Drought May Prompt Californians to Let Personal Hygiene Slide

Two women dry their hair after taking showers at the portable showers available to use for free at the Iglesia Emmanuel Church in Porterville, Calif., on April 13, 2015. In a handful of drought-plagued communities, including Cambria, East Porterville and Santa Cruz, scarcity has forced changes. The communities face especially strict limits because they aren't part of the State Water Project, a system of canals and reservoirs that delivers mountain runoff to urban areas in the Bay Area and Southern California.

Two women dry their hair after taking showers at the portable showers available to use for free at the Iglesia Emmanuel Church in Porterville, Calif., on April 13, 2015. In a handful of drought-plagued communities, including Cambria, East Porterville and Santa Cruz, scarcity has forced changes. The communities face especially strict limits because they aren't part of the State Water Project, a system of canals and reservoirs that delivers mountain runoff to urban areas in the Bay Area and Southern California.

Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

Forget the brown lawns. California’s historic drought may make the state’s residents less keen on washing their bodies and their homes.

The water woes in the Western U.S. may cut sales of traditional cleaning products sold by the likes of Procter & Gamble Co., Bloomberg Intelligence analysts Deborah Aitken and Gregory Elders wrote in a report Friday. But it could boost sales of dry shampoos, which customers spray on and comb through their hair in lieu of washing in the shower, they said.

Consumers changing their cleaning patterns in response to a drought isn’t unheard of. Unilever Chief Executive Officer Paul Polman recently told analysts and investors that Brazilians are showering 15 percent less because of water shortages. Meanwhile, the company’s products that are geared toward helping consumers use fewer resources are growing twice as fast as its other brands, and they’re more profitable, Polman said at a conference this month.

Why Everyone in the U.S. Will Feel California's Drought

Dry shampoos already had started to gain traction because more consumers want to keep their hair’s natural oils intact and avoid harsh substances. Sales of the products are growing five times as fast as the 2 percent gain predicted for the total shampoo category through 2019, Aitken said, citing Euromonitor International data.

“It is now a case of skip a wash, or even two, among some of the users I know,” she said.

People who feel compelled to keep skip showers entirely have some waterless options for keeping clean. There are a number of personal cleansers geared to medical caregivers that don’t require water, including a version made by CVS Health Corp. for sale in its stores.

New technologies may eventually help too. Xeros Technology Group Plc has developed a system that cleans clothing using small, reusable polymer beads to soak up dirt and stains, a technique that requires as much as 80 percent less water. The U.K. company currently sells to commercial laundries and plans to start testing in home machines this year.

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