These days, we’re instructed to wash our hands frequently and comprehensively to kill germs, but if you do that to your body, you may regret it. Long, hot showers or baths can make skin dry, irritated and itchy, causing it to look stiff, scaly and aged.
Overbathing strips away the protective outer layer of dead skin cells and lipids that are supposed to keep out irritants and keep in moisture. Soap, whether bar or liquid, contains surfactants that are intended to remove dirt and oil, but that also strip away the skin’s protective barrier.
Best: Take lukewarm showers or baths less than 10 minutes in duration. Use a gentle, nondrying, replenishing cleanser in the shower. Widely available and effective replenishing cleansers include Dove Deep Moisture Body Wash, Olay Ultra Moisture Shea Butter Body Wash, CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser Bar and Cetaphil Gentle Cleansing Bar.
Afterward, pat dry with a towel—rubbing can irritate skin. Then apply moisturizer all over. Choose a lotion or cream moisturizer that contains both a humectant such as glycerin, urea or hyaluronic acid…and an occlusive such as petrolatum, mineral oil, shea butter or dimethicone. Humectants add hydration, while occlusives smooth and seal in that hydration. Dimethicone also acts as an emollient and gives the skin a silky smooth feel. Examples: Very affordable products such as Curél Daily Healing and Eucerin Advanced Repair Lotion…pricier products such as Avène Trixera Balm ($29 for 6.7 ounces), Caudalie Vine Body Butter ($34 for 7.6 ounces) and La Roche-Posay Lipikar Balm ($19.99 for 13.5 ounces).
If your skin ever starts to feel tight or itchy or it looks scaly or dull, moisturize more frequently or try a different product…take even shorter showers…and/or skip showers some days. Adding a humidifier in your bedroom overnight can help, too. These sorts of skin issues are especially likely as we age and in the winter, when the air is dry. If you skip showers, freshen up by using baby wipes on your underarms and genitals…and gentle makeup remover towelettes on your face.
It’s perfectly fine to take a second shower following an activity that makes you sweaty or dirty or that exposes your skin to allergens or irritants—just keep it short, lukewarm, use a gentle cleanser (bring your own to the gym if needed) and moisturize afterward.