We know, we know — how hard is it to mess up the thing you do out of necessity every day? Honestly, it’s pretty foolproof by design, but if you’ve got sensitive skin or acne to contend with, you might want to think about how you’re handling that hot water session, and how it might be affecting your skin! Check out these common missteps in a typical shower routine — complete with simple tweaks to get the most out of your wash.
You’re making the water too hot
The water temperature we bathe in is a personal preference for everyone, but if you tend to linger in super hot water for too long, you could be drying out your skin, which, over time, might make for more parched, acne-prone skin.
What does that mean, exactly? It all starts from within! To keep our skin hydrated and protected, the body’s sebaceous glands produce an oily substance called sebum, which travels through the pores to reach the surface of the skin. When we wash too much oil away, be it with harsh chemical cleansers, or extra hot water, our body sends a signal to our sebaceous glands, triggering more production to make up for what was just lost.
When this happens too often, excess sebum can become trapped within the pores, and when combined with dead skin cells, can attract bacteria, leading to breakouts. To make the most out of your watery reprieve, mild, warm temps are best for achieving happy, healthy skin. Can’t cope when it’s too cold? Not to worry, just compromise! If your hot showers are an act of self-care, have at it, but be sure to limit the time you spend in there to prevent over drying.
You’re drying off with a dirty towel
In addition to excess sebum and dead skin cells, leftover dirt, grime, and product residue can play a big part in the arrival of the P. acnes bacteria that lead to pimples. Even if our skin is clean, the items that touch it may not be. Start with a look at the towel you’re using to dry your face, body, and hair, and do your best to switch yours out about once a week if you’re using daily.
You’re using hair products that don’t work for your skin.
Do certain oils tend to make you break out? What about fragrances, dyes, or specific ingredients? If you’ve noticed acne or irritation after using any of these ingredients, chances are you’ve omitted them from your face and body skincare routine. But have you looked at what goes on your hair?
Oftentimes, haircare products are full of oils, parabens, and fragrances that are known to irritate or trigger troublesome skin conditions such as acne, eczema or just general irritation. So, if you’re seeing breakouts on your back, neck, shoulders, or any areas where suds might touch, take a look at the back of your bottles and switch ‘em out for a practical formula that works for your hair and skin. Need some oil to hydrate dry, damaged or chemically treated hair? Just reach for those known to work for acne-prone skin, such as tea tree oil, lavender, rose or rosemary.
Your body wash is counterproductive.
Sometimes, the most obvious culprit is the one we rely on most often. That’s right, your typical body wash might just be to blame. Many over the counter body washes, even those medicated and designed to treat acne, can contain harsh detergents that strip the skin of necessary oils. Like we explained before, when your skin gets too dry it can trigger the body to produce even more sebum, creating a counterproductive cycle as ineffective as it is frustrating.
If your body wash is particularly heavy on detergents, as evidenced by excessive amounts of foam, you could be making your acne worse. So switch it up to a natural, soap-free cleanser that’s easy on the skin.
You aren’t exfoliating regularly.
Most people have an exfoliating regimen for their face (and if you don’t, you should start one ASAP — the benefits are endless!). But what about your body? The skin below your neck is typically thicker than the skin on our face, so in order to prevent a pile-up of dead skin cells, we’ll need to slough away any unnecessary residue with an exfoliant.
Exfoliants can be classified into two groups: physical and chemical. Physical exfoliants are the gritty, sandy varieties, while chemical exfoliants rely on a more gentle method to penetrate and break down that top layer of skin.
If you have particularly painful breakouts on your face or body, stick with a chemical formula. Salicylic acid, is an easy, yet effective, way to keep your skin exfoliated and acne free. Have a chemical exfoliant but looking to treat yourself to an occasional deep-clean? Pair it with a scrubber for an exfoliating experience sure to leave your skin silky smooth without the damage.
All that said, you can over exfoliate (especially if you have acne, which can just irritate your breakouts), so make sure if you’re using a physical scrub that you’re only giving your skin a scrub down every few days.
You’re shaving all the wrong ways
We don’t need to tell you how painful ingrown hairs and razor burn are. There are so many faux paus with this one we could make an entirely different list, but make sure you’re switching out your razor blades very regularly (we’re totally guilty of this too) and shaving in the right direction. We break it all down for you here.
You’re forgetting to moisturize ASAP
We have this tendency to dry ourselves off a little too well after we shower. If you leave some of that moisture on your skin and then slather on your moisturizer of choice, you actually lock more of that moisture into your skin. Hello, hydration!
You’re showering too often
If you work out or sweat a lot every day, you can ignore this advice, but for the rest of us out there — you may be showering too much. It sounds weird, we know, but some dermatologists remind us that when you shower you rinse away the body’s natural moisture and oils, and that can be harsh on your skin.
Is the idea of skipping a shower cringe-worthy? Try taking shorter showers daily instead!
You aren’t treating yourself to a little pampering.
While most of this list includes things you might benefit from doing a little better, we don’t mean to be so hard on you, and you shouldn’t be hard on yourself either!
Part of making the most out of your daily reprieve is taking some time just for yourself, to quiet your mind and honor your body. Our favorite way to spruce up our shower is on Sunday nights, before the start of your long week. Light some candles, put your favorite music on, and put a few drops of your favorite essential oil onto the floor of your shower so the scent mixes with the steam. Before getting naked, apply your favorite face mask. After you’ve lathered up, rinse your face as the last step of your shower.
A DIY body mask can also make for a nice weekly treat and can be created for pennies with raw honey, which works well with any skin type. Affordable and effective, the naturally antibacterial properties found in honey can work wonders on acne-prone skin, and it’s easily customizable with additional ingredients, depending on your specific skin issues. For acne, look to cinnamon; dry skin can become quenched with the fatty acids found in avocado; sensitive complexions can benefit from an aloe vera gel concoction. Mix one of these with a few teaspoons of honey, apply to the back, chest, butt, shoulders and any affected areas and then let sit for 10-15 minutes. Simply rinse away, patting skin dry with a clean towel.
Now go forth and shower!
There are a lot of changes you can make to get the most out of your shower, but the fun doesn’t have to stop there, and probably shouldn’t if body acne is an issue for you. To treat while you go about your day — or as an overnight measure — spritz any affected areas with a body treatment spray immediately post-shower.