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8 Shower Mistakes That Are Messing with Your Skin

Shower Skin Disasters

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We already know what you're thinking: There's absolutely no way you're screwing up when it comes to showering—wash, rinse, repeat, right? After all, it's not like this is new to you. Well, you might be getting yourself clean, but these common bathing mistakes could have damaging effects on your skin while you're busy scrubbing away.

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You're Using Hot Water (or Taking Too Long)

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There's nothing like a long, hot shower on a cold day (or after an intense workout). But that steamy water is harsh on your skin. "Just like it strips grease off pots and pans, hot water strips the oil from your skin," says Cynthia Bailey, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist and founder of DrBaileySkinCare.com. "Hot water also brings blood to the surface of the skin (which is why you turn red in a hot bath or shower), and that fuels inflammation like eczema and itching," she says.

Lukewarm water is the best temperature for showers, and keep it short. Under 10 minutes is more than enough time, says Tsippora Shainhouse, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist in Beverly Hills.

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You're Using the Wrong Soap

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Soap, particularly bar soap, not only removes dirt from your skin, it also strips away some of your body's natural oils. So you want to make sure you're not using a soap that's compounding that moisture-zapping. And get rid of is the scented stuff. Yeah, we all love coming out of the shower smelling like strawberries or a tropical rainforest, but fragrance can really dry out your skin, says Debra Jaliman, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist and author of Skin Rules: Trade Secrets from a Top New York Dermatologist. Instead, reach for a soap or body wash that is moisturizing and fragrance- and dye-free. (Post-shower but pre-towel, take a peek at your butt. It can tell you some things about your skin's health.)

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You're Scrubbing Too Much or Too Hard

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"Overly aggressive cleansing can cause irritation, leading to redness or rashes, and it can make eczema worse," says Melanie Palm, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Art of Skin MD, in San Diego. As long as you're using soap and water, there's no need to go overboard with the scrubbing.

Also, be careful with the gritty stuff. "Rough exfoliating products can actually cause tiny tears in the skin," says Dr. Shainhouse. "If you need to exfoliate, look for body sugar or salt scrubs that will melt in the water, and limit use to twice a week."

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You're Obsessed with Lather

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Soaps that lather like crazy may have lots of detergents (such as sodium laurel sulfate), which can be irritating to the skin, says Dr. Jaliman. You can get just as clean with a less sudsy soap. And it's not necessary to use a huge heaping mound of body wash either. "Cleansing agents are meant to be used in approximately a quarter to silver dollar-sized dollop," says Dr. Palm. Using too much is not only tougher on your wallet, but it also leads to greater concentrations of soap on the skin, increasing the chance of irritation and dryness, she adds. (You may want to avoid the extra lather when it comes to your shampoo habits as well, as it may be one of the hair-washing mistakes you could be making.)

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Your Loofah Is Old

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Letting your loofah hang in your warm, moist shower is just asking for an overload of yeast, bacteria, and mold. Instead, take it out of the bathroom and hang it elsewhere to dry. Dr. Palm recommends washing loofahs or other cleansing tools weekly. Then throw it out and replace it after three weeks (or sooner if it develops an odor or changes colors). As for washcloths, they're inexpensive and you likely have dozens. Use a clean one every time you shower.

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You Miss a Spot While Rinsing

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You know when you're drying off and realize you missed a bit of soap behind your knee or ear when rinsing? Don't just wipe it away. Rinse the area again. Remember, soap dissolves oils—both on the surface of your skin and from inside the protective deep layers. "If you fail to completely rinse soap off your skin, it will keep dissolving the natural oils that are important for protecting it," says Dr. Bailey. The result: dry, chapped, and vulnerable skin.

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You're Rough When Towel Drying

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Just like scrubbing hard when you're bathing can cause irritation, rubbing skin too hard when drying off can cause inflammation and redness, says Dr. Bailey. Instead of a fast (and rough) wipe down, gently pat dry your skin after the shower. (And don't go wrapping your hair up in that towel either. It's one of the bad beauty habits you need to break right now.)

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You Wait to Moisturize

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Don't take your time getting out the body lotion. "Apply a moisturizer within the first three minutes of toweling off," says Dr. Shainhouse. She recommends looking for products with ceramides (like CeraVe or Cetaphil Eczema Care) that help "fill in" any breaks in the skin barrier from dryness and irritation (or those exfoliants). This will help lock in the moisture from the shower.

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