Women with sensitive skin, acne prone skin, or dry skin have probably heard a common refrain from their expert friends and family about how their shower time could be exacerbating their problems.
It's such a common refrain in the skincare world that some people question whether you should even shower daily — for reasons other than the potential harm to your face.
What kind of shower is best for your facial skin? Long or short? Is it better to bathe with cold or warm water?
The truth is that the verdict on showers and their benefits for the skin on your face isn't all that clear, and rather than accepting one opinion as "gospel," you should consider your own skin needs and how showering may help or stop you from getting your face what it needs in order to glow.
What Happens to Your Skin in a Shower?
The question of what showering does to your skin is perhaps the most important information in this discussion — and there are already some disagreements.
However, the general consensus is that showering daily can have a few negative effects on your skin and the skin on your face.
In the worst-case scenario, daily showering can exacerbate skin problems such as dry skin, itching, cracking, and bacterial overgrowth. Showering can help reduce skin bacteria, which is sometimes beneficial — but not always.
While it may come as a surprise, bacteria are not all bad. In fact, bacteria and the health of your skin have a close relationship.
Bacteria are necessary for the health of your skin. For example, in order for your immune system to function properly, it must be exposed to microorganisms on a regular basis.
Keeping your skin clean and free of dirt and bacteria does not make you healthier; instead, it prevents your immune system from properly training its antibodies for future encounters.
As a result, the antibacterial soaps that many people use in showers and hand scrubbing situations may kill off the important 'should be here' bacteria. When this happens, you're merely making room for more dangerous bacteria to colonise.
And this is a major concern for people who take hot showers frequently, because excessive showering can cause your skin to dry and crack over time, allowing these more dangerous bacteria to enter your body beneath the skin barrier.
This can lead to major issues, infections, and problems in the future.
Is it bad to wash your face while you shower?
Despite all of our warnings, there are still plenty of reasons to take our advice with a grain of salt.
We couldn't find any studies that suggested that washing your face in the shower could cause an increase in acne, wrinkles, dryness, or skin conditions like rosacea or eczema.
The wrong products, many of which may be in your shower, are what will cause your skin problems.
For example, the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD) recommends avoiding alcohol and abrasive cleaners, as well as sponges, washcloths and mesh cleaning tools that can irritate your skin.
That means that many of the tools you use to wash your body (and may have in your shower) aren't good for your facial skin.
And, after a thorough body scrub, remember not to scrub too hard on your face. Cleansers should be applied with your fingertips, and the cleanser should be removed with the same care.
And, as the AAD points out, there's the issue of water temperature, which they recommend for face washing be "lukewarm." This is likely unhappy news if you enjoy hot or cold showers.
Is water temperature important?
You're probably wondering, "Why the big deal about hot water?" What about saunas, steam rooms and hot towels? "What exactly is it about my shower water that is so bad for my face?"
As it turns out, there's a lot that can go wrong with it.
Excessively hot water has been linked to an increased risk of irritation and inflammation of the skin on your face, according to research.
As far as we're concerned, this does not imply that taking a shower is bad for your face. It does, however, imply that your face-specific routine may be best staged outside of the shower, where you can control temperature, reduce the risk of injury due to water temperature fluctuations, and generally do better work for your skin health.
You may be wondering about the benefits of steam and whether they mitigate the risk of irritation.
Steam and hot water have numerous benefits for your skin — and the things that live in your skin.
Steam can loosen and soften buildup, making blackheads and other solid blemishes easier to remove from your pores.
Steaming your skin can also provide additional benefits for serums and moisturisers later on. Topical products can often be better accepted by your skin by opening up your pores and making your skin more permeable.
And, contrary to popular belief, steam is beneficial to your skin's relative moisture levels. It can not only help you add water to your individual skin cells, but it can also help make subsequent products like moisturisers and serums more effective.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, steam increases blood flow in your skin's blood vessels, which can lead to increased collagen production and, eventually, plump and firm skin.
All of this being said, it is recommended that you use a hot towel or bowl rather than a shower, as this gives you more control over the time and level of contact water has with your face, as well as the ability to adjust the temperature.
These things are important for people who have rosacea and redness, as well as those who have broken capillaries.
Women with sensitive skin should exercise caution as well, as steaming can aggravate inflammatory conditions (which means people with eczema should also be wary).
When You Should Wash Your Face Instead
So, the shower is off, and we both agree on that. So, where do you wash your face? When, where, and why?
You should wash your face twice a day, plus more if you get sweaty, as you might after exercise or time in the sun.
In most cases, washing once in the morning and once at night is sufficient.
According to what we can tell, you're fine to do one of those washes right after a shower — lukewarm water and a non-abrasive, non-alcoholic cleanser are the gentle combination you'll need.
Just remember to be a little gentler than you would be with your back, legs, or feet.
By the way, now is the ideal time to apply a moisturiser.
Hot showers (especially long ones) can dry out your skin, and for people with psoriasis and other skin issues, they can aggravate existing problems.
The best time to replenish lost moisture and protect yourself for the day ahead is after your post-shower face wash.