On these cold, gray days, little can rival the comfort of a warm—no, hot—shower.
Whether it’s how you coax yourself out from under the covers in the morning or soothe yourself at the end of a long day, a hot shower is one of life’s simple indulgences. And it’s particularly satisfying if you’re sore from a tough workout, regardless of the weather outside.
But as therapeutic as it may feel in the moment, a hot shower could be doing more harm than good to your skin’s health.
Worsening skin conditions
Any skin condition that’s characterized by a defective skin barrier can be worsened by a hot shower because it strips the skin of the healthy fats and oils in its top layer that are integral to healthy skin function. Eczema, for example, can be exacerbated by hot showers, as can psoriasis, acne, rosacea, and excessively dry skin.
Dry skin is generally caused by a faulty skin barrier and dysfunction or deficiency in the necessary healthy fats in the top layer of the skin. With regular, prolonged exposure to hot water, which further strips away the protective layer responsible for keeping moisture in and bacteria and irritants out, dry skin can become a more serious issue.
Harming healthy skin
But it’s not just those of us with certain skin conditions who should be avoiding hot showers. They can have negative effects on healthy skin, too—and even hair.
It may seem counterintuitive, but showering for too long strips moisture and the healthy oils away from your skin. Ever gotten out of a hot shower and noticed how your fingers look wrinkly? That’s a sign that your skin’s dehydrated.
During these colder, drier months, we’re all more prone to itchy, dry skin. So, taking steamy showers that draw even more moisture out of the skin are an almost-surefire way to turn dry skin into a chronic condition.
And, similar to the skin on your face and body, hot water can also strip essential oils from the scalp, which could result in inflammation and impede hair growth. It can directly affect the hair itself, too, stripping the hair of oils and preventing shampoo and conditioner from being fully rinsed.
How warm, then, should your showers be? No one’s suggesting you convert to cold showers in the name of skin health. Lukewarm water is enough to keep your skin hydrated and happy. If you notice the mirror starting to fog up, lower the temperature a bit. You may feel a little deprived at first, but you’ll appreciate the benefits for the rest of the day.