glands. He never ever smelled and rarely sweated.”

        Grounds right there for divorce. Mine was like that too — AND could lose weight just by thinking about it. Is that fair? I think not.

        1. Kelly L.*

          Mine could climb any stairs, hills, or cliffs known to man without getting winded, even though he never worked out in between times. I think he’s part goat.

    2. NylaW*

      Me too! In the summer I can hardly walk outside to go across the street to another building for a meeting without feeling like I’m a sweaty, gross mess.

    3. Red Librarian*

      Me too and my hair is the reason as well. I get super sweaty when I work out (oh, no, I’m sorry, I get super “glowy”) and while I can wipe it off my body and face, my hair is a goner.

      1. NylaW*

        Yup, exactly. My hair is an unholy mess after I work out, even just brisk walking. It’s actually easier to deal with now that it’s long because I don’t have to style it, just leave it in a ponytail or clip.

      2. Andrea*

        I have this issue, plus I get beet red and stay that way for a long time. No idea why: I’m in good shape and work out regularly, but my hair will be soaked with sweat, my whole face is dripping, and I’m dark red for the rest of the day. This is why I exercise in the evenings and then shower. By the next morning, I’m back to my normal color.

      3. LD*

        All these comments remind me of something I heard about how to talk about “sweat” in a tactful way.
        “Horses sweat, men perspire, women glow!”

    4. L McD*

      Me too! It sure would be nice to be one of those “dry” people, lol. Some days, even with my AC blasting, I can’t get through a day of housework without needing a shower right afterwards. Forget working out, especially warm/hot yoga – I’ll swing by the grocery store afterwards unless I’m a total mess, but that’s about the extent of how present I’m willing to be in society before I take a shower.

      I also tend to sweat profusely from the face area, which is always really attractive. :P You can wipe down most of your body pretty well, but getting sweat out of your hair without showering is a near-impossible task.

      I think this will have to be down to the OP’s judgment, unless they have a trusted friend as Alison suggested. Personally, if I was sweaty enough to need a shower, I’d be crawling out of my skin. So it wouldn’t be a mystery to me. But everyone has a different tolerance level (and ability to smell their own BO – I totally can, but many can’t). This one is highly dependent on the individual.

    5. Koko*

      To be fair to your genes, yoga and its poses are specifically designed to build heat, even though it’s not heavy cardio. If you don’t get hot during yoga (except perhaps restorative yoga where you just lay in reclined stretches for 5-8 min per pose), you’re probably not doing it right.

        1. Koko*

          Hey, that’s why I put “perhaps” in there. Sweating is good for you, one of your body’s most effective ways of pushing out toxins, so just enjoy your shower and consider it a gift :)

      1. Red Librarian*

        Whenever I’m in yoga class I always feel like I’m the *only* one a sweaty, sweaty mess. This makes me feel a little bit better about being extra juicy.

        1. Turanga Leela*

          I’m there with you, Red Librarian. I know some people don’t sweat from yoga or strength work, but I missed that gene somehow. I haven’t tried Bikram yoga because I get sweaty enough just in regular-temperature yoga.

          1. Red Librarian*

            YES. I have friends who love Bikram but I can’t even entertain the thought of it.

            I recently switched studios and there’s no air conditioning, unlike my other one where I still sweated so this is just worse. I did manage to find the one spot where I get both breeze from the open window and a direct draft from the overhead fans. Still have puddles all over my mat.

          2. Joline*

            I sweat easily and dislike heat but ended up loving hot yoga – though I dislike regular yoga. Somehow at some point you get so hot and sweaty that you get kind of zen. You’re so sweaty (at least I’m so sweaty) that it stops feeling like sweat and more just like you’re wet.

            I admit that that doesn’t sound great – but there is something about it.

        2. Bea W*

          I’m not normally a profuse sweater, but in hot yoga it’s like a water main break, just gushing everywhere soaking everything. I have to wear long pants because my hands instantly slip whenever I grab anywhere on my legs.

    6. Stephanie*

      Yeah, me too. Even low-intensity exercise indoors causes me to sweat. I tried bikram yoga and was just dripping sweat.

      1. Nina*

        I think anyone would perspire during Bikram Yoga though; the room is heated to 103 degrees. After 20 minutes of poses, I was sweating like a farm animal. Great idea in theory, but it didn’t work for me.

        1. Bea W*

          I can’t imagine doing it in the summer. I was doing it in the winter so at least i cooled down once I got outside.

          I liked it actually. The heat loosened up my muscles and helped with my back issues. I couldn’t do it now though. I’ve been heat and cold intolerant since developing symptomatic arrhythmia. : ( So thankful for the mild summer this year!

          I did a boot camp class earlier in the year, was slower than everyone and had a good puke. Started wearing a monitor after that! So bad at listening to my body!

      2. louise*

        I remember having a broken ankle one winter and walking with crutches all over the University of Illinois campus–despite piles of snow *everywhere*, I sweated like there was a 600 lb man inside me. I don’t know what I’ll do if I’m ever on crutches during warmer months! When I see a fellow sweat-er I always feel such camaraderie, especially if the sweat-er does not appear happy.

      3. Koko*

        I tried bikram yoga once and I had to leave the room three times in an hour to avoid passing out/vomiting. And I had several years of vinyasa yoga experience at that point. Just can’t take the heat.

    7. littlemoose*

      Same here. Champion sweater. I specifically plan some household chores, like vacuuming, before that day’s shower, because I know I’ll need one afterward, even if the AC is on in the house. And I live in an area with fairly high humidity, so I can get yucky just walking from my car to the office, even having just showered that morning. I envy those who can work out during lunch and only break a light sweat; that will never be me. I turned down a nice coworker’s offer to take walks outside during lunch because I knew I’d be a hot mess afterward.

      1. shaky bacon*

        Are we the same person? I call myself the Profuse Sweater and it’s the worst on my face. Anywhere on my body I can typically handle, but once it starts beading around my hairline and on my nose, I’m a goner. My skin is especially testy during the summer because of all the excess sweat so not only do I have to deal with the sweating, I also have to deal with an exponential increase in breakouts on my forehead and around my nose.

        Let’s not even talk about going to outdoor festivals or markets. I end up looking like I just ran a 10k race when all I did was stroll around at a snail’s pace.

    8. Dan*


      I’m a total sweat machine!

      On the plus side, I’m blessed with light BO. But I feel gross when I sweat, so I take a shower anyway.

  3. The Real Ash*

    If you can’t spare even a small amount of time for a shower, there’s always baby wipes. You can get unscented ones and they dry very quickly. They are amazing when you don’t have access to a shower (I use them when I’m camping).

      1. Natalie*

        Argh, yes. Even if they say “flushable”, the only things that are truly flushable are toilet paper and human waste. Not wipes, paper towels, tampons, condoms, or plastic forks and straws. *

        Even if you’ve never had a problem, you never know when you might or when you might find yourself somewhere with a different plumbing set up. And no matter what you’re causing problems down the line.

        (All things BF has had to pull out of messed up plumbing. Even worse is when it’s a Saturday evening and we’re trying to have a damn date.)

        1. Rayner*

          I have never understood this – when I lived in Finland, I had to train several sets of roommates to not flush sanitary products down the toilet. Even our ultra modern, nineteen ninety nine plumbing couldn’t handle it.

          Why do people shove things like that down the toilet as a matter of course?

          1. Kelly L.*

            For a generation or two, women were told they could flush tampons, and in fact it was used as a selling point for why they were better than pads. I was taught this growing up, and I think so was my mom. Turns out it just causes problems further down the line even though it initially goes down the drain. No idea on the forks and spoons!

            1. Kelly L.*

              Also, I think pipes got larger for a while and then smaller again. So a really old or really new structure would have more issues than one of middling age.

