More recently, I’ve relied on my steadfast shower as a place to escape for a moment—from my mom duties, from the weight of the world, from whatever. And it turns out that the benefits go way beyond transforming my mood, clearing my head, and leaving me feeling renewed and recharged; my skin has been helped in the process, too.
But before clear your schedule for an all-out DIY sauna situation, I’m here to tell you that a surplus of time isn’t essential for a rejuvenating experience. (If we all had a precious hour to burn, many of us would, after all, just take a bath.) The “power shower” is the antithesis to a snoozy soak in the tub: It’s a fast and efficient way to stack high-impact self-care practices into a 10-minute time slot. It’s body and mind. It’s part soothing spa experience and part extreme sport.
I spoke with top dermatologists to get their favorite strategies for leveling up a standard shower—and making it a deeply satisfying experience that’s loaded with wellness benefits for your skin and your psyche. Read on for their tips.
1. Set a soothing scene
To make your showering space truly calming, clean up the clutter and add mood-boosting touches. A potted plant helps to purify the air, increase productivity, and boost psychological well-being. The glow and scent of a good candle is calming (and you get bonus points if it turns into a potted herb garden after burning it, as Esker’s does).
Shop now: Esker Plantable Candle, $85
2. Counteract stressed skin with mindfulness
One of the greatest tools for achieving clear, healthy, youthful skin isn’t found on a shelf—it’s found within you. “In the shower I’ll meditate and practice mindfulness, really trying to bring down inflammatory hormones that can irritate and age the skin,” says Mona Gohara, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New Haven, CT. If you’re skeptical about the power of mind over, well, aging/acne/inflammation/etc., it’s important to know that the intricate relationship between stress and skin conditions has been documented since ancient times. And recent research proves the connection. “Stress increases the cortisol hormone, which puts skin in a pro-inflammatory mode that leads to breakouts, dryness, and the exacerbation of skin disease,” says Dr. Gohara. It also inhibits the production of collagen and hyaluronic acid—ya know, two things that keep skin plump. Dr. Gohara suggests counteracting all that cortisol production by taking a mindful shower where you actively appreciate the sounds, the scents, and the feels. “Make it something enjoyable you look forward to, and use really pleasant products.”
Shop now: Bathing Culture Mind and Body Wash, $35
3. Upgrade your hardware for at-home hydrotherapy
Hydrotherapy isn’t exclusive to luxury spas and physical therapy clinics—you can do it right in your own shower to reap major benefits for your body. “Using strong water pressure and jets…can relieve tension and pain in the muscles, just like a massage,” says New York City dermatologist Julie E. Russak, MD, who works with the skin-care brand Eucerin. If your current hardware needs some help, you can easily swap in a therapeutic showerhead to soothe muscle tension, increase flexibility, and promote more restful sleep.
Shop now: Waterpik PowerPulse Massage Shower Head, $40
4. Dry brush your way to better product absorption
This is one of those prep steps that may not be enjoyable for everyone (actually, does anyone really, truly love rubbing bristles over their body?), but the rewards are well worth it. You’ve likely heard that dry brushing boosts lymphatic flow. It can also stimulate collagen and might even help reduce screen time use. But did you know it can make your body products more effective? “I start with dry brushing before my shower to remove dead skin cells that would prevent full absorption of my shower creams,” says Dr. Russak. “Dry brushing also increases blood flow to the surface of the skin, which aids in absorption.” Just remember, especially in the winter, that those skin cells you’re buffing away are there to protect you. Removing them might lead to irritation, so exfoliate with caution and nix this step if your skin seems irritated.
Shop now: Esker Dry Brush, $15
5. Once you hop in, set the timer for 10
According to almost every derm I spoke to, the perfect power shower expires after exactly 10 minutes. “While we all love the idea of a long, hot shower, especially as the weather gets cooler, it’s important to remember that prolonged exposure to water, and hot water in particular, can be irritating and drying to the skin,” says Marisa Garshick, MD, FAAD, a New York City board-certified dermatologist who works with the skin-care brand CeraVe. Plus, when the point of a shower is to pep yourself up, brief is better. “Ten minutes will leave you feeling fresh, invigorated and alert,” confirms Tsippora Shainhouse, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist based in Beverly Hills.
