Common Shower Mistakes That Can Lead To Dry, Irritated Skin

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Who would have thought there was a wrong way to shower? As it turns out, some aspects of our self-care routines may cause more harm than good.

We’ve covered in the past common makeup mistakes that can actually age you, as well as the ever-hard-to-master self-tanner mistakes and even common mistakes when washing your hair.

So it stands to reason we might also be making showering mistakes. Yep, that mundane thing we’ve been doing for decades? We’re probably doing it wrong, especially if you often end up with dry, irritated, or itchy skin.

And as the seasons transition and cooler weather enters the scene, these tips will be especially useful. The good news is that just a few simple tweaks could help you get rid of irritated skin for good.

1. The Water Is Way Too Hot

Showering with super hot water is one of the most common showering mistakes. Honestly, we can’t blame anyone, because a long hot shower is sometimes just what the doctor ordered after a long day of work, responsibilities, and stress. But hot water can irritate the skin, causing redness or peeling. It could even exacerbate a condition called cholinergic urticaria—tiny hives caused by increased body temperature.

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Showering with overly-hot water can also strip the skin of natural oils, leaving your skin dry and flaky. It’s best to take a warm to lukewarm (or even cool) shower to increase circulation and decrease inflammation. Cold showers have been shown to boost your immune system, relieve symptoms of depression, and improve circulation. But there can be risks to taking cold showers, especially if you have heart disease, so do your research before turning down the temperature.

2. Excessively Long Showers 

Showering for too long can lead to infections because it strips the skin’s natural barriers. Short showers—preferably less than 10 minutes—with lukewarm water will help protect your skin. If you spend 30 to 45 minutes in the shower, you might want to reevaluate (also, that’s a lot of water!).

Using a gentle moisturizer afterward will replace hydration that even a short shower can take away. Try something without a strong scent or harsh ingredients—Eight Saints makes a good one.

3. Washing Too Aggressively

If you’re prone to scrubbing with a loofah or washcloth, you might be damaging your skin. Additionally, if your products are too harsh, your skin could suffer. Choose products without strong fragrances. Try a mild, gentle soap or shower gel like Cetaphil Moisturizing Relief Body Wash for Sensitive Skin.

You may also want to re-examine your use of loofahs or other cleansing pads—they are great at harboring bacteria, so clean them at least once a week. The same goes for washcloths—wash and replace them regularly.

4. Not Rinsing Completely

In addition to washing too aggressively, if you rush through the end of your shower and don’t rinse off completely, the leftover residue could dry out and irritate your skin. Leftover suds can also trigger skin conditions like eczema or contact dermatitis.

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This is particularly true when it comes to the more sensitive parts of your body. There are a few potential solutions to this: Rinse those nooks and crannies extra well (gently, with lukewarm water), use less soap in the first place, or use an extra gentle cleanser.

5. Showering Too Often

Many of us were programmed to think we need to shower at least once a day. But in reality, that might not be necessary unless you’re really working up a daily sweat. Again, showering too often can strip the skin of oils, leaving you with itchy, dry, skin.

But be aware that showering too infrequently can also cause skin problems. Dirt, sweat, and dead skin cell buildup could result in acne, psoriasis, or dermatitis. So while it’s a good idea to shower after exercising or a hot, active day outside, skipping a day is probably fine if you’ve been inactive most of the day.

6. After-Shower Mistakes

If you haven’t replaced your towels in a while, your towels might be too rough and irritating, not drying you properly, or unable to absorb water. Your drying-off technique might also be to blame. It’s best to gently pat your skin dry after stepping out of the shower, followed by an unscented moisturizer.

If you’ve tried all of the above and your skin is still irritated, make sure to mention it to your doctor or dermatologist. There could be an underlying cause, including menopause. A dermatologist can help you discover what’s really getting under your skin.

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