  4. GrumpyBoss*

    As a former ironman triathlete, I had to work out at lunch. There just wasn’t enough time in the week for me to get in the workouts I needed. I often tried to skip a shower. Hey, that’s another 15 minutes I could use to workout.

    What I learned during this time – it is very hard to smell your own BO. And you probably have it, if you’re working hard. What I ultimately started doing was using a shower cap and jumping in a quick shower. Not drying and styling my hair saved a lot of time. Just put it up like you are doing. But don’t skip the rinse off.

    1. Chani*

      shower caps are awesome. somehow I didn’t know they existed until my mid 20’s. nobody told me about them! I think I discovered one in a hotel or something…

      1. Elizabeth West*

        You can buy them at Walmart–I found them in the natural hair section. I use them for coloring (and that packing trick of putting your shoes in them). They’re very cheap. The OP could buy some and keep them in her workout bag.

        1. BeenThere*

          Yes I was just checking to see if someone has suggested a shower cap. They are awesome. Back when I had long hair and lived in a temperate climate I would workout and shower at lunch. Now I’m n Houston… I haven’t worked in any building with shower yet :(

        2. Jen RO*

          There are people who don’t use shower caps…? So how do they take a shower without wetting their hair? Do they just wash their hair every day? Ever long hair? It gets wet even if you put it up…

          My mind is blown.

          1. Stephanie*

            I don’t use one. Uh, I just got really, really good at maneuvering my neck so that my hair didn’t get wet? Having short hair also helps.

          2. Cath in Canada*

            I wash my hair every day, yes – it’s curly, but not curly enough that the curls survive overnight! If I don’t wash it every morning, I have horrible flat and frizzy hair until the next time I wash it.

          3. Pennalynn Lott*

            I have really, really, really long hair (I can sit on it when it’s down), but I can twist it up into a knot on top of my head and shower without getting any of it wet (except for maybe a few droplets on those shorter hairs on the nape of the neck). Years of practice. :-)

          4. teclatwig*

            Hunh. I wonder if relative shower height makes a difference? I am tall and stand a foot or so away from the nozzle, so water begins hitting me at chest height. I lean into the spray carefully to get my neck wet. If I were standing *below* the spray, this wouldn’t be possible.

  5. Episkey*

    Oh my goodness, I would never/could never go back to work after running outside without showering! I’m not even one of these really sweaty people, but running definitely works up a sweat that is not appropriate for anything other than yard work pre-showering, lol!

    I don’t think I’d even take a quick shower like Alison suggests without washing my hair. Hair DEFINITELY gets sweaty. At least my hair does.

    Honestly, I would modify my workouts to something less cardio based (Pilates, strength training) for lunchtime workouts at work if I couldn’t take a shower afterwards.

    1. Kelly O*

      I have to agree with this one. I am just sweaty, and I get too sweaty to not wash my hair. (Disclosure: I have oily hair anyway, so I wash mine daily. I use dry shampoo in the mornings if I take a shower at night.)

  6. urban dictionary?*

    What do you call one of those quick “shower at the sinks”? Something like a “wh*re bath”? Can’t think of the phrase!!!

      1. Anonsie*

        Someone once told me their grandma called it a “PPA” with the second P there being exactly what you think it is.

      1. MaryMary*

        Oops, hillbilly, not hillybilly. Now I’ve doubly insulted residents of rural, mountainous areas.

      1. Koko*

        I bet this is one of those things where English people call it a French bath and French people call it an English bath. It turns out there are several insults that are identical to both countries except they each use the other as the namesake.

          1. Joline*

            There’s an area in the city of Strasbourg, France called Petit-France that is a beloved tourist destination. It becomes a bit less delightful (or more delightful depending on your sense of humour) when you realize that it was named that while Germany was in charge of the Alsace region and it was the island in the middle of the river by the tanners where they put all the people suffering from syphilis…the French disease.

      2. meg*

        They do but many people in Europe shower far less often than would be considered okay in the US, mostly because water is super expensive.

          1. LondonI*

            Exactly. When I was in Florida, I showered twice a day. I needed to.
            In Britain’s cooler climes it is just unnecessary and a waste of water.

        1. Rayner*

          Because we don’t have the same standard of hygiene here. Look at the difference between American and British teeth, for example.

          1. Rayner*

            I do add, we are clean and smell fine :P Just that showering more than once a day is excessive and sometimes, stretching it longer is okay.

            1. Jen RO*

              Americans shower more than once a day? o.O This thread is blowing my mind in all sorts of ways!

              1. Stephanie*

                I did when I lived in Houston. Not regularly, but some days I’d do my morning shower and then walk around all day, get sweaty and gross (because Houston) and need an evening shower as well. Sometimes multiple showers happen if I do my morning shower and then happen to work out or swim later in the day and need the shower.

                Although out here in Phoenix in the summer, I don’t bother with daily showers unless I’ve worked out that day or otherwise gotten gross. Otherwise, my skin gets too dry (especially in the summer). Plus, we’re not really getting cold water out the shower faucet at the moment (it’s a temperature spectrum between very warm and emergency room visit).

                1. Kelly O*


                  I live in Houston. It’s kind of like walking around with a wet towel over your head all the time. Sometimes it’s just nice to cool off in the evening with a shower.

              2. Melissa*

                Not all Americans do. I only shower more than once a day if I’ve worked out that day, and most of the Americans I know shower once a day unless there’s a reason to shower again.

          2. Em Gee*

            Oh, come on, I don’t think that’s about hygiene, that’s about appearance. British teeth are just as healthy and clean as American teeth – it’s just that Americans have developed an expectation that teeth be bleached to brilliant white & straightened to perfection.

            1. Sarahnova*

              Seriously, can we kill the “British teeth” myth already?

              And yes, in most parts of Europe a daily shower is considered plenty, and is pretty much all that is required by the climate. I can confirm that in the UK, not showering everyday would be considered at least borderline grotty.

            2. Koko*

              I was going to say the same. British people keep their teeth clean, they just don’t put every single child in the country into braces at age 10 to perfectly align their teeth.

        1. Chinook*

          “Actually, they have douches.”

          Turns out that means two different things over here. My poor grandmother nearly decked her new neighbour when they moved to Quebec (back in the 50’s) and kindly offered “une douche” to my grandfather when he got home from work. As an Alberta francophone who grew up without indoor plumbing, she had only learned the English word for shower and thought the landlady was making an indecent come-on to her husband.

    1. Koko*

      I’ve never heard this term! We just call it “sink bath” or every once in a while “hobo bath.”

    2. Allison*

      I’ve heard the term “French bath” before. not sure if that’s more or less PC, but to me it sounds more sophisticated.

    3. Laura*

      The term I always knew was ‘sponge bath’ (no sponge needed).

      I am learning a lot of terms here today! LOL!

    4. Shortie*

      I call it a wh*re’s bath all the time. Mr. Shortie thinks it’s funny since I’m a feminist, but I just tell him it can apply equally to men and women.

    5. Natalie*

      I started calling it a Carlin shower after a bit of his, where he declares that we only need to wash the 4 key areas – armpits, ass, crotch, & teeth.

        1. Jen RO*

          …and they are large enough to matter.
          (I recently realized that, even though I don’t love my small boobs, they are much more practical in summer!)

  7. Kelly O*

    Dry shampoo is a pretty good option too. I use that some mornings when I’m running late, and it helps my second-day hair.

    1. Diet Coke Addict*

      At the risk of a tangent–what kind of dry shampoo do you use? Currently I’ve got Dove and I don’t care for it–it’s too strongly scented for me. I want to love dry shampoo so much because I love sleeping until 20 minutes before I have to leave work, but I also love looking put-together and polished. Recommendations?

