We love a restorative shower for its day-starting, head-clearing, muscle-relaxing power. But that long, hot shower that starts your day might not be doing your skin any favors.
Too much hot water can actually be bad for our bodies, according to experts in hair and skin care. We asked several dermatologists to weigh in on the definitive way to take a shower.
1. Don’t Shower Too Often
How often you should shower depends on your activity level — our experts say there’s no hard-and-fast rule. But if you’re not active, you can cut back to a few times a week. Just don’t cut back so much that you smell, or risk letting skin infections take hold.
If you’re working out and taking a shower in the morning and another after the gym, you should be conscious not to take too long. “On occasion, there may be a reason to shower twice a day,” says Dr. Jessica Krant, a board-certified dermatologist with the American Academy of Dermatology, “but those should be extremely short showers.”
Which leads us to…
2. Keep It Short
Water exposure can lead to dry skin and hair. A longer shower also “gives the water a chance to allow any cleansers to be more damaging,” Krant adds.
Krant and Dr. Lauren Ploch, a board-certified dermatologist with the American Academy of Dermatology, both say the shorter the shower, the better.
3. Stay Cool
Hot water strips away natural oils and damages the skin faster, so stick to a lukewarm — or cooler — shower.
“Some people advocate extremely cold water for invigorating the circulation,” Krant says. “Other than avoiding extremely hot temperatures, I say use whatever temperature feels best.”
4. Don’t Wash Your Hair Too Much
Hair is made of dead skin cells — it just doesn’t need as much washing as the rest of our skin.
How often you wash will depend on your hair type. Washing too often can be drying, especially a problem for anyone with gray hair or colored hair, which tend to be drier.
5. But Don’t Wash Too Little, Either
Washing hair less often has become such a trend that dermatologists say some people are overdoing it, causing a scalp buildup of dandruff.
“People often neglect scalp washing so that they don’t dry out the hair. This can lead to a buildup of scalp oils that lead to flaking and redness,” Ploch says.
Be sure to wash your scalp at least weekly.
6. Focus on the Dirtiest Areas
Your arms and legs don’t always need soap. For a quick shower, focus on your underarms, groin and feet.
7. Cleanse With Care
Some experts say traditional soap can strip the oil from your skin. Dr. Doris Day, a board-certified dermatologist in New York, suggests products labeled as “cleanser,” such as a moisturizing body wash.
“Cleansers can add the moisture back into your skin,” she says.
If you haven’t had trouble with dry or irritated skin, though, traditional soap is fine. “I say to each her own,” Krant says.