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Why You're Probably Showering All Wrong

And damaging your skin in the process.

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woman drying off in shower and why you are probably taking showers the wrong way
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The best anecdote to a cold, blustery day is a nice, hot shower. But while a shower is lovely (and essential if you want to not smell), try to steer clear of these common yet surprising shower mistakes that may dry, irritate and damage your skin.

Taking long showers

We love nothing more than a long, steamy shower. But these are best saved for summer (if ever), says Susan Bard, M.D., a New York City board-certified dermatologist. Five minutes is best, but if you need to shave and use multiple products — or if you really need a spa shower — stick to 15 minutes max, she says. The shower may feel fabulous, but those long soaks are actually bad for skin during the colder months because the water dries out your skin.

Hot showers

You’re not going to take a cold shower right about now, but try not to take an extra-hot one, Bard says. “Hot water dries out the skin,” she says. “But if you insist on a hot shower, keep it short, and lock in the moisture by patting dry until damp, and then applying moisturizer from head to toe.” 

Bar soap

Most bar soaps will dry out your skin and rid it of its natural oils — especially when the winter air is already drying out your skin, Bard says. “Use a gentle wash that won’t overstrip the skin of its oils, like Dove Sensitive Skin Body Wash,” she suggests. Most bar soaps contain a high pH, which are the cause of the dry skin. If you really want to use a bar soap, choose one that has a neutral pH. (Hint: These would typically include oils such as olive oil, coconut oil or sunflower oil.) Try the Moroccanoil Soap, which contains argan oil, aloe leaf extract and shea butter ($14 at

Choosing the wrong body wash for the season

While body washes are better than bar soap, you need to select one that works for your skin type right now, says Debra Jaliman, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist in New York and author of the book Skin Rules: Trade Secrets from a Top New York Dermatologist. Jaliman really likes CeraVe Hydrating Body Wash for the winter months because it has ceramides, which are used to protect your skin barrier. It’s a gentle cleanser that is good for irritated skin, and its ingredients include hyaluronic acid, which is super hydrating. It’s good for all skin types, especially for dry skin, Jaliman says. “Moisturizing body washes cleanse the skin and also help trap water in your skin,” she says. “They’re more popular in the winter when the skin tends to be much drier and flaky.” 

Loofahs and washcloths

These aren’t recommended, as they can be abrasive to your skin, says Anna Chacon, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist based in South Florida and a medical writer for the ZELEN Life blog. They can also harbor bacteria and fungi if they’re left out and reused. “In general, they are not a good idea to have around or to use,” she says. Washcloths are better than loofahs, however, as they can be thrown into the washing machine. Alternatively, try either a silicone exfoliating brush (it is fast-drying, so it doesn’t harbor bacteria; can be thrown into the dishwasher; and is eco-friendly) or an antibacterial shower mitt. Even better: Use your hands.

Waiting to put on moisturizer post-shower

You should be moisturizing with a cream or ointment immediately after showering to help lock in moisture, says Kellie Reed, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist with Westlake Dermatology. Reed recommends products that have ceramides or hyaluronic acid in them, which will really help moisturize your skin.

Rubbing dry with a towel

This actually can overexfoliate your skin and can cause irritation, Reed says. Instead, gently pat yourself dry with a very soft towel. It may take a little longer, but you’ll be preventing damage. 

Putting lotion on dry skin

It might feel weird, but that lotion should be going directly on to your damp skin, says Emmanuel Loucas, M.D., founder of Loucas Dermatology in New York. As soon as you’re done patting yourself with a towel, apply the moisturizer. “If your skin is very dry, you can apply Vaseline or oils to your skin when it’s moist,” Loucas says. “Applying them to dry skin is not effective in trapping moisture.” 

Skipping the shower after a workout

Yes, dry shampoo is the greatest miracle since sliced bread. But that still doesn’t mean you can skip the shower. Sweat that dries on your skin can lead to bacteria, which then leads to rashes, breakouts and even a yeast infection.