The feeling of hot water raining down on your tired muscles can be a form of relaxing meditation, especially after a long day of work or a night of sleep. Whether blankly standing under hot water or getting in a few quick scrubs before work (no judgment here), we’re pretty confident you’re already doing showering right — even five minutes under the shower head is the perfect amount of time to regroup and refresh.
So make the most out of your cleansing routine with these lush but simple tips. It doesn’t take much to make your skin, hair, and mind feel brand new.
While there are no scientific studies done on dry brushing (yet), wellness experts and skincare professionals alike tote the benefits of dry brushing for two to five minutes before a shower. The process removes dead skin cells (which is important for cell turnover and regeneration) and invigorates the skin, possibly temporarily reducing cellulite. And according to Mariska Nicholson, founder of the sustainable, nontoxic, oil-based beauty company Olive + M, it helps detox the lymphatic system, just like a massage. A quick reminder: The lymphatic system has many important jobs, including distributing fluid and nutrients through the body and removing toxins.
“Dry brushing the skin in long strokes towards the heart helps stimulate the sweat glands and open pores, which release toxins often trapped by antiperspirant and lack of exercise,” explains Gloria Gilbere, PhD, CPD, ND. “The hard bristles may leave your skin a bit red at first, but after your shower, it’ll have a rosy glow and a supple feel to the touch.”
To try: Tackle those skin cells with this natural brush, which is made from boar bristles. Don’t share this with your friends or significant others though — dry brushing removes so much dead skin, you’ll want to keep this to yourself.
Steaming hot showers, however life changing they may feel at the moment, are actually not optimal for a few reasons. Nicholson says hot water strips our skin and hair of their natural oils, leaving them dry and brittle (not great for existing skin conditions like eczema or acne). Instead, Nicholson suggests trying cool or tepid showers.
Cranking up the cool is good for your mood too — in fact, it has an antidepressive effect. One study found showering in water about 68 degrees Fahrenheit for two to three minutes daily stimulates the central nervous system. Cold exposure releases the pain suppressing hormones beta-endorphin and noradrenaline, which can decrease depression symptoms. For those who don’t have depression, this boost of hormones may kick-start clear thinking, increase blood flow and muscle engagement, and decrease inflammation. Another study reports participants that showered in cool water for 30 days reported a 29 percent decrease in self-identified sickness.
To try: If you’re anything like us and crave that comforting warm experience, try a cool blast for just 30 to 90 seconds at the end of your shower.
If you’ve noticed a serious surge in natural skincare companies in the last few years, you’re not seeing things. By 2025, the organic and natural product market is expected to be worth a casual $25 billion dollars — yay! People are starting to connect the dots between toxins in personal care products and potential health effects like reduced fertility, endometriosis, and cancer. Pretty serious stuff for a casual body scrub, huh — but what does this mean for your shower? Spring for the clean stuff.
Avoid products that have parabens, phthalates, styrene, triclosan, and fragrance to name a few. Not sure if your products fall into the not-so-hot category? Pop it into EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Database to learn its toxicity level. Consider looking for shower products that have a small natural ingredient list. Since switching to organic products take time, we suggest restocking once you’re out of your current digs.
To try: To give you a starting point, these natural soaps are a win-win with many beauty gurus: Avalon Organic Lavender Shampoo and Conditioner, African Black Soap, and this exfoliating Pink Himalayan Salt Scrub.
Turns out showers can be just as cleansing for our thoughts as they are for our bodies. “The water is a powerful way to cleanse your aura from the top of your head to the bottom of your feet,” says Heather Askinosie, co-founder of Energy Muse and co-author of “Crystal Muse: Everyday Rituals to Tune In to the Real You.”
“Visualize the water as a waterfall purifying your entire being. See yourself as a clean vessel of light. Say out loud, “I am cleansed, purified and renewed,” suggests Askinosie. “Visualize all that mental ick flowing down the drain.”
To try: Next time you’re taking a shower, try embracing your routine as a way to let go of all that which does not serve you. Repeat your positive intentions for the day until they’re wafting off your skin, like the lavender lotion you just applied.
Interestingly enough, using oil to shave instead of soap or body wash actually gets you closer, says Mariska. This is true for a few reasons. Remember back in grade school doing the oil vs. water experiment? The same principals apply in the shower. By coating your legs with oil you’re creating a barrier for your skin, which helps protect it from the blade. The smooth texture of oil also helps prevent the blade from tugging at the hair and pinching.
Look for cold-pressed, unrefined organic oils to get all the benefits of vitamins and minerals. Avocado and jojoba oil in particular have antimicrobial effects. Oil also does a good job of preventing moisture from evaporating from the skin. So really, you’re getting a two-in-one deal by shaving with oil.
Be careful if you’re using it in the shower as you don’t want to slip! Once you’re out, your skin will still be moisturized and ready to go. For those in a real rush, oils may keep your skin soft enough so that you can skip body lotion.
Imagine being able to step into your own personal aromatherapy spa every time you shower. Truth is, it’s not too hard to recreate the calming experience in your shower. Besides clearing congestion, reducing stress, and improving circulation, steam is used to open pores making it easier to cleanse dirt and bacteria. Add some naturally fragrant plants and you’re honing in on the healing benefits of aromatherapy — a practice that is now recognized by the U.S. State Boards of Nursing as a legitimate form of holistic nursing.
Not to mention, your shower becomes perfect Instagram material. Here’s how: Next time you’re at a farmer’s market or local florist, ask if they have any organic lavender for relaxation, eucalyptus for decongestion, or rosemary for stimulation.
To try: Secure the bunch from your showerhead using wire and steam away. Instagrammer, Lee Tilghman (@leefromamerica) says she keeps her bunch for about a month until their scent runs out, then replaces.
Enhancing your cleansing routine can seem like a luxurious moment of self-care, but it’s not an indulgence — how you care for your body is a reflection on the state of your health, including your mind. Under the shower head, you’re literally sloughing off the dirt, the grime, the stress, and preparing a brand new, refreshed you to take on the day. If all it takes for glowing skin and clarity of mind is a eucalyptus plant, or 30 seconds of cold water, then why not spend a little time hacking your shower?
Larell Scardelli is a freelance wellness writer, florist, skincare blogger, magazine editor, cat lover, and dark chocolate aficionado. She has her RYT-200, studies energy medicine, and loves a good garage sale. Her writing covers everything from indoor gardening to natural beauty remedies and has appeared in Bust, Women’s Health, Prevention, Yoga International, and Rodale’s Organic Life. Catch her silly adventures on Instagram @lalalarell or read more of her work on her website.