For Glamour, by Suzannah Weiss.
Given that most of us have been showering every day (or at least every few days) for almost our whole lives, you’d think we’d all be pros at it by now. But actually — and somewhat surprisingly — there’s a lot of bad information out there about showering, including some of the most widely accepted popular wisdom. Spoiler alert: It’s definitely not helping our skin.
Here are some of the myths you might be unknowingly bringing into the shower.
Myth #1. Loofahs and washcloths trump bar soap. A recent survey by Mintel found that almost half of Americans think bar soap is covered in germs. However, according to a study in Epidemiology & Infection, bar soap doesn’t tend to transfer bacteria to your skin. Rather, it’s loofahs we should be worried about. Since they’re so porous, dead skin cells can get stuck in there. Washcloths can have the same effect, says Debra Jaliman, M.D., NYC dermatologist and author of Skin Rules: Trade Secrets From a Top New York Dermatologist. If you’re going to use either, you should clean or replace them between showers.
Myth #2. Hot water is best. While it may be nice to bask under the hot water, dermatologists don’t recommend it. Jaliman suggests using lukewarm instead, since hot water can wash off your skin’s natural oils. “The natural oil that you have in your skin is much better than any moisturizer you can put on your skin, so it’s better to keep that oil on your skin,” she says.
Myth #3. The longer, the better. It’s OK to enjoy the luxury of a long shower once in a while, but it’s not what’s best for your skin (not to mention your utility bill). Like heat, long showers can drain your skin of the oils it produces, says Jailman. Same goes for baths, unfortunately: Better to keep them short and moderate temperature.
Myth #4. Water temperature affects your pores. You might’ve been taught that cold water closes your pores while hot water opens them (at least that’s the logic behind steaming). But according to board-certified dermatologist Tsippora Shainhouse, M.D., pore size is genetic, and it won’t change when you step into or out of the shower. (If your skin gets less red after showering with cold water, that’s more likely due to blood vessels closing.)
Myth #5. You should shower in the morning. It’s really a matter of personal preference, since cold water in the morning can help wake you up, but board-certified dermatologist and RealSelf advisor Joel Schlessinger, M.D., recommends showering at night because it rinses off everything that’s accumulated on your skin during the day. (Side note: Schlessinger also says you should actually be applying deodorant at night, not in the morning. “Deodorants and antiperspirants actually are absorbed best when there is minimal moisture, such as while you sleep.” Don’t worry, the effects will last through the next day.)
Myth #6. You should dry off with a brisk toweling. Try to avoid rubbing your skin with your towel, says Schlessinger, because this can irritate it. Instead, pat your skin dry to minimize friction.
Myth #7. You should wait to should apply moisturizer until your skin is dry. Don’t hold out! According to Schlessinger, moisturizing right when you step out of the shower helps lock in the moisture. If you wait, you risk getting dry skin.
Myth #8. You should shower every day. According to David Bank, M.D., board-certified dermatologist and author of Beautiful Skin: Every Woman’s Guide to Looking Her Best at Any Age, showering every day, like showering for too long, can dry out your skin. Three days a week should actually do it. Plus, you probably shouldn’t wash your hair every day, since this takes its natural oils away as well. Shainhouse suggests washing only the armpits, feet, and other particularly dirty parts daily and avoiding soap if you shower more than once a day. Welcome to your whole new showering world.
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