Are you a get-in-and-get-out shower-taker, or do you like to stand there long enough that the water pools around your feet? Regardless of which camp you fall into, you might want to aim for the middle, especially if you wish to keep your skin hydrated and clean.
While the importance of bathing several days a week, if not daily, is critical to your overall health and hygiene, spending too much or not enough time in the shower can lead to issues with your skin.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the average shower lasts 8 minutes. If you like to linger in the shower for longer than 15 minutes, you might want to rethink your hygiene routine.
According to board-certified dermatologist Dr. Edidiong Kaminska, MD, the recommended maximum shower time is about 5 to 10 minutes. This is enough time to cleanse and hydrate the skin without overdoing it. “Our skin needs water, just like our bodies, but if we over- or under-do it, then it may have consequences,” she adds.
And if you have dry skin or eczema, Dr. Anna Guanche, MD, FAAD, says shorter, lukewarm showers are recommended. Moreover, the Baylor College of Medicine says it’s especially important to avoid hot showers in the wintery months since the heat can damage the surface of the skin, which can lead to inflammation and increase symptoms of eczema.
While a long, hot shower might seem like the best way to pamper your body, over-showering may dehydrate the skin. “The purpose of showering is to hydrate and cleanse the skin, but warm or hot showering for prolonged periods strips away natural oils of the skin and opens up our pores and allows moisture to escape,” Kaminska says.
To keep moisture in, she usually recommends applying a body moisturizer after showering to the skin since it allows the water (hydration) to stay in the skin and not escape.
If over-washing has consequences, it’s safe to say that under-showering also poses problems. In general, under-showering may not thoroughly cleanse the skin.
“We all have normal bacteria and organisms that live on our skin (normal flora), and this protects our skin from injury or insult,” Kaminska explains. If the balance is tilted toward the overgrowth of normal or healthy flora, she says this may increase the risk of skin infection—not to mention the risk of body odor if you consistently under-wash your skin.
There are benefits to hot, warm, and cold water showers. But if you’re not sure which temperature is best for you, err on the side of caution, and go with a warm or lukewarm shower.
Warm, rather than hot water, is better for skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Using warm water, rather than hot, can also help keep your water bill down.
Cold showers may also have a few benefits such as reducing muscle soreness, calming irritated or itchy skin, and of course, helping you wake up in the morning. Hot showers, on the other hand, can help you manage the symptoms of a cold or cough by loosening phlegm and opening airways.
Knowing how long you should stand under the water is just part of the equation. You also need to be mindful of how often you shower. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, most people do not need more than one shower a day.
That said, the AAD points out that sometimes, there is a need to clean your body more than once a day, such as if you engage in a sport or activity that causes you to sweat. You should shower when finished. If that’s the case, make sure the water is lukewarm and moisturize immediately following a shower.
What you do in the shower matters just as much as how often you shower and how long you let the water penetrate your skin. “There are many ways to shower, but the simplest and most gentle way is to use your hands,” Kaminska says. Her steps for showering include:
- Get the body wet with warm, but not hot, water
- Use a simple bar of soap or liquid cleanser.
- Make suds with your hands, and wash the body in a top-down manner, or from your head to toes.
- Don’t forget all the nooks and crannies such as the folds of skin, underarms, groin, and in between the toes.
- Shower for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Apply moisturizer after drying off.
Limiting your time in the shower to 5 to 10 minutes and using lukewarm or warm water can help keep your skin from drying out, while thoroughly cleaning your body.