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The Great Debate: Does Showering Strip Away Your Skin’s Natural Oils?
Ah, the shower. Is there anything better than a good shower at the end of a long day?
Warm, steamy, relaxing goodness.
That refreshing sense of well-being when you get out all squeaky clean.
And, honestly, I’m not about to act like a few minutes of quiet solitude isn’t a treat.
But, people land on both sides of the shower debate.
Some totally indulge in the luxury, and some see it as a necessity verging on inconvenience.
It’s just one more thing to do in a day.
When you shower (especially as lady folk), it’s just the beginning of a whole time-consuming process of shaving, moisturizing, blow drying and makeup-ing.
And, the ever classic:
The struggle is real.
But, whether you love or hate showering, people often ask if it has any damaging effects on our skin.
Does frequent showering change the amount of oil our skin produces?
There’s been quite a bit of research on how our skin reacts to showering.
While showering on the reg is good for personal hygiene, over-showering could do more harm than good.
First, let’s talk about the science of skin.
How Your Skin Works
On the outermost layer of your skin, the epidermis, is a protective layer called the stratum corneum.
This layer is made up of dead skin cells which are constantly flaking and washing off, but they act as a shield for the new, healthy skin cells underneath.
Your stratum corneum is held together by fatty compounds called lipids, which are responsible for providing your skin’s moisture.
Together, the cells and lipids act like a sort of brick and mortar to build a wall of protection against bacteria, allergens and chemicals.
What Happens to Your Skin When You Shower
When you shower with super hot water, harsh soaps, or scrub skin too vigorously, you wash away this outer layer including your skin’s natural oils, or lipids.
When you do this continually and frequently, your skin doesn’t have as much time to produce oil to repair itself.
This has the potential to disrupt skin and lead to dryness and irritation.
When skin is too dry, it develops cracks which can make it easier for bacteria and infections to get in.
Now, don’t get me wrong.
Some exfoliation is good to slough off dead skin cells, cleanse pores and encourage healthy, glowing skin.
But, we need to be careful with the amount and frequency with which we’re doing it so we don’t strip away natural oils and possibly damage our skin.
There are two variables in this showering equation:
1. How Often We’re Showering
According to Dr. Elizabeth Lancaster, a Lancaster University Sociologist, the idea of showering daily is a recent concept.
Less than 100 years ago, we could’ve gotten away with bathing once a week!
Some of us are embracing this “cleansing reduction” movement of bathing just once a week.
Others are taking a lax approach to scrubbing up.
A survey of 2,021 women ages 18 to 50 found that:
And, 33% of go up to three days without washing their bodies!
This is also evidenced by the rise in popularity of dry shampoos on the market these days.
Many of us are skipping hair washes either due to time constraints or because it’s suggested that it’s healthier and less drying for our strands.
There are even dry conditioners now!
While dry shampoos soak up excess oil and mattify your scalp between washes, dry conditioner adds weightless shine to your ends to instantly refresh and rehydrate hair.
With friends like these, who needs showers?
2. How Long We’re Showering
The longer your skin is exposed to hot, moisture-zapping water, the more potential it has to dry it out and disturb skin’s outer layer.
A study by American Standard found that as we age, we’re spending less time sudsing up.
Keeping showers on the shorter side might be a good practice to adopt since our skin tends to get drier and thinner as we get older.
So, how often should I be showering?
Expert opinions differ.
The American Skin Association recommends you wash up once a day.
While others, such as Dr. C. Brandon Mitchell, Assistant Professor of Dermatology at George Washington University, suggest that we only shower daily for cosmetic purposes and that it’s not entirely necessary.
He proposes that as far as health is concerned (not taking into account appearance or if you smell) once or twice a week is sufficient as long as you’re keeping places clean where bacteria likes to party, like feet, underarms and below the belt.
Your shower schedule really comes down to preference.
However, one thing experts agree on is regardless of how often you choose to shower, you should still keep hands clean with frequent washing.
And, no matter what, always wash your face!
Even if you don’t jump in for a full body scrub down, make sure you’re maintaining a regular skincare routine for your face.
Daily cleansing, moisturizing and treatments will ensure that your skin stays clear of pore-clogging makeup, dirt, excess oil and potential irritants.
What if I still want to take a shower every day?
Your shower frequency completely comes down to individual preference.
But, if the thought of going multiple days without soaping up makes your skin crawl, I understand.
