Chances are, you’ve been handling your shower routine since before adolescence, so you likely think you’ve got it all figured out – turn on the water, step in, and cleanse yourself. Sounds simple, right? However, the truth is that there are several other factors at play during those 15 minutes behind the curtain, from shaving your legs to exfoliating your body.
To optimize the entire process and promote healthier skin, there are a number of beneficial shower habits you should adopt. Your choice of tools, water temperature, and even the body wash you use can all impact your skin. To provide insight into common mistakes that frequently occur under the showerhead, I consulted leading dermatologists.
1. Taking Showers That Are Too Hot
Although hot showers can be immensely pleasurable, they can be detrimental to your skin. According to Joyce Imahiyerobo-Ip, M.D., the director of cosmetic dermatology at South Shore Medical Center, hot showers lead to pores opening, natural oils being stripped from the skin, and essential moisture being drawn away from the skin. Experts concur that a lukewarm shower, similar in temperature to a heated swimming pool, is more favorable than a scorching spray.
Frequent showers, particularly two or more times daily, can result in dry skin due to the constant removal of natural oils and moisture. Some dermatologists even assert that showering once a day is excessive. Unless you engage in daily intense physical activities causing heavy sweating, showering a few times weekly is generally sufficient. Marina Peredo, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist and associate clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital, suggests shortening your shower time and only applying soap where necessary if you find the idea of skipping showers uncomfortable.
3. Using Products Containing Irritants
Your favored body wash with tropical, pineapple-and-mango scents might be enjoyable, but without inspecting the ingredient list, you likely lack awareness of its true contents. Dendy Engelman, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist and cosmetic surgeon, explains that many cleansers contain fragrances, preservatives, and sulfates that elevate the likelihood of skin irritation. This risk is particularly substantial if your skin is dry, cracked, and sensitive.
For those with such skin conditions, an oil-based cleanser specially designed for sensitive skin is recommended, as the oil aids in retaining moisture. Engelman endorses Avene XeraCalm A.D. Lipid-Replenishing Cleansing Oil ($31) for the body and Biossance Squalane + Antioxidant Cleansing Oil ($30) for the face.
4. Neglecting Water Filtration
While it might seem extravagant, the quality of the water you use can influence your hair and skin. Unfiltered water often contains minerals like calcium and magnesium, which can deposit residue on the skin and hair, leading to dryness, irritation, and buildup. Hard water can also hinder your body wash from effectively cleansing the skin, potentially causing flaky skin, dullness, and clogged pores. Address this issue with a product such as T3’s Source Showerhead ($150), which eliminates chlorine, dirt, and unpleasant odors from shower water.
5. Reusing Yesterday’s Washcloth
Regardless of the material, it’s unwise to reuse the same washcloth for consecutive days without laundering it. Damp fabrics foster the growth of bacteria, fungus, and mold, according to Joshua Zeichner, M.D., director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital. If you’re reluctant to increase your laundry load, consider forgoing the washcloth and instead using your hands along with a foaming body wash. Options include Dove Foaming Body Wash ($6) and Nivea Silk Mousse Body Wash ($6).
6. Leaving Your Loofah in the Shower
Although it’s logical to store your shower tools in the shower, experts advise against this practice due to the warm and moist environment’s propensity to harbor bacteria. Engelman warns that utilizing a bacteria-laden product for exfoliation can elevate the risk of infections. Unless your loofah is thoroughly dried between uses and sanitized regularly, keeping it in the shower could lead to more harm than benefit.
7. Excessive Scrubbing
Exfoliation is an essential aspect of skincare, as it eliminates dead skin cells that accumulate on the surface, contributing to dullness. While exfoliating your face and body two to three times per week is advisable, exceeding this frequency can have adverse effects. Over-exfoliation can compromise the skin barrier, triggering inflammation and making the skin susceptible to infections. Engelman cautions against this, highlighting the importance of maintaining a healthy skin barrier.
8. Shaving in Multiple Directions
Efficiency might tempt you to shave in various directions, but dermatologists recommend adhering to the direction of hair growth. Shaving against the hair’s growth may provide a closer shave, yet it raises the risk of razor bumps, irritation, and ingrown hairs. Engelman clarifies that when hair is shaved against its growth direction, the hair’s blunt-tipped end can grow back into the skin, resulting in discomfort. Therefore, sticking to the direction of hair growth is the wiser choice.
9. Prolonged Use of Razors
Continuously using the same razor blades for extended periods can lead to complications like folliculitis – inflammation of hair follicles accompanied by pustules filled with bacteria. Razors create tiny, microscopic tears in the skin, and a dull or unclean razor introduces bacteria deep into these openings. Consequently, it’s recommended to replace razor blades every five to seven shaves or once monthly, depending on your shaving frequency.
10. Neglecting Immediate Post-Shower Moisturizing
Research indicates that moisturizing immediately after bathing significantly improves hydration compared to delayed moisturization or no moisturization at all. This practice is particularly vital after shaving your legs in the shower. Joshua Zeichner explains that shaving involves the razor, hair, and skin, and improper post-shower moisturization can lead to razor burn, characterized by skin irritation and inflammation. To combat this, he suggests using a petrolatum-based moisturizer to shield the skin. Vaseline Intensive Care Advanced Repair Lotion Unscented ($8) and in-shower moisturizers like Curél Hydra Therapy Wet Skin Moisturizer ($11) and Jergens Wet Skin Moisturizer ($6) are effective options.
11. Skipping Shower Shoes at the Gym
Remember the days of communal showers in college? Just as you probably used flip flops then, the same applies to gym showers. When using public showers, protecting your feet is crucial. Fungus and viral infections can thrive on some individuals’ skin more easily than others. Consequently, wearing shower shoes can prevent the transmission of unwanted infections, as advised by Joyce Imahiyerobo-Ip.
By avoiding these common showering mistakes, you can enhance your routine and promote healthier skin in the process.