What are the best shower habits for healthy skin?

Dr.Omeed Ahadiat | September 13, 2022

The first thing I learned in dermatology residency is how rough we are as a society on our skin. The scrubbing, the hot water, the harsh fragrance-filled skin products. It doesn’t come as any surprise that so many people complain of skin issues. We have been taught the wrong things when it comes to skin and I am here to right those wrongs.

I want to emphasize that we need to be gentle with our skin. What I am about to share with you are points that are agreed upon by most board certified dermatologists. Let’s start with things we should avoid on our skin. I know hot showers feel amazing, but avoiding hot showers is vital to skin health. Hot showers dry out the skin and weaken its protective barrier. It’s also important to avoid long showers for the same reasons. The longer one stays in the shower the more the epidermal barrier is compromised. While showering, we should avoid using harsh, fragrant filled soaps. Liquid soaps tend to be the most harsh on our skin, but there are some on the market that are acceptable. Loofahs and washcloths may have the strongest negative effect on the epidermal barrier of the skin. Not only can they be a nidus for bacteria, they also create small microabrasions when rubbed roughly against the skin, which create portals of entry for those bacteria. In reality, our skin does not need to be soaped and scrubbed clean. Our skin has natural oils and lipids that serve to protect the skin and the more we wash and scrub these areas the more depleted our skin becomes of these protective features. When finished with your shower, there is no need to scrub dry your skin with a towel. I personally was taught to do all these shower habits when I was a kid and it took an active effort for me to learn to avoid these ways. Our society seems to be more gentle when washing our clothes or cars than we are with our own skin. This covers the basic things to avoid, let’s now talk about an ideal shower.

Ideally, one should shower with lukewarm water. Showers should be limited to 10-15 minutes max. Use a gentle skin cleanser or soap to clean your skin. Avoid heavily fragranced soaps. There is no need for loofahs or washcloths, bare hands are enough. If you must use one of these I’d recommend a washcloth over a loofah because they are easier to replace and wash often. Focus the cleaning on the areas that need to be cleaned. These include the feet, armpits, and private area. When done showering, pat dry the skin gently with a towel. Immediately after you pat-dry (while the skin is still damp), apply a moisturizer to the entire skin. The timing of this will allow you to trap in the moisture from the shower.

These are typically recommendations that dermatologists give to eczema patients, but it is important that we all protect our skin and treat it gently. Don’t scrub your skin, love your skin.

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