In my budding career as a skin doctor, I’ve run into many misconceptions. Most people’s skin care knowledge is cobbled together from a mix of “sage” advice, hearsay from friends and one too many “tips” from the internet. While I find humor in much of the misinformation brought to me by my patients and take pleasure in helping them develop better habits, there is one shocking knowledge gap that comes up in my clinic almost daily: most people don’t know how to shower!
No, I’m not saying that all of us are walking around covered in filth – quite the opposite. Most of us can’t remember ever being taught how to bathe – there’s no manual or blueprint, so we just kind of go with the flow. As a result, most people end up overdoing it. While this might not seem like a big deal, it’s my firm belief that having beautiful skin from the neck down starts with good bathing habits. This is even more important if you have dry or inflamed skin and in the winter months when skin is its most vulnerable. Here’s what you might be doing wrong, and how to correct it.
Bathing more than once per day
Every now and then, I’ll have a patient tell me that they take 3-5 showers per day, and I have to stifle and internal scream. These people almost always have super dry and itchy skin as a result of their bathing practices. While proper cleansing and smelling nice are important, you can have too much of a good thing. One shower per day should be more than enough to keep fresh without stripping your skin of its natural moisture.
Taking long, hot showers
Here’s another hot take when it comes to keeping your natural moisture: while letting the steamy water caress you into a Zenlike state may feel good in the moment, you’ll probably pay for it later. Exposure to hot water can sap away your natural moisture resulting in dull, dry, itchy skin. My rule is this: try to keep showers lukewarm and no longer than 5 minutes. While this approach might seem spartan, it will pay off in healthy, supple, moisture-rich skin.
I hate to be the one to break it to you: those body wash commercials are lying! If you’re covered in suds from the neck down, you’re not soaping right. Only the body parts with apocrine sweat glands (read: smelly bits) truly need soap — that’s the underarms, groin area and backside. Any other parts need only water, unless it’s an extenuating situation (ie rolled in mud, got in a glitter fight etc). Soap will dry out your skin, so use it judiciously. Some derms also recommend soap to your feet, but I’m gonna be controversial and say you can skip it as long as there’s soapy water washing over them (you were probably doing this anyway!).
You get out of the shower soaking wet and what should you do next? Towel off, right? The answer is: kinda. While you still have water on the surface of your skin, you may as well lock it in to optimize the bathing process. Here’s the method: towel off to the point where you still have some stray water droplets on the skin’s surface, then grab the moisturizer of your choice and apply it all over. This step is the hardest for me personally because I’m lazy, but when I do incorporate it, I can most definitely see a difference in my skin.
And those are just the 4 most common mistakes. Implement the changes above, and you’ll be silky smooth in no time!