      1. E.R*

        Batiste dry shampoo is by far the best, IMO, and I’ve tried many. I find it at Shoppers Drug Mart or Winners.

        1. M. in Austin!*

          Love Klorane! I use the aerosol one. Works great. I’ve been eyeing the non-aerosol one…

          1. Parfait*

            The non-aerosol is superior, IMHO. Much less waste, and when it starts getting low you can just dump the last bit of powder into the new container. No way to get at it in the aerosol version.

      2. Jennifer O*

        I use Aveda’s pure abundance hair potion. I’m really sensitive to scent and it’s pretty much scent-free.

      3. Koko*

        I actually have never found a dry shampoo I like–mostly the nozzle always seems to get clogged.

        I just have a tupperware full of corn starch I keep in the bathroom. When I need a dry shampoo I just sort of dip my fingers into it and get it very lightly all over my hands–like a gymnast using chalk–and then run my hands over and through my hair. Maybe repeat if needed. Then I brush out all the visible powder. Sometimes if I was too heavy with the powder I need to towel my hair to get the excess out (flip upside down and rub around with the towel as if my hair was wet from the shower).

        It’s a bit weird but it works better for me than any commercial dry shampoo I ever tried. Though it’s pretty important for me to shower that night when I get home, because about 24 hours after applying starch it starts to get a bit itchy.

        1. Anonsie*

          Yep. Psssssst is the best I’ve ever tried but you will never be able to use it for more than two weeks before it becomes clogged and unusable. So it’s cheap and works well, but it’s really annoying.

          The Tresemme ones don’t clog as much and they’re ok.

        2. Meg Murry*

          Yup, cornstarch with a touch of baking sofa for me as well. I’ve seen recipes online that call for adding a little bit of powder as well for dark hair, but I’ve never tried it.

        3. Abhorsen327*

          I’ve used rice flour just like this before, and it works really well, without having the white cast that cornstarch can leave.

      4. Lynne (OP)*

        I made one for my dark hair that is basically a mix of cocoa powder and baking soda. You could use arrowroot instead of baking soda too. works great and doesn’t have the strong smell of the sprayables I tried – instead it just smells like chocolate cookies!

          1. Lynne (OP)*

            my hair is super dark so I need the cocoa or I look like an old timey judge with a powdered wig on :)

      5. Claire*

        I was using the Bed Head Rockaholic, but I think I like the Pssssst I got at Walgreens better

      6. Anonsie*

        Alternative, Oribe makes a spray called “Dry” that’s really expensive (but you can buy a smaller bottle and try it out) but is really amazing. You spray it on your scalp when you’re done styling your clean hair the first time, and the hair there stays clean-looking and moving forever.

        The rub is that when you touch it, it does feel a little bit… Strange? Not like your normal hair, you can tell something is different right on the scalp. That never really bothered me though. I had to stop using it so much because it has hexyl cinnamal, which gives me dermatitis if I use products with it too much. I was seriously heartbroken that I had to ration it.

      7. Mints*

        Is dry shampoo only for straight hair? The instructions always say to brush it out after, which only makes my hair a million times worse. Does anyone have reccomendations for dry shampoo with wavy/curly/frizzy/ethnic/mixed hair that won’t brush?

        1. Koko*

          I only comb my hair because brushing makes it frizzy, so when that doesn’t get the excess out, I usually rub a towel over my hair. The little curly fibers will pick up the loose powder. It seems to help when I flipped my hair over and towel as if my hair was wet instead of just trying to rub/pat the top.

        2. Sparrow*

          I have straight hair and I never brush out the dry shampoo. I just rub into the roots of my hair. My hair is dark and sometimes it looks kind of white, so I just rub until the whiteness is gone.

        3. Chloe Silverado*

          I have frizzy, wavy hair that does not take well to a midday brush. What I usually do is spray the dry shampoo just in the oiliest parts of my roots and then rub it in with my fingertips. I would try this at home and see if this works for you before trying it in public mid-day, but I have never had a problem with this method.

        4. Natalie*

          I have curly dark brown hair and I never had a problem just leaving it in. I’d have little white streaks for about 15 minutes before it disappeared, so I just had to time my toilette to make sure those 15 minutes were happening inside my house instead of on the bus.

        5. smilingswan*

          I have the same problem. I bought the Tresemme foam for curly hair, but can’t seem to get it to look any better with it than doing without.

        6. Melissa*

          I think it depends on how curly your hair is. I’m African American and have kinky afro-textured hair and I tried dry shampoo. Didn’t work for me – there’s absolutely no way to get it out of my hair without it being more work than simply washing it. You can kind of shake it out with your fingers if your hair is more loosely curled.

      8. Diana*

        I use Lush’s No Drought dry shampoo and love it. I used to go with the aerosol types but switched to this with just the powder and a makeup brush to apply it. I put it on when I get up and it just brushes out at the end of my getting ready routine. And yes, I have dark hair and you can’t see it when I’m done. :-)

      9. Kelly O*

        If you have a Sally Beauty around you, they have tons of options, and the ladies who work there can generally help you find a good one for your hair. Honestly it depends on your hair type and thickness which one works best for you.

        My hair is fairly oily, as I mentioned in an earlier post, so some of them don’t work as well for me, and I can’t use the mousse-style ones. It just makes it worse. I sometimes use Suave too; that’s kind of my “in a pinch and can’t get to Sally’s until the weekend” save. Just make sure you rub it in, and brush through. Otherwise it flakes during the day.

        I’ve been known to spritz and ruffle up my roots on especially humid days, or if I’ve been moving/cleaning at work and get a bit “glisteny.”

  8. Jazzy Red*

    On behalf of everyone who will come into contact with you, and all the coworkers who sit near you, please take a shower! (And smells do travel under, over, around, and through cubicle walls.) If you can’t do that, then please wipe your entire body down with something that will remove the sweat.

    If you’ve ever had to work in close proximity of someone who has B.O., you will have pity on your coworkers.

    1. MaryMary*

      When I listed out ways to avoid office drama yesterday, I forgot to add practicing good hygiene (shower regularly, wear deodorant, etc).

    1. Jillociraptor*

      I kinda feel like the only person you’re going to get a straight answer from is the person you can turn to and ask “Do I reek?” though!

    2. snapple*

      Same here! Instead of being awkward, I like to think that people like us just take the more direct route!

  9. Lily in NYC*

    I see lots of people saying you need to shower – but it might not be 100% necessary if you have the nerve to ask someone at work if you stink. My cubicle neighbor runs at lunch and doesn’t shower after and she doesn’t smell at all. She looks flushed for a little while and that’s about it.

    1. Lily in NYC*

      I should have added that I have a ridiculously good sense of smell (it’s a curse) and I would definitely be able to smell it if she had BO.

    2. BadPlanning*

      I agree — some people smell stronger than others. Being able to completely change your clothes helps a lot. I read Mary Roach’s Packing For Mars and there an interesting section on bathing and clothes. Essentially NASA relearned what people used to know. If you change the garments touching your skin, you’re taking away a lot of the stink, sloughed skin, sweat, bacteria etc (so you could wear the same dress, but change the slip underneath). That’s not to say you stay stink free just by changing every day, but keeping the same clothes is exponentially worse. Anyway, long winded way of saying the OP may be fine.

      On the other hand, a super quick body wash is handy too. My problem is that often if I’m particularly sweaty, my head sweats too (I have a lot of hair).

      If the OP feels better, when I was in better shape and working out at lunch…I was doing pretty low impact so I changed into fresh workout clothes, then back into work clothes and did not always shower. Maybe I smelled…but I guess it’s too late now!

