BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! Your eyes snap open as you realize it's Monday morning, snowing outside, and it feels like your heater wasn't working overnight. Even though you're running late for work, there's nothing in the world that you want more at that moment than to take a nice, long steaming hot shower to escape the frigid air and stresses of the world. As nice as that sounds, if you're one who suffers from dry skin, irritation, or rashes, you might want to think twice about taking frequent hot showers. You might have even asked yourself at some point, "are hot showers bad for you?". My goal for this post is to inform you about the dangers of hot showers over the long-term and how health of your skin can be affected.
Dry Skin ... Making the Problem Worse
Despite most people being guilty of taking hot showers and baths, making it a habit can actually inflame the skin, causing redness, irritation, and even peeling (similar to sunburn). The reason this happens is because the hot water disrupts the skin's ability to naturally balance moisture. This results in your skin being stripped of the natural oils, fats, and proteins that all play an integral part of keeping the skin healthy. When this happens, the body tries to compensate by kicking into hyper drive and overproducing oils as a means to combat the lack moisture in the skin.
The Next Steps to Take
If even after reading this post, you think to yourself, "there is no way I'm stopping my hot shower!" then here are some recommendations you can take to lessen the cumulative effect of the hot water over time:
- Turn Down the Water Temperature: Making the choice to use lukewarm or cool water instead of hot water even just a few times a week can help keep the skin hydrated and your hair stay strong and shiny. THE BOTTOM LINE: if your skin appears red after your bath or shower, your water is TOO HOT.
- Decrease Your Bathing Time: Shortening your shower is beneficial on multiple fronts because not only does it benefit your skin, it results in less wasted water. The goal here, especially in the cold winter months, is to shower with lukewarm water for no more than 10 to 15 minutes. I know the idea of skipping a full daily shower every now and then might seem "gross", but if your daily activity level, profession, or season allows it, you might benefit from "shower holiday" every now and again.
- Stay Away from Harsh Soaps/Cleansing Products: Regular soap products are drying to the skin because their sole purpose is to strip away the natural oil barrier. When you compound this with hot water, you are only making the issue of dry skin that much worse. As an alternative, you should consider using a mild, fragrance-free, non-soap cleanser.
- Moisturize Your Skin: After you pat yourself dry, you should apply an unscented lotion, cream, or oil to your still-damp skin. This will aid in locking in moisture. For a majority of people, a light, water-based moisturizer is adequate. However, in the winter time, you might consider using a cream over a lotion because creams are thicker (half oil and half water) allowing them to lock in moisture more effectively. While lotions are typically packaged as a pump, creams are typically sold in tubs or tubes. Whatever product type you decide on, make sure it is noncomedogenic so that you can rest assured it won't clog your pores. Products with aloe, oatmeal, and chamomile work wonders to soothe the skin. If you really want to pull out all the stops, look for a product that contains ceramides because they also help to protect and retain needed moisture for your skin.
If you've made it this far, then you must be consciously considering a change in your shower habits. My advice would be to experiment with different bathing routines until you find one that allows your skin to look and feel healthy. I'm not suggesting that you have to take a shower in ice-cold water because nobody likes to feel like they're in an arctic blast.
The key here is to find the happy medium between hot and cold that is tolerable, but not extreme. However, be aware that there are numerous variables that affect skin health including changes in products, weather, and hormones.
If you've tried all the suggestions above and you're still showing signs of skin inflammation (redness, itching, scaling, or cracking) you should consider scheduling an appointment with your dermatologist. You can never be too careful when it comes to your skin because very dry skin, if not properly addressed, can progress to skin inflammation and eczema, which requires a course of treatment.
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