Going a day without showering seems gross in theory, but we’ve all done it. Hell, after decades of daily bathing, skipping a few rounds is downright recommended by most experts these days. And while we know how to shower—and that scrubbing ’til you’re squeaky clean is a no go—but what else could you be doing wrong? According to our experts, you might be making some in-shower mistakes that can lead to the dry, cracked or inflamed skin we all dread. Read on to discover the right ways to switch up your shower game according to the pros.
Figure Out if Hard Water (or Pressure) Is an Issue
Often, we blame the length of our shower time and the wrong products for dry, rough skin. Yet, an even bigger problem stems from your water quality. “If your water leaves soap scum on your tub or sink, you most likely have hard water,” explains dermatologist Mona Gohara.
Typically not harmful to your health, hard water carries extra minerals, like calcium and magnesium, hindering soaps to lather poorly causing overuse of products. Other effects of hard water include an invisible “film” on the skin causing dryness, dull or limp hair, and less than sparkling dishes.
Celebrity aesthetician Jordana Mattioli suggests testing your water as a first step. “You can purchase hard water test strips and/or comprehensive hard water test kits from any major home improvement store or through an online retailer,” she says. “In addition to hardness, some may even test for alkalinity, chlorine, iron, nitrates or pH.”
Another hair and skincare culprit is water pressure—that luxe-but-intense shower head might be doing more harm than good. “Harsh water pressure can theoretically disrupt the skin barrier, leaving you more like to get inflamed and irritated,” explains Dr. Gohara. As an alternative, opt for water regulators to make sure your pressure isn’t so hard that it literally hurts.
Order Your Shower Routine Effectively
Getting your routine in order can feel a bit complicated. Mattioli suggests her clients follow the steps: exfoliate your body with a scrub on damp skin, then turn on your shower to rinse, or use the dry brushing method; lather up in body wash, then rinse (most exfoliators leave a residue, so washing after is best; shampoo, then rinse; exfoliate your face (Mattioli is a fan of Environ AVST Moisturising Toner), then rinse; apply conditioner (leave it on); shave, if you’re so inclined; rinse your conditioner; lastly, wash your face again to make sure there’s no trace of conditioner, and rinse again.
Make sure you apply your body lotion within three minutes of stepping out of the shower, Gohara says. “I encourage my patients to use ambient moisture to lock in the cream. Don’t leave the bathroom or you’ll let that moistness seep out into the rest of the house.”
Check the Fabric of Your Towels
Stretching out laundry days is another no-no according to our experts. “Towels and washcloths that touch the face should be washed after each use,” suggests Dr. Gohara. “Body washcloths and towels can go three to four uses before washing.” And your favorite skin sloughing loofahs and sponges can become a breeding ground for nasty bacteria, so make sure to toss those within two months, tops.
When it comes to your skin, don’t skimp on your fabric choice either. Mattioli is a firm believer in the softer the better: “Usually terrycloth towels are the softest,” she says. “Plus, applying moisturizer to face and body while the skin is still damp will prevent skin dryness regardless of which type of towel you use.” For hair, opt for thinner towels like Rikumo’s Linen Border Towel, or an old tee to wrap up your damp strands.
Seriously, Cool It
We admit, after a long day, nothing feels better than a hot, steamy, shower (except maybe an oversized glass of wine). Yet, experts still tell us to keep the temperature down to protect your delicate epidermis: “Cool showers will improve circulation,” shares Mattioli. “When cold water hits our body, the blood circulating leads the arteries to more efficiently pump blood, therefore boosting our overall heart health.”
But your morning routine doesn’t have to feel like a polar bear plunge challenge. Instead, try putting the shower on warm, then once your body has adjusted to the temperature, slowly decrease the temperature until it’s cool enough. “It’s way easier than jumping into a cold shower,” adds Mattioli. Some studies even find cold showers help boost your mood and counteract depression symptoms.