7 Ways You Could Be Showering Wrong

It might be a part of your daily routine, but are you getting it right? And in the era of COVID-19, should you be refining that routine?

Medically Reviewed
Everything from water temperature to what you lather up with can take a toll on your skin.iStock

Taking a shower may be the first thing you do every morning or the last thing you do before bed. It’s an everyday, basic habit that you probably don’t even think twice about.

“We shower to help shed dead skin cells, as well as remove oil, dirt, sweat, and bacteria,” says Suzanne Friedler, MD, a board-certified dermatologist with Advanced Dermatology PC and a clinical instructor of dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Medical in New York City. (These things cause a stink if you let them stay on your skin.)

What’s more, oil feeds bacteria, so when you wash both off, you’re also cutting risk of skin infections. On the other hand, showering too much or too enthusiastically can contribute to dry, itchy skin, and eczema, adds Dr. Friedler.

RELATED: 8 Hand Eczema Dos and Don’ts for Cleansing

As you’ll see, showering up correctly is more than just turning on the water, hopping in, lathering up, rinsing, and patting dry. And with the COVID-19 pandemic still charging on, we all have questions about how and how often when it comes to cleansing. From the water temperature to what products you use and when, here are some ways you could be getting your shower all wrong.

7 Ways You Could Be Showering Wrong

7 Ways You Could Be Showering Wrong

1. Showering at the Wrong Temperature

Very cold showers may not be the friendliest type. They’ll likely wake you up but likely won’t help you relax. On the other hand, a scalding-hot shower isn’t the answer, either. “Hot water causes your body to lose its natural oil, leaving skin dull, dry, and itchy,” says Friedler — somewhere in the middle is usually best. The National Eczema Association recommends a lukewarm temperature for bathing to keep dry skin issues, like eczema, at bay.

Choose a temperature that’s comfortable, not steamy.

RELATED: Why You Shouldn’t Skip Your Dermatology Appointment During COVID-19

2. Showering for Too Long

Standing under a warm stream of water may feel good, but staying in there for too long can be detrimental to your skin. “Just as with hot water, a longer shower causes skin to lose more oil and, thus, moisture,” says Friedler. If you notice you’re having dry skin problems, back off your shower time, capping it at five to 10 minutes, according to the National Eczema Association.

3. Washing With a Pouf or a Washcloth

Bath poufs are a great way to minimize the use of your body wash: You can definitely get away with using less product and still lather your entire body, says Doris Day, MD, board-certified dermatologist in New York City and clinical associate professor of dermatology at the New York University Langone Medical Center. However, they can act like a reservoir for bacteria, and they can also irritate sensitive or dry skin. Similarly, washcloths can, too, especially if you don’t clean them thoroughly. Friedler recommends soaping up using your hands.

4. Using a Harsh Cleanser

Right now, in the COVID-19 pandemic, it might seem like we’re overthinking how we’re cleaning and disinfecting everything — maybe even including yourself. However, know that regular soap and water kill the virus that causes COVID-19, which includes antibacterial soaps, non-antibacterial soaps, natural ones, shampoos, and any other soap product that sudses up, says Friedler. There’s no reason to reach for anything harsher.

A mild, lipid-rich cleanser proved better for skin health — across a range of shower temperatures and rinse-off times — compared with a regular body wash, according to a May 2014 study in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. (The research was sponsored by Unilever, a company that makes personal care products.)

RELATED: 8 Easy Fixes for Hygiene Offenses Older Guys Often Make

5. Soaping Up Before You Shampoo

To prevent acne and skin irritation, Dr. Day recommends the following regimen: “Shampoo, rinse it off, apply conditioner, wash your body, and then rinse off the conditioner and body wash at the same time.”

Following this order in the shower means the wash helps remove any conditioner and leftover shampoo from your skin. As for shaving, if you save it for last, your hairs will be softer from the heat, water, and steam — and easier to remove.

RELATED: 10 Natural Dry-Skin Remedies You Can DIY at Home

6. Showering (Only) in the Morning

There’s no one best time of day to shower; it depends on your schedule and personal preference. Consider that in the morning, a shower can help you feel more awake.

Don’t, however ignore the potential benefits of before-bed bathing. For one, a 10-minute warm shower one to two hours before bedtime helped people fall asleep faster, according to a meta-analysis in Sleep Medicine Reviews in April 2019. As your body cools down after the warmth of the shower, it stimulates your body to drift off. Another potential plus to a nighttime shower: If you’re an allergy sufferer, bathing before bed will wash pollen off your hair and skin and down the drain, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology.

Last, given the pandemic, Friedler recommends using your shower as an extra precaution against spreading COVID-19 because soap and water can kill the coronavirus that causes the disease. “If you work in a location where you are interacting with many people in a confined space, then it’s a good idea to shower immediately when you get home and before greeting your family,” she says.

7. Showering Too Often

Not everyone needs to shower daily, especially in the colder winter months when you’re probably not sweating as much and your skin tends to be drier. In fact, a few times a week may be all you need, according to information from Harvard Medical School. If you do exercise or have a job that gets you dirty and you feel you need to shower twice a day, Day suggests a quick rinse one time and full shower the other. “We don’t get that dirty as adults,” she says. Consider focusing on your “dirty parts,” like your armpits and groin and you’re good to go.

RELATED: Tips for Healthy Winter Skin

With additional reporting by Jessica Migala.