"Skin care starts in the shower," says board-certified dermatologist Mona Gohara, MD. "It involves what you’re cleansing with, how frequently you cleanse your skin, how you shave, and how you exfoliate. Everything that happens in there really, really matters—not just for your face but for your entire body and your microbiome."
Below, she shares exactly the right way to do things in the shower—and after you step out—for a clean, nourished complexion from head to toe.
A step-by-step, proper shower routine, according to a dermatologist
1. Check the water temperature: As ahh-inducing as it may feel to luxuriate in a hot stream, it's actually not the best idea for the sake of your skin health. "Hot water can be damaging to the skin, because it can strip your skin of essential lipids and proteins and make it more easily inflamed," says Dr. Gohara. So before you step under the stream, be sure the temperature has leveled out around "warm" instead of scalding hot.
2. Wash your face: Streamline your morning routine by washing your face in the shower. Dr. Gohara suggests using a gentle exfoliating cleanser. We like Clarins One-Step Gentle Exfoliating Cleanser with Orange Extract ($39) two or three times a week to give your skin a bit of an added exfoliation from alpha hydroxy acids, and subbing in a gentle, non-soap cleanser, like Olay Cleanse Gentle Foaming Cleanser ($5) every other time you wash.
3. Wash your hair: On the days you choose to wash your hair, be sure to make it one of the first things you do. Dr. Gohara suggests using sulfate-free products, which are your best bet for scalp and hair health, and lathering up before you wash your body. For one, the shampoo will drip down your body when you rinse it, adding an additional cleansing element for your skin. But since the same thing also happens with your conditioner, you'll want to follow up with body wash to ensure you're getting rid of any potentially pore-clogging residue it can leave behind.
4. Cleanse your body: Believe it or not, you don't have to lather up from head to toe—according to Dr. Gohara, you only need to scrub your smelly parts (aka your pits, feet, and below the belt). Dr. Gohara suggests using a poof, which adds gentle exfoliating element to your routine and isn’t as harsh (or as bacteria-laden) as a loofah. Pair it with a gentle, non-soap body wash, like Dove Body Wash Deep Moisture ($6), which she loves because it moisturizes and cleanses in one fell swoop.
5. Shave: No matter how frequently you shave, it's important you do it the right way. First things first, you'll want to hold off until after you've washed your body to ensure that your skin is clean and your pores have had a chance to open up under the warm water. Dr. Gohara suggests using a one or two blade razor and shaving cream, like Billie's Shave Cream ($8) to minimize irritation. And one more thing? Be sure to go with the grain of the hair instead of against it to keep razor bumps at bay.
6. Dry your skin properly: Your shower routine doesn't end the minute you turn the water off—it extends to what you do for your skin when you step out, too. “It’s also important what you use to dry your skin," says Dr. Gohara. She likes to use a bathrobe instead of a traditional towel, since it absorbs the water without you having to rub skin to get rid of the excess water.
7. Apply lotion: In order to maximize the moisture from your lotion step, Dr. Gohara suggests doing it before you leave the bathroom. “I immediately moisturize my skin to use the ambient humidity I created in the shower to lock in that moisture,” says Dr. Gohara. One body moisturizer our editors can't get enough of? Kiehl's Creme de Corps ($49). Buy it in bulk.
8. Finish your skin-care routine: One more thing to do before you leave the bathroom? Apply the remaining steps of your routine. This way, you’ll be able to really capitalize on the humidity in the bathroom for an added dose of hydration. Et voila—you're ready to go.
Want to take a tour of Dr. Gohara's shower? Press play on the video below:
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