Ever get out of the shower to an overly steamy bathroom? While it may have felt calming and cleansing, a shower that produces that much steam likely means the temperature wasn’t great for your skin — it’s time to start keeping the temperature at a comfortable lukewarm.
Showering is essential for our skin’s health, but doing it the wrong way can also hurt more than it helps. Dermatologist Deanne Mraz Robinson, MD, FAAD, president and co-founder of Modern Dermatology of Connecticut, says we need to start being more mindful when it comes to our shower routine, and it starts with keeping the temperature from getting too hot.
“You should avoid hot showers and aim for a lukewarm temperature,” she says. “If the water temperature is too hot, it can trigger the body’s inflammatory response releasing histamine that causes swelling, itching, and irritation.” Histamine is a chemical our white blood cells produce when our body is defending against a potential allergen. Unnecessarily triggering that release with hot water isn’t ideal for our skin.
On top of that, hot water can disrupt the natural oils in our skin’s barrier function, which Robinson says makes our skin vulnerable. Stripping these oils can lead to “dryness, eczema, and external irritants that a healthy barrier would otherwise stop from penetrating,” she says.
A lukewarm shower should be just higher than your body’s natural temperature. It can usually hover between 98 degrees and 105 degrees. If it starts burning at all, that’s a sign to turn it down. In fact, your skin will tell you when you overdid it. “If your skin is red, itchy, and tight after your shower, the temperature was likely too high and/or the length too long,” Robinson says.
Should adults shower every day?
While you may have seem some celebrities touting the belief that it’s best not to shower every day, Robinson disagrees. If you abide by some simple rules, your skin will benefit from daily showers.
“If you’re using a gentle, fragrance free cleanser, keeping the shower temperature moderate, and the amount of time in there to less than 10 minutes, then daily showers are preferred for most adults,” she says.
However, she says, “Some adults may get by with shorter daily showers, or showering three to four times a week if they aren’t sweaty or dirty.”
How crucial is having the right bathing routine for our skin?
Most importantly, it’s pivotal to prioritize skin health when showering. Sure, it feels good to stay clean, but showering is also the best way to take care of our body’s largest organ. It’s important to find the right balance between how often you shower and the products you use. Your skin could really suffer if you tend to live on the extremes.
“Excessive bathing can strip the skin of its natural oils, and disrupt the balance of good and bad bacteria on the skin’s surface,” Robinson says. “On the flip side bathing not frequently enough can lead to a buildup of dead skin cells, dirt, and sweat on the skin, triggering acne as well as exacerbating conditions like psoriasis, dermatitis and eczema.”
Taking care of your skin doesn’t always have to be complicated. Stick to a routine that works for you — and don’t let it get too hot in there!