Many of us do our best thinking in the shower… but how many of us think about the way we shower and how it may be affecting our skin care routine? Probably not many! And most likely, you’re doing some bad shower habits that are affecting your skin and health.
Because, let’s face it: Showering tends to be one of those auto-pilot tasks that you don’t give much thought about. But it is worth thinking about — because it turns out, certain common shower habits can actually irritate your skin and accelerate the visible signs of aging.
Here are five of those habits that may be aging your skin.
Habit #1: Turning up the heat.
Soaking under a stream of hot water can do a lot to relieve stress. But if you’re doing it to help kill germs that may be living on your skin — forget about it.
Many people believe that washing in hot water will help kill off bacteria or pathogens that may cause sickness. But in reality, water would have to be about 212 degrees to kill germs — far too hot to shower in.1
Hot water also has the potential to do some serious damage to your skin. As you age, the moisture in your skin decreases, leading to dryness that tends to accentuate the appearance of wrinkles.2 And hot water? It strips your skin of even more moisture, greatly increasing the risk of dry skin. And the more time you spend in that hot water, the more it will dehydrate your skin.3
Habit #2: Waiting too long to moisturize — or not moisturizing at all.
Even gentle cleansing with lukewarm water can strip your skin of some of its natural oils. Plus, the minute you step out of the shower, the air begins to “zap” any precious leftover moisture from your skin. And if you don’t replenish it? You risk serious dryness, which can lead to rough, cracked skin.
The good news is, applying lotion does a lot to repair the skin. In fact, applying lotion immediately after showering is one of the most effective ways to lock moisture into your skin.4 The trick is to apply the lotion while your skin is still slightly damp.
So, don’t towel off aggressively after a shower. Instead, gently pat dry, leaving some water droplets behind. The oily materials in your lotion will help form a film over this leftover water, sealing it into your skin and providing long-lasting hydration.5
Now, keep in mind — it’s important to strike the right balance. You don’t want to apply lotion while you’re still sopping wet. Too much water can dilute the lotion, interfering with its ability to form a film on your skin.
A good rule of thumb? Wait about 3 minutes after showering to apply moisturizer to the skin.
Habit #3: Using your loofah too often… and for too long.
You may love your loofah because it speeds up the process of showering and gives you a good exfoliating session. And while a good scrub is nice every once in awhile, exfoliating too often can actually impair the integrity the skin barrier.
You see, the skin barrier is responsible for keeping moisture and nutrients in your skin — and bacteria and pollution out.6 Redness and irritation can result if the skin barrier is impaired.7 So if you’re going to scrub with that loofah, limit it to 2-3 times a week.
Most importantly, be sure to replace your loofah at least once a month.
Loofahs are incredibly porous, which means they’re a breeding ground for mold and bacteria — and you don’t want to be putting those things back on your skin.8
You may even want to consider switching to a washcloth for a gentler scrub. These are easy to toss into the washer when you do the rest of your laundry, which can help keep germs and bacteria at bay.
Habit #4: Sudsing up your whole body.
Scrubbing down your whole body isn’t really necessary. Areas like the arms and legs don’t produce a lot of oil, and soaping them down can draw out whatever oil they do have — leaving your skin dry and rough. Unless you’re especially dirty, it’s best to limit your soaping to the areas of your body that tend to produce sweat and odor.
This will also save you a lot of time in the shower… and less time in all that hot water means less dehydrated skin!
Habit #5: Using harsh soaps.
You might think an antibacterial or deodorant soap is the way to go to get squeaky clean, but this is not necessarily the case. Frequent use of antimicrobial soaps is associated with a decline in skin health, and can — surprisingly — pave the way for infection.
You see, when the skin comes into contact with harsh cleansers, this can compromise the skin barrier. When the skin barrier is compromised, it is less effective at keeping out germs, dirt, and other pollutants that can cause skin irritation and other issues.9
These harsh soaps also remove healthy natural oils from the surface of your skin, which can result in dryness.10 And since skin becomes thinner and more fragile with age, it’s best to be as gentle as possible.11,12 So, for aging skin, stick to less abrasive, soap-free cleansers.
Shower to Protect Your Skin
Ready to get rid of dry skin and irritation for good? Want to keep your skin looking as youthful as possible? Practice good skin care by saying “goodbye” to these common shower habits — and “hello” to more skin-friendly ways of getting clean.