      1. Simonthegrey*

        It can also be related to diet, which doesn’t exactly help the OP, but it’s another data point.

    3. Turanga Leela*

      Agreed. It’s possible I’m deceiving myself, but I haven’t found body odor to be a problem after I work out. I wash my face, put on fresh deodorant, and change my clothes entirely (including underwear). I definitely sweat, but as BadPlanning says, the smell seems to stick to my clothes rather than to me.

    4. LBK*

      FWIW, people also have varying powers of smell, too. I have virtually no sense of smell so if my coworker asked me this, I’d probably say they smelled fine. Conversely, my boyfriend has an extremely sensitive nose, so he might be put off by even the lightest sweat.

  10. Cafe Au Lait*

    OP, I have the solution: baby wipes.

    I use to bike to work when I lived closer. I didn’t have shower facilities, so I would duck into the bathroom and wipe down with baby wipes. I never smelled like leftover BO (and I made sure to ask!), and only the people I told were away that I “showered” like that after my commute.

    1. CTO*

      I just started biking to my new job, and I use baby wipes to clean up when I get in. I actually shower at home before my ride (the night before or morning of), but my ride is a pretty leisurely 30ish minutes and it’s early enough in the day to not be too hot here. When I get to work I wipe down, change clothes, and quickly do my hair and makeup. I put on deodorant before my ride and also again when I get in, if needed. Usually by the time I lock my bike, walk to my office suite, and get dressed, I’m cooled down enough to look and smell professional.

      I save longer/harder exercise for after work so I can shower afterwards, because those workouts can definitely make me gross.

  11. Cloudy*

    I worked with someone who ran during his lunch hour. He didn’t think anyone noticed his body odor, but people did and complained to our boss about it. Boss basically told him to quit stinking up the place. Pretty awkward for him, I’m sure. I would definitely take a quick shower, without hair washing, before returning to work.

    1. Melissa*

      Ugh, but why would you complain to the boss about it? Gently take him aside and be straightforward.

  12. MaryMary*

    I have a related question on putting your hair up mid-day. I’ve had shoulder length or longer hair for years. I often put it up (ponytail or topknot) when I’m at my desk working on things, but take it back down when I have a meeting or otherwise need to talk to people. I never thought too much about it before starting my current job. Here, several people commented on it (like, “did you change your hair since this morning?”). I never thought it was that weird, I thought lots of long haired people pulled their hair out of their face when they needed to concentrate! Am I wrong?

    1. madge*

      I do this, too! If you’re wrong, I’m with you. I can’t always concentrate with the weight around my neck and shoulders.

    2. BadPlanning*

      Have you read the Series of Unfortunate Events book (kids series)? One of the main characters quirks is that when she starts to think about the quagmire they’re in, she ties her hair up in a ribbon.

    3. Kai*

      No, I also have long hair and I think putting it in a knot or a ponytail and taking it down throughout the day are pretty normal behaviors. It’d be different if you had a big fancy hairdo and then decided to brush it all out, but a simple topknot is something I do and I see others do.

    4. Koko*

      I definitely will often put my hair up over the course of the day, what actually surprises me is that you take it back down before you talk to people. I put my hair up if it’s in my way or I’m feeling too hot, or take it down when I’m feeling chilly and want the warmth on my neck, but I’ve never thought that I should have it down for meetings or anything in particular.

      1. MaryMary*

        Oh, taking my hair down for meetings and talking to people is personal preference. I prefer the way I look with my hair down. That, and half the time my quickie topknot is crooked or has bits poking out. Honestly, anyone who has randomly stopped by my desk has seen me with my hair up, but I still take it down when I want to look more polished.

    5. Windchime*

      I often put mine up at work, mostly if I’m feeling overheated. I can twist it up into a French twist kind of thing and then hold it in place with a pen or pencil, which is kind of cool. Except then the stylist who colors my hair might say, “Hey, nice pen marks on the back of your scalp”. But she’s the only one who sees that.

  13. Observer*

    Shower with a shower cap. If you can’t get a decent perfume – string enough to cover the smell but not cloying or so strong that people can smell that from a distance. (If you are in a perfume free office that won’t work, but it does work reasonably well, otherwise.)

    1. Anon Accountant*

      I have severe allergies so please have mercy on those of us with severe allergies or that strong smells bother them. I do like the suggestion of baby wipes or a quick shower.

      1. Darth Admin*

        Yeah, please NO to the perfume. I had an ex-coworker whose solution to working out over lunch was to spritz on perfume. It smelled like bug spray, gave me a headache and didn’t cover up her BO. Ugh.

    2. Katherine*

      Oh man, perfume layered on top of BO … that’s a gamble.

      (If I were OP’s coworker the BO might bug me, but the perfume would make me cry. Really and truly.)

        1. LBK*

          I’m hoping this is sarcastic. I have a weak sense of smell and am generally unbothered by unpleasant scents, but Axe makes me want to hurl.

          1. Nina*

            I had a close friend who wore AXE and everytime she sprayed it, the room would just reek. It’s like Old Spice on steroids.

            1. Anonsie*

              I know I’m the only one on earth but I really like how Old Spice smells. I am constantly miffed when I have to buy deodorant and have to get “powder fresh” or whatever because people will hate me if I wear the Old Spice.


              1. Turanga Leela*

                I actually like the smell of both Old Spice (which my dad used to wear) and Axe (which an old boyfriend used to wear). I assume I’m in the minority, though.

                1. the gold digger*

                  I like it, too, because it reminds me of my dad. I would not want my husband to wear it, though. (He wears Polo, which reminds me of my college boyfriend. Not a bad thing.)

              2. 22dncr*

                LOVE Old Spice!!! FYI – My older neighbor (1970’s and she was over 70) told me that it actually started out as a womans scent. It didn’t sell well so they re-packaged it as a mans.

                1. Anonsie*

                  That would make sense, it seems like a typical “spicy oriental” women’s fragrance. Which are my favorite, coincidentally.

              3. Shortie*

                I like Old Spice (and Axe) too. Powder fresh stuff or anything that smells like baby powder makes me feel nauseated.

              4. Zillah*

                Oh, I actually don’t mind Old Spice! I hate Axe, but I have no issue with Old Spice at all.

              5. Glor*

                I kind of like the way Old Spice deodorant smells, but LOVE their bodywash. I use the 3X sport or whatever it is, and it smells great in the shower but mostly rinses off so that it doesn’t [seem to, I have not had the Official Smell Check done yet] bother people with strong-scent-issues.

                1. Glor*

                  [err, and by “have not had Official Smell Check yet” I mean that I have not had someone with scent issue come and sniff me right after a shower.]

              6. Melissa*

                No, I like the smell of Old Spice too. It reminds me of my adolescent brother, but it also is just a generally pleasant smell.

                However, a ton of it layered upon BO doesn’t sound like a great idea.

      1. nep*

        Reminds me of the Seinfeld episode when Jerry is taking care of some guy’s dog — the ‘b.o. and cologne’ line.

        Depending on what the the workout goals are, LW might consider stepping things up — incorporating some high-intensity interval training or something — so as to shorten the workout and leave time to shower. Sounds like a shower’s definitely in order.

    3. Katriona*

      This is what I’ve always heard referred to as a “whore bath” or “Italian shower,” so the thread above confused me a little at first before I realized that this isn’t what people were referring to. I think OP would be better off washing up at the sink with actual water than just layering one odor over another. But I’ve also never met a perfume that didn’t just smell like chemicals to me and give me a headache, so I feel sick just thinking about combining that with BO.

    4. some1*

      I think body sprays are a lot better for work. They have a lot less strength and you can get them in any scent under the sun, anywhere from the drug store to a dept store. I like the Satsuma body spray from the body shop after I work out because the citrus helps me perk up and I’m always tired after I work out.