I’m here to help you with some tips on how to make sure you protect your skin while you’re soaping up.
Take shorter showers - If you can’t reduce how often you shower, consider reducing the amount of time you spend in the shower.
The longer you’re in a hot water, the more it can dry out your skin.
Bonus, reducing your water usage is good for the environment!
Use gentle cleansers - If frequent showering is drying out your skin, start using moisturizing cleansers, or those formulated for sensitive skin, for your face and body.
They’re more gentle and typically more hydrating so they’ll restore your skin’s moisture.
Take cooler showers - I’m not suggesting you take on some sort of cold water endurance challenge, just consider not taking scalding hot showers.
Hot water can sap moisture from your skin.
Try reducing the heat bit by bit to a warm or cool (rather than hot) temperature.
Plus, a cool shower during hot summer months is really delightfully refreshing.
I’m serious, try it!
Bonus, it’s better for your hair!
Don’t rub dry - Newly washed skin is vulnerable.
If you towel off by roughly rubbing skin, you can damage its delicate surface.
Ideally, you should allow skin to air dry.
But, if you don’t want to stand in your bathroom dripping water all over the floor - or shivering - gently pat or blot skin dry with soft towel.
Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize! - Make sure you’re rehydrating skin following up any cleansing with a great moisturizer.
This goes for face and body!
This is an especially important step after hot showers and during winter months when our skin tends to dry out.
Here are some of my top picks for items that will shower your skin with loveI’m so excited to share my Alana Mitchell Foaming Pumpkin Cleanser! I designed this gentle and effective cleanser with all skin types in mind, so even those with the most sensitive skin can use it. It features pumpkin seed oil, a natural source of vitamins A, C, and E as well as rich nutrients and hydrating and anti-aging benefits. It also includes soothing ingredients so your skin is left, clean, glowing and refreshed!
This Bioelements Moisture Positive Cleanser removes makeup and dissolves dirt while nourishing and hydrating dry skin. The rich, creamy formula is also well suited for sensitive skin and gives you a deep clean while packing a moisturizing punch!
My Alana Mitchell Hyaluronic Moisture Boost Serum was created to give your skin ultra hydration. This serum contains 20% Hyaluronic Acid to plump fine lines and boost skin’s moisture 10x! It also contains ingredients to soothe skin and promote healing so your skin is healthy and revitalized.
Rhonda Allison Face Creams - Ultra Hydration delivers max moisture by binding humectants to skin to infuse hydration deep into your skin’s layers. This rich formula can be used day or night, and is beneficial for all skin types.
Epicuren After Bath Moisturizers are a wonderful way to restore skin’s hydration after washing up. Each one is individually formulated with natural, nourishing ingredients to wrap your skin in moisture. We carry a variety of these delightful potions. The hardest part is choosing which one to try first!
This handy Dermalogica Dry Skin Kit contains everything you need to deliver moisture to dry or dehydrated skin. Replenish skin with this set which includes:
- Essential Cleansing Solution (1.7oz)
- Gentle Cream Exfoliant (0.3oz)
- Multi-Active Toner (1.7oz)
- Intensive Moisture Balance (0.75oz)
- Intensive Eye Repair
Dermalogica also has selection of other kits to address a variety of skincare concerns. They’re a great all-in-one way to revitalize skin!
When it comes to your shower time and frequency, you gotta do you.
Whatever works best for your skin is what’s ultimately going to be your best choice.
Indulge in some daily steam time, enjoy the refreshment of a cooler shower, or challenge yourself to see how quickly you can get in and out.
Or, start forgoing them more often and use that time to finally learn how to crochet.
The choice is all yours!
Just make sure that no matter how often you’re showering up, you always take care of your skin and practice good hygiene so you and your skin stay healthy!
To shower or not to shower? Weigh in on the debate and share with us in the comments section!
I shower daily in cold water. I also use soap with natural ingredients (hemp seed oil, shea butter, etc.) that prevents the drying of my skin – AND that smells heavenly. After scrubbing/exfoliating, I crank the water up to hot hot for the steam to help opening my pores and to assist in the lathering phase. Then I crank it back down to cold for the rinse and then air dry. Hemp seed body oil is used after for moisturizing, and my skin has never been so soft and healthy since implementing this to my daily regimen. I couldn’t imagine going more than a day without a shower. It’s just gross.