Take A Navy Shower

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Children are not very political, but I like to think I was a young environmentalist. A pint-sized Petri dish, I was a kid that hated to bathe. Between my mother and me, each evening rinse was a battle. I hated the way shampoo smelled and the slipperiness of Dove soap. Wrapped in a towel, I bristled at the streams of water that pooled on my collarbone and dripped down my back.

“Save the planet!” I cried when we studied conservation in second grade. “Stop showers!”

I suppose it was a selfish crusade, but I had good intentions. Swear! A more genuine activist, my mother rolled her eyes and pointed to the tub: “Get in.”

I did—thousands of times. Eventually, I found unscented shampoo and creamy body wash. I grew up and saw value in cleanliness. Older and less keen to watch hours of Nickelodeon, I started to savor showers. And as soon as I discovered Eve Lom Cleanser, the reversal was complete. A smart and gorgeous woman insisted that the face wash be used in the bath, telling me to knead it onto my skin and breathe in steam for three minutes. She said it should take at least two minutes to rinse. The routine extended my showers by six minutes. I loved it. I still do.

But when I narrate the process to a friend, she snorts. She is from San Francisco and never loses her reusable water bottle.

“For a liberal, you take very Republican showers,” she said.

“That is not true!” I protested. Except it is. I do. I cherish every damp second of bath time and of Eve Lom and of Bumble and bumble's Creme de Coco Masque. I know I should be better. And yet, each moment is like dessert—sweet and indulgent. My friend was too kind to rebuke me, but I know what she thinks: “That is so careless.” And the research proves it. A 10-minute shower can use up to 80 gallons of water.

Chastened, I decide to research conservationist methods. Each depresses me.

Amazon sells a “ 5-Minute Shower Coach” that customers have awarded 3.5 stars. I read 56 reviews to conclude it has poor suction.

An online forum extols the virtues of lukewarm showers, which sound like torture and remind me of summer camp. No.

A press release proposes I try a two-in-one shampoo-conditioner combination to cut down on water waste. I quit out of Chrome, aghast.

And then: Navy showers. Wikipedia teaches me that the mode was invented on naval ships, where fresh water was a limited resource. To experience it, a crew member turns on the water for 30 seconds to get wet, shuts it to shampoo and lather, and rinses in under a minute. Grand total, water runs for about 120 seconds.

This, I can do. Sort of. When I next step into the shower, I let the water fall for a few hundred seconds and shampoo in record time. Then, I shut it and step out and slather on Oribe's Signature Moisture Masque. I file my nails. I take deep breaths. I test out Sara Happ The Body Scrub in Vanilla Bean. It smells like Ina Garten baked it. Ten minutes later, I hop in and wash off. Every inch of me is silk.

I have started to take shorter showers. Eve Lom is for the sink. But once a week, this is my new routine. It is not what the sailors envisioned, but it works. It saves water and soothes skin. It makes me think of the Sunshine State and reservoirs. It shows an unlikely truth: Conservation—there is no greater indulgence.

—Mattie Kahn

Photo by ITG.

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