      1. Melissa*

        Yeah, body sprays are good – I like Dove’s. But you still probably need the baby wipes first.

    5. Elizabeth West*

      Ehhh, I don’t know. One thing I discovered while living in Hippieville, CA is that patchouli (or any scent, really) is no substitute for a shower. Stood behind waaaay too many people at the grocery who believed otherwise. >_<

      1. Red Librarian*

        I was at a film festival back in the spring and this super cute guy came and sat next to me and was trying to chat me up but I just couldn’t because he had the patchouli substitute going and it had CLEARLY been awhile since he showered. Sorry, I don’t care how cute you are. Take a shower every once in awhile.

  14. lindsay*

    I used to run at lunch at my previous job, and the 90 second no-wet-hair shower is what I would do. My body would still generate heat and depending on how hot it was, I might sweat on the walk back to work. There were other days I didn’t sweat enough to need a shower and so I didn’t. You could also do sanitized wet wipes, but that’s an additional expense you might not want to pay for.

  15. madge*

    I have total sympathy, OP. I don’t glisten, I *sweat*. When I work out at lunch, I put my long, crazy thick hair in a bun and shower my body, face and just the roots of my hair around my face and neck. My hair takes 40+ minutes for a professional blow-out, but I can manage to blow-dry just the roots at the gym (or tidy up my bun and let it all air dry). Five minutes, no smell.

  16. Stephanie*

    Add me to the “You should shower” chorus. It’s pretty hard to identify our own BO.

    If you can’t, I’d use baby wipes and make sure to change all your clothes (underwear included). A lot of the funk gets trapped in workout clothes (especially if they’re the dry-wick type).

  17. DEJ*

    I’ve heard good things about Playtex Sport Body Wipes but I’ve never used them myself. I also work out at lunchtime with a group of coworkers. We do have showers available, and some people shower and others don’t. I would hope that someone would say something to me if I really stank.

  18. CheeryO*

    Personally, I can’t do even a short, easy run at lunch in the summer without showering afterward (and I am a light sweater). Baby wipes are nice, but they aren’t that helpful if you continue to sweat even after you’ve cooled down a bit. Likewise, dry shampoo isn’t really enough to make truly sweaty hair presentable. And that’s not even considering the possible smell factor. If you’re really working up a sweat, I think you need to take a quick shower, including your hair. If damp hair won’t cut it in your office, consider cutting it shorter – or just move your workout to a time when you won’t need to factor in an extra shower.

    As someone who trains for marathons, I understand, really. Someday, I hope to have a schedule where I can run in the afternoon, but until then, it’s directly after work for me. It’s a nice way to wind down (and I know many people love early morning workouts, too).

    1. Melissa*

      I was transformed into a morning person by early morning workouts. It’s like a spiritual experience, and this is coming from someone who formerly HATED to wake up before 9 am. I love running in the morning especially. I feel like it just gets my mind in the zone for work and the upside is that I get tired at the proper time rather than struggling to stay away until 1 am for no reason.

  19. Lynne*

    Hi everyone – OP here. When I run (vs. doing something less strenuous) I have started doing a quick no-hair shower before going back up (as seems to be the most popular suggestion), because otherwise I feel gross, especially in this humidity. My hair isn’t much of an option to wash, since it’s super long and takes like a day to dry (and blowdrying makes it look The Worst). I also keep some dry shampoo on hand though! Baby wipes are an awesome idea too.

    In my defense though – it’s not like I can’t tell when I smell bad, I just must not sweat as much as others and/or smell less bad? I ask friends and family members if I smell bad at the slightest reason to think I might, and have yet to be told that I do. This is going to make me sound delusional/gross but I’ve never been a daily showerer even when working out a lot and have never had it be an issue (even around my very blunt sister who loves to point out things like this to me). I am not saying I don’t smell ever, but I honestly don’t think I smell much and I am queen of overthinking/overanalyzing things. Mostly I was/am worried about looking like I just came in from a run (since I did).

    1. Trixie*

      Depending on your relationship with your supervisor, you could ask them to let you know if anyone mentions it. He/she will appreciate your being proactive and should someone ever say anything, know you can take the feedback.

    2. Mints*

      Since you’re changing your clothes, are you just worried about your face? Assuming you wear make up, are you reapplying it? Mine completely sweats off during excercise, and I have to wash my face and start from zero. Maybe a cooling face wash or something would help? (I used to use one, but have forgotten what it was, so I don’t actually have recommendations)

      1. Lynne (OP)*

        I do wear makeup but it does not seem to come off while I work out (I just wear eye makeup). I do always check, and keep some concealer and mascara in my purse if it is needed but so far it hasn’t been an issue. My face gets red but not very sweaty, and cools down pretty quickly. We also have an enormous powerful fan in the locker room that I stand in front of when I get in! :)

    3. Turanga Leela*

      I am a little hesitant to say this, because lots of people do have BO and don’t realize it, and I don’t want to encourage them… but daily showers are less important than people think. Many, many people can shower 2-3 times a week and smell fine. Your body adjusts, and it’s better for your skin not to shower quite so often. In fact, for most of the BO sufferers I’ve known, shower frequency hasn’t been the issue. More often, the problem has been not wearing antiperspirant or not changing their clothes often enough.

      1. Anonsie*

        I am totally on this side, especially about daily hair washing. Women only started washing and completely restyling their hair every day very very recently. Like, most of us can remember when that wasn’t expected recently, not “recently in human history.” And we didn’t start doing it because everybody stank before, but because it gives different styling options.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Yeah, my hair is much happier when I don’t wash it every day. I do condition and use hair oil. But I do take a shower every day (unless I’ve been sitting on the couch all day), and will continue to do so especially during work weeks.

        2. Kelly L.*

          Plus, shampoos have changed. We talk about harsh ingredients today, but IIRC, there were older products that were much worse. You couldn’t wash your hair more than once or twice a week, or you’d strip it to straw. With current shampoos, you can wash it daily and still have it look OK.

        3. Red Librarian*

          Yup, yup. I shampoo about 2-3 times a week with non-sulfate shampoo. Rest of the week it gets conditioned, some days it’s just rinsed out. Between that and switching to high quality henna to color it my hair is so much happier and healthier.

        4. Kara*

          Natural hair here, and if I washed my hair daily it would dry out and snap off. It’s naturally dry; washing it often only dries it out more. I shampoo and condition once a week and rinse and condition once a week (usually shampoo on the weekend, conditioner-only mid week). I shower daily and wear a shower cap on days I’m not wetting it. I have never in my life washed my hair daily and doubt I ever will.

          1. Melissa*

            I also have natural kinky hair and same thing. I shampoo and condition once a week, and really, I can stretch it to once every 10 days if I haven’t been doing too much heavy styling or using too much product. If I’m not too lazy I will do a mid-week conditioning rinse/co-wash (especially if I did the stretch to 10 days thing), but really washing once a week is just fine for me.

            It was more of a hassle to wash my hair frequently when I felt like I “had” to spend hours styling it, but now that I’m natural I wear my hair in an Afro about 50% of the time and just let it air dry. The other 50% I do a twist-out and that does take a little extra time, but I can just turn on some TV and twist it up. I can’t wait until it’s longer so I can throw it into a bun.

            1. Stephanie*

              Team Twist Out. I’m about once every 5 to 7 days. I tend to sweat a ton, so I had to increase the frequency of my washes to keep dandruff under control and my scalp clean. I don’t understand these naturalistas who can go a month between washes.

      2. Lynne (OP)*

        I am totally agreed that a lot of people have BO and do not realize. In fact I just had to talk to my best friend about this – she didn’t realize, and now she washes her clothes more frequently and smells totally normal/not smelly.

