You’ve been showering since you were, like, able to walk, and I can almost guarantee you that not much has changed in terms of logistics: lather, rinse, repeat (capeesh?). As you suds up, however, you may find yourself pondering one of life’s most philosophical questions. What comes first: the body wash or the shampoo?
Because, as it turns out, there is actually a right way to shower. Not that you’d completely ruin your hair or that your skin would fall off, but there’s a certain order that dermatologists believe works best in terms of keeping everything in tip-top shape.
“I like to exfoliate, wash the hair, and then wash the body,” says Mona Gohara, MD, a Danbury, Connecticut-based dermatologist. “Washing your body should be the last step because then it rinses off residuals from the first two steps.”
“Washing your body should be the last step because then it rinses off residuals.”
The post-shampoo body cleanse is key, since certain ingredients in hair products—especially conditioners—could potentially spawn breakouts (think silicones, ultra-heavy oils, and the like). “If you have a condition like acne, your hair products could trigger that,” says Heidi Waldorf, MD, a dermatologist from Waldorf Dermatology Aesthetics. “If this is the case, you’d ideally want to wash your face and body after rinsing your hair completely.”
Dr. Gohara agrees: “Often people wash their body first and then loose skin cells or pore-clogging conditioners will be left hanging out,” she says. In other words, you should clean your skin last or else you could wind up giving yourself a case of backne (AKA back acne).
There are small caveats to the ideal system. Dr. Waldorf points out that if you have dandruff and use a medicated shampoo, you should leave that on your scalp while you wash your face and body, and then shampoo and condition. And, of course, it’s important what personal care products you use.
“The biggest mistake is using something drying to cleanse your skin with,” says Dr. Waldorf. “Use something replenishing. If you exfoliate in the shower, be sure to moisturize afterwards.”
So there you have it, folks—to ensure you don’t get a case of backne or buttne or residue on your body, stick to these steps. “And keep the whole thing brief,” adds Dr. Waldorf. “Long showers dry the skin out.”