Since the beginning of life, bathing has been considered essential to human well-being. This was especially evident in Roman and Japanese culture, where the bathing customs and hygiene were revered to the point of obsession. Bathing lost its popularity during the medieval times in part due to the idea that dirt was a protection germs and that body odor was considered an attractive element along with increased utilization of perfumes and cosmetics. Today, bathing has become a daily routine for some and a necessity for most. Despite the benefits of being squeaky clean and social acceptance, have you ever wondered if bathing too often is a bad thing?
The average American takes 1 shower a day. The explanation for this daily routine is dictated by an evolution of what is considered a social norm and further fueled by a 3 billion dollar soap industry selling the idea of clean by advertisements and promotions. With the colder weather fast approaching, the combination of a compulsive bathing routine and exposures to frigid winds will leave your skin dry, cracked, and may even cause your eczema to flare. Change might be needed, but where should you start?
Every time you step into the bath tub, consider this:
- Your skin produces natural oils and lipids that maintain the barrier and keeps your skin moisturized and also helps to retain water inside your body. Showering or taking hot baths strips the oil from the surface of your skin, causing it to be dehydrated.
- Many commercial soap products are alkaline and can be abrasive to the skin, leaving it feeling very irritated.
- Washing away good bacteria can disrupt the normal skin flora, which can increase your risk of infections with harmful bacteria.
- Age matters! Children and elderly adults have naturally drier skin than an average adult.
So the next time you come out from the shower with that very tight feeling on your skin, you’re probably not doing your skin any favors. Many dermatologists have tried to educate their patients on appropriate hygiene, but sometimes habits and routines are tough to break. Here are ways to make sure you get the most out of your bathing routines while keeping your skin barrier optimized to function at its best.
Less Is More
- Taking a shower every other day or every 3 days will help you maintain adequate hygiene and allows you to retain more essential oils that your skin makes.
- Taking lukewarm baths as opposed to hot baths will reduce the irritation from heat and leave you less likely to dry out.
- Many soaps are actually harsh to the skin. Pick a gentle soap free of additives and fragrances and use it only on areas of heavy sweating such as armpits and groin area.
- Avoid scrubbing the skin with an abrasive wash cloth. Pick a soft sponge and gently massage your mild cleanser to areas of heavy sweating. Do this once or twice weekly.
Moisturize, Moisturize, Moisturize
- Don’t leave the bathroom before you moisturize! The best way to trap moisture is to immediately lather your favorite gentle moisturizer after patting dry. This keeps the water locked in and prevents the skin from drying out after you leave the bathroom.
If you’ve been struggling with sensitive or dry skin, your bathing habits may be the problem. Try these simple changes and you might just see your skin behave the way you want it to!