        1. Turanga Leela*

          Dirty clothes are a killer. I have known several men who felt that if they didn’t take a shower, they also shouldn’t change their clothes. I’m not sure of the logic; possibly they thought that they would contaminate the new, clean clothes. Instead, they would wear the same clothes for days at a time, look rumpled, and smell bad.

          1. Kelly L.*

            Or they’ll shower but then put back on the dirty clothes, which also doesn’t help much.

            1. Mephyle*

              Although, actually this is a travel hack I discovered by trial and error – if you are away from home and you need to shower and you think there’s no point because you don’t have any alternate clothes to put on, do it anyway; the effort won’t be wasted and you’ll be glad you did.
              But this is different from the situation at work being discussed here.

      3. Just Visiting*

        Yeah, totally. In the winter I usually only shower every other day (and I’m a bicycle commuter). Just wash my pits and crotch in the sink, and wear deodorant of course. Never any complaints. I only wash my (short) hair twice a week or so and it looks way healthier than it did when I washed it every day. I could go on a rant about rampant germo/”smello”-phobia making society sicker and less resilient to infections that our ancestors would have shrugged off like they were nothing… but I won’t go there.

        To the OP: Ask someone if you want, but it could just all be in your head. I find it hard to believe that nobody would have said anything if you reek, people aren’t THAT nice.

      4. Chinook*

        I am absolutely on your side about not needing daily showers. Part of that, though, comes from growing up in a cold, dry climate where hot showers actually dry out your skin. When I am in a hot, humid climate, I found myself needing them just to cool down myself down so I can sleep.

    4. annnnnnon*

      I had a former boss who stank so bad there were several people that went to HR about it. I can’t even tell you, I’m shuddering just thinking about it. The thing is, no one – not even HR – would tell him he smelled, even when he asked point-blank. People avoided him like the plague and even set up air fresheners around him and everything.

      I get the fact that people tell you you don’t smell….but in this case, no one wanted to have that awfully awkward conversation with him. It’s been a year since I worked for him, and I ran into him in the break room – he smells even worse then ever before (or maybe I’m just not used to it anymore).

      But seriously, put me down firmly in the “please take a 90 second shower” group – even if you do smell, no one will want to tell you. You’ll be “that” person. Even if it’s just a small whiff, it’s still just not cool. Even if you don’t stink, won’t you feel better anyway?

    5. Anonsie*

      You know, I’m not sure about this. On the one hand, I could easily see people being miffed, and on the other this is a really popular thing to do and a lot of people don’t seem to mind. It really seems like a company or department culture thing for sure.

      One thing, though, you shouldn’t look like you just got in from a run. You should still look like you have put yourself back together after the run, with hair and clothes in order and makeup neat (if you wear it). So as far as “is it bad if someone can tell I was out doing something else earlier,” I’d wager probably not.

      1. Lynne (OP)*

        I definitely cool down in the locker room first – stand in front of our giant fan, towel off (even if I don’t shower), put on fresh deodorant, brush my hair, change, fix my makeup if needed, put my jewelry back on, etc. It’s more that I am clearly flushed than anything else, but not like…actively sweating or panting or anything!

        1. Anonsie*

          Well I hope that’s not unacceptable, because I get flushed if I so much as think too hard. I also break out in blotchy red patches on my chest/shoulders and get red in the face when stressed or mildly ill and tired.

    6. Simonthegrey*

      Honestly, unless I am working outside or something where I break a sweat, I don’t shower every day. Since I don’t often work out, in the winter, I probably shower once every four days. I do a sink wash of places that might smell, but I have very dry skin and my hair is a nightmare to wash – and doesn’t need to be washed very often – so that works for me. I also have never been told I smell. It’s a habit I picked up when living in Italy. No one I lived with showered more often than that.

  20. VictoriaHR*

    I often work out over lunch also. I’m on a ketogenic diet so my sweat tends to be *very* stinky, so I always shower afterwards. I don’t eat on my lunch break; I eat my lunch at my desk, while working, before going to work out. I take my whole lunch break to work out and shower before coming back to my desk. I’d suggest the OP run for a shorter length of time and shower before going back. I am usually on the treadmill or weights for 35 minutes, which allows me time to shower and get back within the hour.

  21. carlotta*

    I only wash my hair if I swim (which is several times a week) but I always shower after I bike, run or generally work out (I’m a triathlete and long distance cyclist so that’s quite a bit: often three showers a day). I am really quick – hose down soap up hose off! I second batiste dry shampoo for the long hair. My hair takes forever to dry, but even if it didn’t, I wouldn’t think it needed washing every time I shower.

  22. Ann O'Nemity*

    Several of my co-workers use their lunch break to run and then come back to work all flushed and stinky. There’s no access to showers, so that’s not an option. One co-worker douses herself in strong perfume , taking “FlowerBomb” to a whole new level. Another tries the baby wipe method but still has greasy, sweaty hair. It’s just… gross. My company is all gung-ho on pushing wellness, so they seem to be doing nothing. It’s hard to me to complain directly, because my comment boils down to, “You should stop running at lunch because you can’t shower and all your attempts at masking the stench have failed. I think you’re a nice person, but right now I’m grossed out and don’t want to sit by you.”

    1. Anon Accountant*

      You have my sympathy on this one. I understand where lunch may be the best time in their schedules to work out and they can’t help that they don’t have access to showers onsite but that sounds frustrating.

    2. JustBeth*

      That reminds me of a co-worker from a previous job. He used to run at lunch and come back in dripping with sweat, just drenched. He then would kneel on the floor at his desk so as to not get sweat all over his cloth desk chair and continue working. There were no showers on site and I don’t recall if he went and freshened up at some point. I just vividly remember him kneeling at his desk drip drying. So. Gross.

    3. Trixie*

      Can you speak to your supervisor about this, I’m sure others have these same complaints. Just because I’m exercising at lunch doesn’t mean I can stop practicing proper hygiene in the workplace.

  23. Nina*

    Agree on using wipes. It’s quick and simple enough to get rid of any sweat and potential odor. Even if you aren’t sweating profusely, perspiration is still trapped in places like under your armpits, under your breasts, crotch area, etc. Sounds like TMI, but it’s the truth. Plus, a wipe-down will refresh you.

    Another (slightly unrelated) point is that you’re risking acne breakouts on your body because of all that trapped sweat on your skin. Bacteria and sweat can clog the pores, which results in pimples, blackheads, etc.

  24. Mike*

    I shower after my lunch break workout; however, in the immortal words of George Costanza, it doesn’t “take.”

  25. the_scientist*

    I’m going to add to the “you should shower” chorus. If your hair is up to work out anyway, a 2 minute shower will help you cool down and ensure you smell presentable. Plus, essentially marinating in your own sweat (even if it’s not stinky) isn’t great for your skin. I naturally tend to acne-prone skin at the best of times, but if I don’t wash my face and shower immediately after working out I am headed for breakouts on my face and chest, in addition to bacne.

    If you really can’t squeeze in a shower, baby wipes and dry shampoo are a good option. I might also suggest staying away from artificial fabrics, especially dri-fit or other wicking materials. Maybe it’s a quirk of my body chemistry, but I can get a couple of workouts out of a plain cotton t-shirt, but after 15 minutes with a dri-fit shirt I smell so bad I’m offending myself. Finally, if showering isn’t an option, it’s probably best to stay away from heavy cardio and opt for yoga or strength training instead.

    1. Turanga Leela*

      About the “help you cool down” part: for me, it’s almost the opposite. If I shower after a workout, the humidity of the shower prolongs the period where I’m sweaty and overheated. (I’ve tried cool and hot showers, and neither helps.) I need to work out, then cool off, then shower, which is part of why I developed the no-shower routine I mentioned above.

