Everyone has their shower routine down to a science. You are able to shampoo and condition your hair, shave and wash your body while you are still half-dreaming about winning your tenth Academy Award. Our regular shower routine isn’t something we give much thought to. You do it on autopilot the way you make your coffee. As tried-and-true as your shower routine is, it may not be perfect. Your routine could be negatively impacting your hair and skin. We spoke with Dr. Marnie B. Nussbaum, M.D. F.A.A.D about common mistakes we do in the shower and how to fix them.
Mistake #1: Using too hot water.
There is nothing as relaxing as a nice hot shower, but even though it feels good on our bodies, that heat isn’t good for our skin or hair. Dr. Nussbaum explains, “Hot showers strip the hair of its natural oils called sebum. This is what causes hair to become dry and brittle, as hair relies on its natural oils to maintain strength, shine, and manageability. The same happens with your skin. When the temperature of your shower is too hot, it strips your skin of its natural oils leaving it itchy and dry.” You are probably familiar with post-shower itchy arms. To prevent them, Dr. Nussbaum suggests you use cool or lukewarm water. Your skin won’t be irritated and your hair will be shinier, no shine serum is required.
Mistake #2: Having a long shower.
This one ties in with the first one. Long showers aren’t just bad for your water bill and the environment, they are also bad for your skin and hair, especially if they are long, hot showers. Dr. Nussbaum states, “Lukewarm and short showers (5 minutes) are best to help the skin stay moisturized and supple without breaking down the skin’s barrier.” It’s easy to lose track of time once you’re under the faucet, so you can try setting an alarm. It will help save your skin and get you to work on time.
Mistake #3: Using too much product.
If you are using a handful of shampoo, you are using waaaay too much. When it comes to the right amount of products you should be using, think in terms of coin sizes. Dr. Nussbaum says that when it comes to shampoo, you don’t need to use more than the size of a quarter for finer hair and about the size of a dollar coin for thicker hair. For conditioner, you should only use enough to cover the ends of your hair because the scalp makes natural oils. In terms of body wash, the less-is-more rule also applies. As for face soap, a dime-sized amount is usually sufficient. Dr. Nussbaum cautions, “Any more than that may leave your skin feeling dry and irritated.”
Mistake #4: Using a bar of soap.
When asked what the biggest mistake you can make in the shower is, this is what Dr. Nussbaum gave for her answer. Traditional bars of soap can strip the skin of oils because they are alkaline substances. Your skin’s pH should be 5.5 and these bars have a pH of 9, which makes skin feel dry and tight. That’s not all. Dr. Nussbaum says researched shows that soap causes skin’s pH to rise, which makes it susceptible to external factors like infection and allergens and international factors such as stress and diseases. Plus, if the bars of soap are shared, they can spread bacteria. Ick. Dr. Nussbaum states, “Be sure to keep your germs to yourself and use a liquid soap if you are going to be sharing a shower.”
If you are a fan of bars, Dr. Nussbaum says to make sure you’re using a sydnet bar, or “beauty bar” as they are sometimes called. They are a common alternative to conventional soap and don’t have surfactants (substances that reduce the surface tension of a liquid). Dr. Nussbaum also says the easiest fix is switching to a pH-balanced liquid wash, like Sebamed Liquid Face & Body Wash, for $13.49. It is a very mild gel cleanser that’s soap and alkali-free.
Mistake #5: Overdoing it on the shampoo.
The “no-poo” movement has been gaining momentum over the last couple of years and it is easy to see why. Excessive washing can strip your hair of its natural oils. Plus, you are increasing your likelihood of styling damage if you’re blow-drying your hair after every wash. Dr. Nussbaum says that in general, it is unnecessary to lather, rinse and repeat unless you have an irritated scalp, work in an area of high pollution or dirt, or use a lot of hair products.
Mistake #6: Not moisturizing directly out of the shower.
If you aren’t moisturizing in the shower, you need to seal is that moisturizer as soon as you get out, while your skin is still damp. Don’t step out of the shower, check your phone and wander around for a bit before you moisturize. Once you get out of the shower, pat your skin dry (do not rub) and apply that moisturizer. Dr. Naussbaum says that you should be doing all this within three minutes after you turn the tap off. She explains, “You’ll seal in hydration and add to skin’s protective barrier before the water has a chance to evaporate.”