Men's Life Today: Expert Q+A
I'm addicted to taking long, hot showers in the winter, but someone just told me that it's the worst thing I can do for my skin. Is it true?
Dry, windy, wintry weather can dehydrate the skin, making it itchy and irritated. You might think that standing in a steamy shower would help keep your skin hydrated, but long showers -- particularly in hot water -- can actually have the opposite effect. Why? Our skin contains special proteins and fats that make up a protective barrier and lock in moisture to protect us from harsh outside environments. Long or frequent showers remove protective oils that the skin naturally produces. When the oils are lost, water from the skin also escapes; thus dehydrated, the skin can crack or rash. For this reason, you should take warm showers instead of hot ones. The cooler water is less harsh on these protective oils and therefore allows them to continue to do their job.
If you insist on a hot shower, then at least take a look at your soap. Soap cleansers are alkaline, which are damaging to the skin. They can aggravate dryness, leave your skin feeling tight, and even eventually lead to a rash. Try using a mild soap, particularly one designed for sensitive skin, for those areas that require extra scrubbing (i.e., your face, underarms and groin area). Or replace your traditional soap with an oil-infused shower gel; the oil can replace the natural oils that the water strips from your skin.
After showering, gently pat the skin dry with a towel -- don’t rub. Then apply a moisturizer to seal the water into the skin before the water can evaporate. -- As told to Mike Hammer