Here’s a sad and inconvenient truth: those long, scalding hot showers that you think are helping you survive the winter temps could actually be causing one of your most annoying beauty problems: dry, irritated, itchy skin. Sure, the heat feels good, but that constant stream of steamy water doesn’t do much for helping your skin retain moisture, according to experts.
“Long, hot showers compromise the innate barrier function of the skin by depleting natural oils from the skin surface,” explains Dr. Jessica Weiser, board-certified dermatologist at the New York Dermatology Group. And it’s not only your complexion that suffers: “Hot water also strips hair of protective oils making strands frizzy, dry, and brittle,” she says. Dr. Weiser also tells us that they can even make medical conditions like eczema and psoriasis worse.
The solution? The very best thing you can do to avoid all this trouble is skipping hot showers altogether. But we realize it’s a habit that’s hard to quit, especially when it’s cold outside—so what’s a girl to do?
Weiser says that if you absolutely cannot stop taking hot showers, there are some things you can do to at least make them a little less destructive. She suggests trying a hydrating cleanser and only using your soap in places like your underarms, groin, and feet. “Soap on arms, legs, and trunk can further exacerbate dryness,” she explains.
But that’s not enough to solve the problem. You’ll need to follow-up your bathing sesh with a lot of moisturizing.
“Additionally applying hydrating oils, like grape seed or almond oil, immediately after bathing can help replete some oils in the skin surface,” explains Dr. Weiser. “For even better skin saturation follow oil application with an emollient cream to trap oils into the skin surface.”
So does the same go for baths or could they be your loophole? Nope. “Soaking in hot water is potentially even worse than taking hot showers,” says Dr. Weiser. “To ease the irritation potential, it is advisable to put a few spoonfuls of oil, whether olive oil, almond oil, grape seed oil, into the bathwater to relieve some of the dryness.”
To help the situation further, you can monitor the temperature of that shower—and good news, Dr. Weiser notes that water doesn’t need to be chilly at all. She says keeping it below 110 degrees Fahrenheit is recommended, but “anything lukewarm or tepid water is best for maintaining healthy, hydrated skin.”
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