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You’re in a hot, steamy shower singing off-key and working up a lather.
You wash your hair and your body, so it’s only natural to reach for your face cleanser and wash your face too.
Could this seemingly innocent habit be doing your skin more harm than good?
As convenient as it may be, one school of thought suggests that the hot water of a shower can strip your skin of the natural oils that keep it hydrated and glowing.
If you love a long shower, you’re also exposing your skin to hotter temperatures for a much longer time period. The extra heat may cause irritation that can be particularly damaging to sensitive skin. This can worsen skin conditions, like acne.
There’s also bathroom bacteria to factor in. Some people believe washing your face in the shower exposes your skin to all the nasty stuff that’s airborne in your bathroom.
Is there any truth to this?
According to two experts, these are common myths. One confirms she washes her face in the shower on the regular.
However, both experts say that it’s best to exercise caution while washing your face in the shower. Getting your water temperature right is crucial to caring for your skin.
“The alleged risk is that hot water dehydrates the skin, the heat from hot water and steam may dilate and burst sensitive blood vessels in the skin, and that the bacteria in the bathroom can increase the risk of infection. But there’s no scientific evidence to support any of these claims,” says Ivy Lee, a board certified dermatologist in California.
Abigail James, a London-based facialist, says there can actually be some benefits from washing your face in the shower.
“The steam from showers might actually aid in the facial cleansing process. Many facials around the world use steam during the cleansing part of a facial, as it softens the content of pores. This means a cleanse can be more effective,” she says.
For James, it’s really about preference.
“I would rather someone washes their face in the shower than not cleanse their face at all,” she says. “I personally like using a cloth to remove cleansers and this might not happen in the shower, you are more likely to just splash off your cleanser.”
The basic message? Find the skin care process that works best for you.
Lee says there’s no truth to the claims that washing your face in the shower can cause acne, though it has the potential to trigger rosacea.
“There is no evidence that washing your face in the shower exacerbates acne, but there is a possibility that the shower may exacerbate rosacea if you spend a prolonged time in there,” she says. “The heat and humidity can dilate cutaneous blood vessels.”
James agrees that washing your face in the shower doesn’t cause or worsen breakouts.
“Causes of acne are complex: hormones, stress, the wrong skin care, bad diet, over-stripping the skin, irritation to makeup, and a combination of the above [can be contributing factors],” James says.
The experts agree that washing your face in the shower isn’t going to damage your skin or cause acne, but that doesn’t mean you should set the temperature to scorching hot.
It’s still best to use warm water, not hot water.
“[Using] water that is too hot for the skin on a regular basis isn’t great. If it’s once or twice a week, it’s okay, but not on a daily basis. So turning the heat down is good. Or, even better, try cold showers,” James says.
“Moderation is key,” she says. “Washing once or twice daily with warm water and a brief duration is ideal, as hot water can dehydrate the skin and strip the skin of its natural oils.”
Whether you love washing your face in the shower, you prefer to cleanse over the sink, or you like to use creamy cleansers to swipe away dirt, the important part is that you do it regularly.
For Lee, it’s better to focus on cleansing morning and night than worry about whether you should do it before, during, or after your shower.
“Regular, daily facial cleansing is important to maintain skin health. An evening cleanse is essential, as cleansing removes dirt, makeup, and pollution that your skin can accumulate throughout the day,” Lee says.
According to Lee, a morning cleanse is optional. It’s best to cleanse if you wake up with oily skin, or if you want to remove product you left on overnight.
Wherever your cleansing routine takes place, Lee says gentle, non-abrasive cleansers are your best option.
Micellar water is a blend of purified water, moisturizers, and cleansers that help to pull dirt and oil from the skin.
For oil-based cleansers, try the Burt’s Bees Cleansing Oil or the Era Organics Cleansing Oil Facial Wash & Makeup Remover.
If you’re still concerned about washing your face in the shower, there’s nothing wrong with going for the sink. You can still take advantage of steam from the faucet to make your cleansing process more effective.
Where you wash your face is up to you. It’s more important that it gets done and is done with care.
“Unlike real estate, location doesn’t matter when it comes to washing your face. By cleaning your face in the shower, you can save time,” Lee says.
Washing anywhere is better than not washing it all.
Just remember to keep your temperature down and duration short — and use a gentle, non-abrasive cleanser.
Still not comfortable foaming up under the shower head? There’s nothing wrong with heading to the sink.
Victoria Stokes is a writer from the United Kingdom. When she’s not writing about her favorite topics, personal development, and well-being, she usually has her nose stuck in a good book. Victoria lists coffee, cocktails, and the color pink among some of her favorite things. Find her on Instagram.