Recently, a member who had been suffering from itchy skin was told that she might be bathing too frequently. This belief goes against everything we were told about cleanliness as children, so we wanted to discuss this with one of our favorite experts on all things skin, New York Dermatologist Dr. Lisa Airan.
Can I really be washing too much?
“Absolutely,” said Dr. Airan. We tend to think we are far less clean that we actually are. So unless there has been exercise or an activity that has put our skin in contact with dirt, other than the hands and face, most of the body stays relatively clean.
Dr. Airan notes that “there are no formal recommendations for how frequently adults should bathe. The frequency of bathing tends to differ depending on an individual’s preference, lifestyle, and culture, but the average showering schedule is usually once every 24 hours.” However, “anything more than this could strip the skin’s essential,natural oils and those with sensitive skin should be mindful.”
Excessive exfoliating can also have a negative impact. Dr. Arian tells us that it’s best if we “avoid using harsh scrubs and exfoliants on a regular basis.” As this can “cause irritation and dryness… Once or twice per week should be plenty and anything more often could be excessive.”
And if you really care about your skin’s health, forgo those long morning showers, Dr. Airan tells us that although “many patients love to take very hot showers for prolonged periods of time for relaxation, prolonged exposure to hot water can dry out the skin’s natural moisture. “ Dr. Airan recommends to “try spending a shorter duration in the shower or bath and only use warm water.“ She goes on to say that having an after-shower routine of “applying moisturizer while the skin is slightly damp, helps to keep moisture locked in.” And this need not mean using wildly expensive specialty products. Drug store moisturizers can be just as effective if they are hypoallergenic and free of potentially harsh perfumes and dyes.
Now does this mean we should all go full hippie, and never really bathe properly? Of course not, just remember to use moderation and that generally, most of the body such as the arms and legs, remain quite clean during the course of a day and, therefore, require less cleaning.
As Dr. Airan points out “creating and maintaining healthy skin is multi-factorial and starts with maintaining an active and healthy lifestyle.” We should all “stay hydrated, avoid smoking, and maintain nutritional balance in our diets to reduce inflammation.” And of course, probably the most critical advice is to “avoid aggressive sun exposure and use sunblocks to protect your skin in all conditions.”
So yes, proper bathing techniques can protect your skin and hair from unnecessary damage. And you will probably even look younger and healthier… but don’t overdo it!
Lisa Airan, MD is a world-class beauty expert and dermatologist in New York City who specializes in aesthetic dermatology, general dermatology, and skin cancer surgery.