Shop now: Zone Minimalist Danish Kitchen Timer, $25
6. Keep the temperature tepid to protect your skin…
This bears repeating one more time: Every derm I spoke to confirmed that hot, steamy showers are officially canceled. “Cooler showers result in less transepidermal water loss, better retention of natural oils, and reduced inflammation,” says Jeremy Brauer, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in New York City. Meanwhile, Dr. Shainhouse points out that hot showers dilate skin’s blood vessels, which can leave you red. The hot water can also dry out your skin, causing it to itch (especially if you are prone to eczema or other rashes). Aim to keep water in the lukewarm range—if the mirror is steaming up, take the hint and cool things down.
7. …and end with an icy blast for more benefits
Subjecting yourself to frigid water is likely the last thing you want to do in the dead of winter, but hear me out: The benefits are major, and it gets easier every time you do it. Proponents of this practice believe that “environmental stress” (e.g., an icy shower) is one of the missing pillars of health. And research shows the frigid temps can increase your tolerance to stress, and even alleviate and prevent depression (to reap the feel-good benefits, researchers recommend two to three minutes of 68°F water, preceded by a five-minute gradual adaptation to that temperature). Looking for a more immediate cosmetic benefit? Cool off with ice-cold H2O for the last 30 seconds of your shower to give your face a more youthful and refreshed look. Michele Green, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in New York, previously told Well + Good that a cold shower “tightens the pores and … seals in moisture.”
8. Get another hit of hydrotherapy with the Charcot method
Since you’ll spend your entire shower standing under a steady stream of H2O, it’s smart to make that water work for you. “I like to alternate cold and warm water to improve circulation, ending with cold water to tighten my pores,” says Dr. Russak. “The idea is based on the Charcot shower, a form of hydrotherapy used in Europe.” According to Dr. Russak, the method relies on alternating hot and cold water (104°F and 68°F, to be specific). “Research shows that the Charcot shower method has a tonic effect on the body, improves blood circulation by constricting and subsequently dilating capillaries, and activates the immune system and metabolism,” says Dr. Russak. She recommends changing the temperature every two minutes to see the benefits.
9. Follow the three-minute rule to lock in moisture
Once you step out of your power shower, a new countdown begins: You’ll want to apply your hydrating cream within three minutes. “Showers remove some of the protective natural oils on our skin,” explains Dr. Shainhouse. “Lotions, creams, and oils can provide a temporary barrier, but they can’t lock in moisture that isn’t already there—so it’s key to apply moisturizer before the shower water evaporates from the skin surface, to seal it in.” After only the lightest and slightest dabbing with a towel, Dr. Shainhouse suggests using a hydrating product with ceramides, which are natural lipids that act as the caulking between our epidermal skin cells and help “fill in” any breaks in the barrier.
Shop now: Coyuchi Mediterranean Organic Bath Towel, $58
10. Rub your way to reduced stress
When applying that lotion, consider this: If what you rub benefits your skin, how you rub it in can benefit your mind. “A repetitive action, like stroking the skin, can have a soothing, anxiolytic effect,” says Dr. Shainhouse. “The steady pressure may play a part by calming the autonomic nervous system and reducing some physical anxiety symptoms—similar to the effects of a massage or weighted blanket.” The rosy glow you might notice afterward—courtesy of boosted circulation—is just a cosmetic bonus.
Shop now: Eucerin Advanced Repair Lotion, $9
11. Reward your efforts
For many, shocking the system with a blast of cold water takes major willpower—and for that, you deserve a reward. “A few years ago, I had a heated towel rack installed,” shares Luigi L. Polla, MD, a dermatologist based in Geneva. “I end every shower with a cold, invigorating rinse while looking forward to wrapping myself in the warmed towel as a post-shower treat.” Whether it’s a toasty towel, a steaming beverage, or a luxuriantly soft, rainbow-trimmed organic cotton robe, set aside something special that’ll make it just a little bit easier to step out—and keep the good vibes going as you take on the rest of your day.
Shop now: Hill House Home The Hotel Robe, $100
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