Everybody loves a shower. Quick and convenient in the morning or evening, or in fact at any time of day, showering is the perfect way to keep clean. You wouldn’t think there’s anything difficult about showering – you turn on the tap, step inside, wash, rinse and towel dry – but it turns out there’s a right way and a wrong way to have a shower. Just take a look at the condition of your skin.
Did you know that your skin is your body’s largest and fastest growing organ, covering about 2 square metres (22 sq ft) of body surface? It’s your first line of defence, a physical barrier to the outside that protects the body from harm. Looking after your skin should therefore be a top priority for body hygiene – and correct showering can play a key role.
Take a look at these 5 showering mistakes that are bad for your skin, and how to avoid them.
- Long hot showers
Who doesn’t love the feeling of a hot shower to wake up and get going in the morning, or to unwind after a long day at work? It may do wonders for your mind, but not for your skin.
Being exposed to hot water strips the skin of its natural oils. This has a drying effect on the skin and can lead to itching. For those with dry skin, eczema or similar skin conditions, it can actually make problems worse. To keep your skin healthy, turn down the shower temperature to warm or tepid, and take short showers – 5 minutes should do it.
While warm water opens up your pores, cold water helps to close them. Many people swear by finishing a shower with a final ice cold rinse, claiming that it improves the circulation and gives them a healthy glow. Try it and see?
- Too much shower gel
If you love lathering up with body washes or shower gels, you’re not doing your skin any favours. Soaps and other cleansing products contain surfactants – chemicals that bind oil and water and remove natural oils from the skin. It follows that the more bubbles and lather you put on your body, the more drying the effect on the skin will be. Rough, dry and itchy skin is often the result, especially with frequent showering.
The answer? Use less product – modern formulations are so effective that a tiny amount may well be sufficient. Also, do you really need to lather up all over your body? For proper body hygiene, focus on the essential areas where the most sweat glands are situated (armpits, groin and private areas).
Also, try switching to a gentler cleanser so that fewer proteins and lipids are removed from your skin as you shower, leaving it better hydrated than regular shower gels. Antibacterial cleansers shouldn’t be necessary unless you have a particular dermatological condition.
- Wrong exfoliation technique
Exfoliation helps to remove dead skin cells from the body and to stimulate the circulation – it’s a good idea to make it part of your regular skincare routine but don’t think that a soft sponge will suffice. You need a loofah or rough washcloth, and you can use any number of commercial body scrubs or even make your own.
Once a week should be plenty – if you’re exfoliating every day, you’re overdoing it. The more you scrub, the more sebum your skin produces, making it oilier and trap more dirt and bacteria. Also, do make sure your loofah and washcloths are clean; they can be a breeding ground for bacteria. Wash your cloth in very hot water after every other use and replace your loofah every month.
- Not rinsing properly
How diligent are you about rinsing every last bit of shower gel off before you step outside the shower? Maybe you think wiping the last remnants away with a towel will be good enough? Wrong.
Dermatologists warn that soap residue left on the skin after washing can cause dryness and skin irritation. The chemicals and fragrance contained in many harsh cleansing products can be highly irritating.
Obviously, switching to a gentler cleansing product should help, but rinsing off properly after washing should be your first port of call. That is, unless you are using a product that is designed not to be rinsed of completely and contains additional moisturisers to help restore the skin barrier after washing.
- Rough towel drying
The skin is a delicate organ, so however much you may want to rub yourself dry with a towel after a good shower, don’t. Water evaporates off your skin as you step outside the cubicle, which it dries out the skin. Being too rough on your skin with a dry towel makes matters worse, and can exacerbate skin conditions like dryness and itchiness. Instead, gently pat your skin dry with a towel.
Finally, to combat any dryness after bathing, immediately apply a moisturising cream or lotion all over your body, concentrating especially on body parts that tend towards dryness.