Whenever anyone complains about dry skin on their bodies, they’re usually offered the same ol’ easy fix: Just put on some lotion. And sure, that helps… to an extent. But as any dermatologist will tell you, the key to fending off dryness actually starts long before you step out of the shower, and most of us aren’t doing ourselves—or our skin’s hydration levels—any favors with certain shower habits.
In fact, there are a number of very common mistakes that could be contributing to those dry arms and flaky knees… only one of which has anything to do with the products you’re lathering up with. Here, board-certified dermatologist Dhaval Bhanusali, MD breaks down the easiest in-shower fixes for fending off dry skin so that your lotion won’t have to work quite as hard afterwards.
Read your body wash label: Just like with your face, certain ingredients like salicylic acid and glycolic acid can dry your skin a bit. Instead, look for “nourishing” and “moisturizing” products with hydrating heroes like ceramides and glycerin, and anti-inflammatories like niacinamide or chamomile. Also try a soap-free cleanser, like Dove Body Wash for Dry Skin ($6) or Bioderma Atoderm Shower Oil ($20), which is a favorite among derms.
Turn down the heat: Luxuriating in a hot shower might feel amazing when it’s 10 degrees outside, but it’s not doing your skin any favors. “The issue with very hot showers is that they actually dry you out and can cause dry skin and irritation, even leading to eczema flares and other issues,” says Dr. Bhanusali. Keep the temperature situated solidly at warm instead of trying to melt your skin off. A good litmus test? If you see the mirror steam up, the water is too hot.
Speed up your shower: Not only do shorter showers save water, but they can also save your skin, too. Try to keep your lather-and-rinse time under seven minutes, because, according to Dr. Bhanusali, “after that, it can do more harm than good.”
Stop scrubbing so much: While body exfoliation is undoubtedly important, sloughing off too much skin will wind up drying you out. “Using harsh products or over-scrubbing can lead to issues,” says Dr. Bhanusali, adding that in general “less is more” when it comes to scrubbing in the winter months. Also, ditch the loofah, which (in addition to being generally disgusting) can further compromise your skin barrier.
Put on lotion in the shower: The best time to lube up your limbs, according to derms, is after you’ve turned off the water but before you’ve toweled off. “Applying the moisturizer helps lock in hydration from the bath or shower,” board-certified dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, MD, previously told us. And the method checks out: According to research, people who applied lotion on wet skin had significantly more hydrated skin after three days than those who slathered it on dry. Our winter-skin-friendly product pick? Kiehl’s Creme de Corps ($30), which multiple W+G staffers swear by for soothing their scaly skin.
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