A woman stands under a shower of hot water, but her skin is still dry.

It's Too Bad That a Hot Shower Feels So Good

When the end of the world comes, hot showers will be among the first things to disappear, Ian McEwan wrote in his novel “Saturday” (2005). I think I know why he picked hot showers as the top of the list of comforts that humans would miss. It’s because they feel so good. But here’s the rub: Long, hot showers are bad for your skin. And the colder the weather gets, the harder it is to get out of that hot shower.

Is it true a hot shower is bad for your skin?

November was National Healthy Skin Month and a good time to look into this. But first, a look back, to the bad old days when I was covered from head to toe with a rash after my cancer treatment. I told my doctor that I had found a body wash that helped. (I can’t remember what it was). He said that was fine but just remember: A hot shower is one of the worst things for your skin.

It causes dryness

On the Baylor College of Medicine website, dermatologist Rajani Katta, MD, professor of dermatology, explains: “Even though long hot showers feel soothing to the skin during cold weather, it is actually hard on the skin. The high water temperature and the evaporation of water off the skin, once out of the shower, causes the skin to become drier.”1

Use lukewarm water instead

She recommends showering with lukewarm water for no more than 10 to 15 minutes during wintery months. And afterwards, pat dry and use a moisturizing cream on damp skin.1 It’s hard for me to take a lukewarm shower, so my goal is to take shorter hot showers. I’m on board with not fully drying afterwards, though.

Use cream instead of lotion

The Baylor doctor recommended cream instead of lotion. Lotions contain more water and don’t lock in moisture, as well as creams and ointments, do.1 Body butter is also nourishing. I use salves and body butter from a Vermont company, Good Body Products. They use plant-based, organic ingredients. My skin is so dry that my doctor told me to use the more high-test ammonium lactate cream, brand name is Lac-Hydrin Cream. It’s kind of icky so I don’t use it all the time.

Showering after Mohs surgery

After Mohs surgery, you are supposed to keep the area dry for 24 hours. While this might be hard in the warm weather when you’re sweating up a storm, it’s actually good for me because fewer showers are better for my skin.

When I get back in the shower after Mohs surgery, getting the area wet is a good way to ease the band-aid off. Afterwards, I’m better than usual at getting out in a timely manner because I know it’s not good to let water pound on an open wound.

Beneficial showering practices

I hope I don’t sound like Pigpen, the Charlie Brown character - so proud of his uncleanliness that he considers himself “cloaked in the ‘dust of countless ages,” but I don’t shower every day. It’s because I know that once I get in, it’s hard for me to get out. My hair is as dry as my skin and doesn’t seem to mind not getting washed every day. That just goes for cool weather and not on hot summer two-shower days.

Conserving water

Here in Massachusetts, we had a drought this summer. A shorter shower was a way to save water along with saving my skin. Of course, sadly, in California and other parts of the country, droughts are common. So, shorter showers are necessary for saving water. An average shower uses about five gallons of water per minute. If you shorten your shower by two minutes, you can cut your water use by 10 gallons.2

And a 2014 Indiana University study found that cutting shower time down to five minutes (from the average 8.2 minutes) would reduce your indoor water use by about eight percent. Here’s something that could help: The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and Pandora created a “Water Lover’s Station” featuring more than 100 rain- and water-themed tracks that are under five minutes long.3 You can play it in the bathroom and get out before the song ends. I just read about this and haven’t done it yet. But it’s worth a try. There should be a song with the lyrics, “Save your skin and don’t stay in…”

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