      Am I alone here, or does this happen to other people too?

      1. abby*

        You are not alone. When I used to work out in the morning before work, I always felt gross and sticky even though I had showered. I also need to cool down first, then shower.

      2. Stephanie*

        Yup, ditto, especially when I lived in a humid climate. I either need the commute time home to cool off or I wait a bit after I finish working out.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      I think it’s a combination of the fabric and the sweat. A couple of shirts I had would smell even with normal everyday wear. If I were moving around a lot in them, forget it. My other shirts don’t do that.

      1. Kelly L.*

        Oh, yes. I had to chuck a pair of boots once because they gave me terrible foot odor (they were synthetic and I guess they didn’t breathe). I spent a whole day wondering why a stench was following me around, and then figured out it was ME! Ewwww.

        1. littlemoose*

          I know this is a little off-topic, but Zederna shoe inserts have been a lifesaver for my shoes, particularly the open-toed flats I prefer for work. They’re most useful when you put them in a pair of new shoes, but I’ve gotten more life out of older shoes with the inserts as well. They’re comfortable (although they don’t add any padding) and most importantly are good at preventing and eliminating foot odor. You can get them on Amazon. /endcommercial

  26. Anonymous*

    I think there are two distinct issues here — body odor and sweatiness. I don’t think there’s much argument to be had about body odor (or other strong smells) being offensive. However, there are plenty of workplaces where sweating is an incidental part of the job or commute (try lifting boxes in a warehouse for a few hours and staying dry, or riding a bike to work or to get lunch on a hot day). To me there’s little difference between someone who is damp from sweat versus damp from a shower, a rainy day or a quick swim over lunch. I think guidelines change if appearance is part of the job, however, if there’s no customer facing interaction it shouldn’t matter if you’ve worked up a sweat as long as there’s no body odor.

  27. Gene*

    Many here are saying to use baby wipes or a similar product. As someone who works in sewers, even if the package says “Flushable”, don’t. The only things that should be flushed is what comes out of your body and the TP used to clean up after it. The Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry seems to think that “Flushable” means it will go down the toilet; their “slosh-box” test seems to have been designed to give the answer they wanted, it doesn’t simulate what happens in real sewers. “Flushable” wipes are essentially perforated teflon sheets that do not break down in the sewer.

    Here are a couple of references:


    1. MissDisplaced*

      I am completely grossed out, but it’s good information. I’ve heard the same about tampons, which usually get flushed (hey, sometimes they just go plop when you pull the string and I’m NOT going fishing), but probably shouldn’t.

  28. Haddie*

    It sounds like you think showering would be long because of your hair. The simple solution to this would be to get a shower hair cap (like in hotels, but you can get a much nicer one at CVS) and then tie your hair up under the cap so it doesn’t get wet and you don’t have to style it. Then you will be able to take quick showers.

  29. De Minimis*

    I’m always on the fence about this…I don’t run, but I do walk sometimes during breaks and at lunch. I tend to not do it as much in the summer months due to fear about sweating/odor. I just walk in my regular clothing.

    Some people here do change into activewear to walk, but my lunch time is pretty limited and the time it would take for me to change would make it sort of a waste. The people who change clothes have their own offices and are somewhat more free to be flexible about how long they’re at lunch. So I generally walk in the morning, before it gets too hot. Once the weather quits being as warm, I start walking at lunch time again.

  30. Anon*

    Many commenters are on the you-must-shower bandwagon. Here are my two cents:
    Use wipes if you can, but don’t feel obligated to shower. I have never had the luxury to work at a place with a shower, so wipes are my friend because I bike to work sometimes. A lot of people bike to work. While your office may have specific standards, in general, I think many work settings have a corporate mentality, even if they are not actually corporate. Some people think it’s risky that I brave traffic by biking to work. Maybe. I think it’s risky that people use deodorant with aluminum. (The jury IS still out on the correlation between aluminum in deodorant and breast cancer, with some studies supporting this claim and others refuting it). I use aluminum-free deo, and yes, it is not as strong as aluminum-free ones, which means I just use more of it.

    1. KerryOwl*

      Really? I thought that the idea that aluminum causes cancer and/or Alzheimers was found to be bogus. Not to be a picker of nits, but do have any links to legit studies?

      1. Melissa*

        It hasn’t been found to be definitively bogus, but there’s no evidence of a connection between aluminum and breast cancer. One study tested the breast tissue of 17 breast cancer patients and found concentrations of aluminum close to where they would’ve applied deodorant, but that 1) makes sense and 2) doesn’t mean anything, since they didn’t compare these women with a control group of healthy women. Several other studies that have compared a control group to a group with cancer have found no connection between aluminum and breast cancer.

        So basically there’s no definitive proof either way, but the evidence seems to be leaning towards no. At the very least, there’s no reason to believe that aluminum is strongly linked with BC.

        Here’s a link:


    2. Melissa*

      Generally speaking, the very very few studies that “support” a link between antiperspirant use and breast cancer don’t have strong methodological designs and/or don’t actually support the link (they typically omit a control group, or they find trace levels of aluminum in breast cancer tissue but don’t establish that that aluminum actually caused the cancer).

      Of course, personal preference is a real thing too – I prefer to use natural products on my body even though I know that synthetic ones aren’t necessarily more harmful (or that natural ones aren’t inherently safer).

  31. anon in tejas*

    I just wanted to point out that in the summer, in some climates, with public transportation, etc., you get sweaty on your way to work. I don’t think that getting sweaty = unprofessional. I think that there are ways to manage the heat (outside or otherwise) that are professional. Also, sweat is your body’s way of dealing with the heat. Although that may bring on body odor, without sweating, you could cause your body serious damage or heat stroke (especially in some climates– like mine!).

    I also think that the response to this is rather gendered, including the response from AAM. I don’t necessarily think that if there was a male letter writer, commenters would be suggesting wipes.

    People take public transportation, ride their bikes to work, have cars/home without air conditioning or walk to work. I don’t think that makes them unprofessional. Also people deal with driving in the heat to multiple work sites, meetings in places with limited air conditioning. I don’t think that those people inherently are unprofessional because they are sweaty.

    1. Simonthegrey*

      I would suggest them more to men than women, but in part that’s because the men I know and love, namely my husband, sweat far more and smell more strongly than the women I know.

      1. Jen RO*

        Oh yes… my boyfriend is one of those people who steps out the building and he’s sweating by the time he gets to his car.

        1. Melissa*

          Yeah, my poor husband walks like 3-4 avenue blocks from the subway to his job and vice versa on the way home, and he’s sweating buckets by the time he gets home.

    2. Claire*

      Two of my male colleagues bike to work. Both use wipes on arrival to clean up as there are no shower facilities. I can’t see wipes as a gendered issue.

  32. KayDay*

    I’ve started biking to work, and found that it makes me a tiny bit sweaty (my commute is 15 minute ride, so it’s really not that bad). But just in case I’ve started using the “European-style” spray deodorant over the sweatier parts of my body (plus American-style deodorant for my pits).

    If your sweatier than that, I would echo the wh-re’s/bird/hobo/french-bath or very quick shower or a bunch of wipes–really, you just need to rinse the sweat off the stinky bits, not scrub your self down–unfortunately that’s easier said than done depending on what your shower/locker room facilities are like.

  33. Amy*

    I work out at lunch and do a very quick body-only shower/wash my face after working out. I also use dry shampoo on my hair if it’s looking greasy. (Nothing fancy, just a cheap store brand. Works like a charm!) Deodorant and moisturizer applied then I’m good to go.

    If you want to reapply makeup you can probably do that on a bathroom break when you get back to the office.

