It turns out, the things we love most about showers may actually be problematic for skin. The hot, steamy water and pressure from the showerhead are actually too harsh for your face, says Kat Burki, founder of Kat Burki. The length of time you’re in the shower also matters. According to Emily Cunningham, co-founder and COO of True Moringa, showering in hot water for an extended period of time can leave skin dry, damaged and starved for the nutrients and oils it needs. Plus, it can dilate blood vessels and capillaries, causing redness. It’s best to keep showers short and use a more moderate water temperature, agrees Claire Zhao, co-founder and CEO of Amareta. (Bonus: Water bills should improve along with skin.)
Athena Hewett, esthetician and founder of Monastery, always instructs her clients to wash their faces out of the shower. She says hot water strips the natural protective barrier of skin and dries it out. The tougher skin on your body can handle heat better than your face, although it’s still not the greatest. Using abrasive products in the shower, like scrubs, can also make your complexion worse.
All the experts agree that you should avoid putting your face directly under the hot water stream, despite how good it feels. But if you’re not ready to break up with your old routine, Hewett’s trick is to apply cleansing oil right before stepping into the shower. Once inside, wet a washcloth and let it cool down. Then, remove the cleansing oil with the lukewarm washcloth. The oils in the product will help protect skin from getting overly dry, so you get the shower experience, but without the harm.
Cunningham’s tip for cleansing in the shower is to use lukewarm water and avoid rinsing directly in the water stream. Instead, try splashing skin like in the sink. She also suggests washing your face before your body and following up with a gentle toner and oil when out of the shower.
Burki, however, says you should only cleanse your face at the sink. Even if the water temperature is cooler in the shower, there is still potential for irritation from the pressure.
“Caring for your skin doesn’t have to be a full-on production, but it is good to treat your face with the extra attention it deserves,” says Hewitt. “That means giving it its own separate washing routine instead of making it an afterthought.”