7 Shower Mistakes That Are Ruining Your Skin, According to Dermatologists
It’s officially time to reevaluate your shower habits.
Something as rudimentary as bathing ought to be pretty straightforward, but many of us are guilty of making the same mistakes every time we step into the shower. Curious about what the most common shower mistakes are and eager to correct the error of our ways for healthier skin, we asked dermatologists to break the hard news.
“A common culprit of dry, itchy skin is taking long, hot showers,” says Dr. Shari Marchbein, a board-certified dermatologist and the clinical assistant professor of dermatology at NYU School of Medicine. “I recommend taking short showers lasting no longer than five minutes.” Get in, get clean, and get out! To save water and your skin, you can turn the water off while letting conditioner set or while shaving.
In addition to spending too long in the shower, it’s a common mistake to crank up the temperature and indulge in a steamy, ultra-hot shower. It may feel good in the moment, but this does not bode well for your skin. “I always tell my clients that showers should be all business, not pleasure,” says Dr. Rita Linker, a board-certified dermatologist at Spring Street Dermatology in New York City. “Hot showers really strip the skin of its natural, lubricating sebum, so the goal should be short, lukewarm showers.”
“Another cause of dry, irritated skin is using harsh, fragranced soaps, stripping bar soaps, and antibacterial soaps,” says Dr. Marchbein. “Stay away from anything heavily scented and remember that gentle is always better.” She recommends Dove Deep Moisture Body Wash ($6; target.com).
Yep, we’re coming for your loofah. “Loofahs are a nidus for bacteria and yeast and should not be used in the shower. They especially should not be used from one person to the next in the shower, as that's typically how I have seen benign skin yeasts spread between family members,” says Dr. Linkner.
Instead, opt for a fresh washcloth every time you bathe, or simply use your hands with some soap and water. If you like the exfoliating factor, try something like Harper + Ari Exfoliating Sugar Cubes ($24; dermstore.com), which are perfectly sized for a single use. If you must use a loofah, swap it out every 30 days and always let it hang to dry.
Raise your hand if you’ve been using the same razor blade for way too long in an attempt to put off buying pricey replacements. Unfortunately, this is a major shower no-no, says Dr. Marchbein. “Ingrown hairs, folliculitis (which is inflammation of the hair follicles), and skin irritation can happen as razor blades become dull. For best results when shaving, I recommend changing your razor blade every two to three shaves,” she says.
If you struggle to keep up with routine swap-outs, try a razor subscription program like Billie ($9; mybillie.com). Your first kit comes with an ergonomic handle, a magnetic holder, and two five-blade cartridges encased in luxe charcoal soap. Then, depending on how often you shave, they’ll send you four new cartridges for $9 on a rolling basis.
It’s important to use a product that’s formulated specifically for external genitalia when cleansing. The vaginal microbiome is highly sensitive and non-balanced products can disrupt it by killing off good bacteria and disrupting the slightly acidic pH level. This leads to yeast infections, itchiness, burning, and odd smells. Try the pH Balancing Cleanser by Love Wellness ($20; lovewellness.co), which is intended specifically for the vulva.
The very nature of showering, even if you keep it short and lukewarm, leads to a bit of sebum stripping, which makes skin feel dry, itchy, and tight. For that reason, post-shower hydration is key to healthy skin.
“It’s important to moisturize liberally head to toe within 60 seconds of coming out of the shower. Look for moisturizers with ceramides (a lipid naturally found in skin) to help replace those stripped away in dry skin, as well as humectants, such as hyaluronic acid and glycerin," says Dr. Marchbein. "Cerave Moisturizing Cream ($17; ulta.com) is one of my all-time favorite body moisturizers and contains all three in addition to being hypoallergenic and fragrance-free. Another great option is Vaseline Clinical Care Extremely Dry Skin Rescue Cream ($6; walmart.com).”