  34. Rosie*

    OP, since you’re concerned about being flushed/overheated when you return to work, have you considered taking a cool or cold shower? I used to do this every morning (and sometimes in the evening too!) when I lived in a really hot and humid city – it would really cool down my core temperature, and I’d feel nice and cool for 30 min. to an hour afterwords – I would feel really nice and clean too, because it also seemed to stop me sweating for that time period too. If it’s too much to step into a cold shower (it can definitely take your breath away for a second if it’s really cold!), try stepping into a warm shower and gradually lowering the temperature. You could do this in combo with keeping your hair dry when you shower, and it seems like that would be a nice quick solution.

  35. cv*

    I’m surprised more people haven’t mentioned that this really depends on your work environment. I’ve had a couple if jobs where my desk was in a busy reception area or in a tightly packed shared open space where other people were close by all the time. I’ve also had jobs with private offices where my main in-person contact with other people was occasional conversations from each other’s office doorways. If your level of sweatiness and smelliness makes your need to shower borderline, it may just depend on your work environment.

  36. Anonymous*

    Related question for those who bike to/from work and change clothes there… How do you transport your work clothes? Wouldn’t bundling them up to carry on the bike get them incredibly wrinkled? I imagine it’d be especially bad for those (like me) who don’t have a dedicated space of their own where they can leave things like jackets.

    1. the gold digger*

      I just started riding my bike to work. I already have a “no-iron” policy with my clothes, so wrinkling is not a big issue. I just roll them up – I wear skirts and sweaters or a dress – and stick them in my backpack.

    2. Em Gee*

      Roll! Always roll them up and toss them in a pannier. I mean, I also deliberately choose clothes that don’t crinkle – I’m not a linen person – but even cotton or chiffon will survive a roll.

      My work does provide an iron in the change rooms, but I’ve never seen the need to use it.

    3. CTO*

      I have a great pannier that I stick stuff in. My clothes are in there for less than 45 minutes, so wrinkling is minimal. I try to avoid things that need a lot of ironing anyway, but my husband also bikes and never has a problem keeping his dress shirts relatively wrinkle-free in his pannier.

      If I have a day where I have to look especially good and/or I want to wear a really wrinkle-prone outfit, I can take the bus instead.

    4. Just Visiting*

      Not what you asked, but I bike in my work clothes. I don’t wear very nice stuff, and nothing I own needs to be ironed, and I ride slow so I rarely break a sweat unless it’s very hot. Wrinkle-free clothes are kind of a necessity for bike commuters, really.

      I’ve also heard of people driving in on Monday and bringing three extra sets of clothes, then driving home on Friday with a full laundry basket. Not an option for me, but maybe for you?

    5. Cath in Canada*

      Yep, just roll them, put them in a plastic bag if it’s raining and your panniers aren’t waterproof, and you’re good to go. (If you don’t already have panniers, get some – everything moves around a lot less than in a backpack, and your back doesn’t get so sweaty).

  37. Jake*

    I don’t mean this in a mean way, just a curious one.

    How does anybody have time during their lunch break to eat lunch and work out? Are you skipping the eating part? If so, are you taking time to eat throughout the day or something?

    Even if I had an hour lunch break I can’t imagine getting a worthwhile workout, getting cleaned up and eating all within that hour, not to mention that I have never seen a place with an hour lunch.

    1. Sam*

      I run (and shower!) during my hour lunch break, and then eat things at my desk that can be consumed while working (yogurt, grapes, etc.)

    2. De Minimis*

      I only get half an hour but it’s a little loose as far as time [we don’t have a time clock.] I try to walk for about 20-25 minutes then eat lunch at my desk, and the half hour after lunch kind of become a sort-of working lunch.

      I also work in a location where it’s easy to walk, there are a lot of sidewalks and it’s small town/rural so you don’t have to worry about a lot traffic or anything like that.

    3. newbie in Canada*

      5 min to change, run for 25 – 30 min, 5 min walk cooldown, 5 min stretch, 10 min to shower and change. Eat sandwich at my desk while I work.

    4. Melissa*

      That’s why I could never work out during my lunch break. I want to actually eat, preferably with a book. And I don’t like eating while I work – I’ll do it if I have to, but only if it’s really necessary.

  38. Cassie*

    I walk/jog for about 15-20 minutes outdoors during lunch (wearing workout clothes), and then I walk through a couple of buildings to get back to my floor – those buildings have their ACs blasting so it cools me off a bit. Even though I sweat a bit when I work out (mostly on my face), I don’t take a shower – our only shower facilities are part of the gym which I don’t have a membership to. Plus, it would be an extra 10 minutes to walk there and then another 10 to walk back. And I’d start sweating again even after the shower.

    Most (all?) of my coworkers who exercise during lunch do not shower – even the people who run the treadmills at the gym so it’s not like they have to go out of their way.

    I splash my face, cold wipe my neck/arms, and put on a bit of face powder (to cover any blotchiness). Depending on how hot it is outside, and how much I pushed myself, my face can get a little flushed. Back when I was doing ballet, my face would be red from the start of class to the end, especially in the summer. Maybe it’s different when you’re exercising outdoors rather than inside a studio.

    All-in-all, I can get through my whole routine in about 45 minutes – I’m not really running that strenuously or for that long (I am definitely more of a sprinter). We don’t have a rule about eating at our desks so I’ll eat when I get back. I tried running the treadmills at lunch about a year ago (they had a free trial membership) but decided it was too much of a hassle (not taking a shower, being all sweaty for the rest of the day, having to change into workout clothes and back, etc). Now, though, it’s become a routine and there are some days where I feel like I *have* to go out during lunch. Even if just to walk around campus briskly.

  39. Mander*

    I have long-ish hair that takes forever to dry, so I often do the “scalp wash”. Put it up in a bun that isn’t too close to your head so that you have space to at least rinse your scalp without getting the rest of it too wet. Or for me, washing the top front bit is usually sufficient if I’m having a quick refresher shower.

    I’m a sweaty person by nature anyway, I can’t imagine not having some kind of rinse off after a sweaty workout! It’s not so much the smelliness as the feeling of being sticky that I couldn’t cope with.

  40. Mightymouse*

    I also run during lunch and I’m not comfortable using the shower at work (no one else uses it). I stick to wet wipes and changing my underwear and socks. The baby powder is always on stand by in case it’s also needed. As for my hair, it is curly and thick. Hair clips and elastics are the only saviours.

    The awkward part is coming back into the building and coming across coworkers when on my way to change and freshen up. Unless I’m willing to hide behind walls until the way is clear, there’s just no avoiding that part. Coworkers seem to be understanding of this and are usually more impressed with the fact that I just ran 5-8km in 30C or -20C weather.

  41. newbie in Canada*

    I run at lunch outside three days a week. Alison’s right, all you need is 90 seconds in the shower just to freshen up. Tie hair up, shower, and go. I even find that when I put my long straight hair in a bun and take it out an hour or so later people ask me if i’ve had my hair done because it ends up in nice waves :)

  42. Artemesia*

    people generally don’t know how they smell — olfactory fatigue protects us from our own smell. Haven’t we discussed the difficulties telling a subordinate that they need to up their hygiene quite often here? Those subordinates are usually totally unaware that they smell bad. So yeah — a shower after an outdoor run and either pin up the hair so you can avoid the shower if the head is low enough or use a shower cap.

  43. I guess I do have a line*

    I walk to work and show up very sweaty most of the year. I personally couldn’t imagine just starting work straight from a workout.

    We have no shower facilities (aging non-commercial building), so I walk to work in exercise clothes, then wash my face & have a 2 minute sponge bath in the washroom, change into my work clothes and start my day.

    Also, sorry for the delicate sensibilities, but it really squicks me to see sweaty people in a work setting.

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