She contends that only a soapy washcloth "under her arms, between her legs and under her feet" is needed to get "really clean." On the go, she wipes away underarm odor with a sliced lemon.

Defying a culture of "clean" in existence at least since the 1940s, a contingent of renegades deliberately forgoes daily bathing and other standards of personal hygiene - such as shampoo and deodorant.

The converted have many reasons to cleanse less and smell more like themselves.

"We don't need to wash the way we did when we were farmers," said Katherine Ashenburg, 65-year-old author of The Dirt on Clean: An Unsanitized History.

Since the advent of cars and labor-saving machines, she continued, "We have never needed to wash less, and we have never done it more."

Retention of the skin's natural oils and water conservation are two reasons that Palmer and others cite for skipping a daily shower.

Some have concluded that deodorant is unnecessary after forgetting it once with no social repercussions. Others are concerned about antiperspirants containing aluminum, although both the National Cancer Institute and the Alzheimer's Association don't share the concern.

Some people have long complained that showering too much makes their skin drier or more prone to skin flare-ups, and Dr. Richard Gallo, chief of the dermatology division at the University of California, San Diego, said scientists are just beginning to understand why.

"It's not just removing the lipids and oils on your skin that's drying it out," he said. It could be "removing some of the good bacteria that help maintain a healthy balance of skin."

But Elaine Larson, a professor at the Columbia University School of Nursing in New York with a doctorate in epidemiology, cautioned that subway riders and others who come into contact with many strangers should consider soaping up.

"If it's cold and flu season," she said, "you want to get rid of the stuff that isn't a part of your own normal germs."

Whatever the motivation, personal cleanliness in the United States has long been big business. Advertisements address (and probably generate) anxiety about body odor.

They seem to work: Adults younger than 24 use deodorant and antiperspirant more than nine times a week, but, even for older age groups, usage never falls below an average of once a day, according to Mintel, a market-research company.