Dry skin is something no one wants to contend with, and products abound to try and replenish, repair, and soothe dryness. However, it might be a particular habit or product that is contributing to your dry skin in the first place. Find out if common routines such as taking a bath for dry skin could be making things worse, how to fix it, and what to do instead.
Meet the Expert
Dr. Thomas Griffin is a board-certified dermatologist in Philadelphia and specializes in cosmetic, medical, and surgical dermatology
Avoid Hot Water for Your Shower or Bath for Dry Skin
It's always nice to come in from a long day and get in a scalding hot bath, but while it may feel relaxing, it's not great for your skin. Hot water can strip both the moisture and oils out of your skin—leaving it parched, dry and scaly, according to Dr. Thomas Griffin, a board-certified dermatologist in Philadelphia.
As hard as it may be, use warm water instead of hot water when you shower or take a bath, and limit your bath to 15 minutes at the most. Similarly, when you shower, the less time under the water the better. You shouldn't have to wipe the steam off the mirror when you step out, and your bathroom shouldn't feel like a sauna. You'll notice that your skin is less dry if you play it safe and limit the time spent in the shower and also change the temperature of the water you use. You can even moisturize your skin right in the shower with a product like Le Labo's Shower Oil ($34).
On a related note: that hot water might make your hair frizzy and dry, and will likely cause colored hair to fade quicker. It's best to rinse your hair in cool water.
Skip Bubble Bath and Harsh Products
Avoiding harsh fragrances in bubble baths and other products might help you avoid dry skin from your bath. "Some people are sensitive or allergic to fragrances. They can cause the skin to get itchy and rashy or eczematous," warns Dr. Griffin.
Fragrance-free products are best to look for in this case. Keep in mind that unscented products are not the same as fragrance-free ones; these have a scent to mask the scent of the product, according to Dr. Griffin.
Instead of using a bubble bath, find a soothing oatmeal or milk powder that will enhance your bath experience, and forget the bubbles.
Try a bath oil. A cap full of oil, when added to your bathwater, will leave your skin even more hydrated than before you hopped in, so you may even be able to skip the moisturizer afterward.
Ensure You Shave Correctly
Shaving can cause dry skin, breakouts, and other skin concerns. Shaving against hair growth makes the shave closer and smoother but causes significant irritation when doing so. Sometimes the shave is so close that it promotes ingrown hair and pimples to form, according to Dr. Griffin.
"I suggest a few things to make the shave more comfortable for men and women. First, shave in the shower as the next to last step. This way, the skin is hydrated and supple. Second, use a shave cream or gel as a glide. Soap is not enough. Third, make sure your razor is rotated weekly, so it is sharp and clean. Lastly, wash your face or skin after you shave to clean all of the shaving cream off of your face," advises Dr. Griffin.
Make sure you're following these shaving tips:
- Use a moisturizing shaving gel or cream. The $1 bottle at the drugstore is likely to leave your skin dry and more susceptible to nicks and bumps.
- Look for a product that offers moisturizing ingredients you recognize, like aloe and essential oils.
- Skip the products that have alcohol listed in their top few ingredients because they'll likely dry your skin out more.
Run out of shaving cream? You can always use hair conditioner in a pinch for a close, nick-free shave, but don't make it a habit.
Pat Dry, Don't Rub Dry
When you get out of the shower or bath and grab your towel, gently pat the water off your skin instead of rubbing your skin dry. This will save your skin the misery of the "towel abuse" most men (and some women) habitually inflict on their skin.
By patting your skin dry (or very gently rubbing), your skin will be able to retain more of the moisture you're going to seal in with our next step: body moisturizer.
Never Ever Skip the Moisturizer
The most important step to remember is to moisturize every single time you get out of the shower or bath. "To keep your skin feeling soft and moisturized, it’s best to get in the habit of using a good body moisturizer as soon as you get out of the shower to help protect your skin barrier and hydrate your skin," says Dr. Griffin.
Yes, every time. It's kind of exhausting, but it also isn't something you want to skip. Dr. Griffin suggests in cold, drier months and when your skin is dry, opt for thicker moisturizers. "Thicker lotions and creams will act as a barrier, sealing in the moisture underneath. At night, a layer of Vaseline over moisturizer and your other skincare products will help seal in the moisture—this is especially helpful around the eyes on the hands," advises Dr. Griffin. However, you may want to skip the Vaseline if you have acne-prone skin since it’s very occlusive and can lead to breakouts, he adds.
Find a favorite lotion, body butter, or body oil and keep it in your bathroom within arm's reach. We, in particular, like these products:
- Grown Alchemist, Body Cream, $67
- Tata Harper, Revitalizing Anti-Agin Body Oil, $120
- L'Occitane, Almond Smoothing and Beautifying Milk Concentrate, $54
When your skin has been dried off, it's important to seal in the moisture from the shower, and the quicker you do this after your shower, the better your skin may look and feel. Plus, if your moisturizer of choice is a body oil, it's actually best to apply it to damp skin. Just make sure you're careful since spilled oil will make your tub or floor very slippery. And don't fall into the easy trap of being lazy and waiting more than 10 minutes after you get out of the shower or bath to moisturize your skin. The sooner you get that hydrating product on, the better.
Overwashing your face and body is bad for your skin because it can irritate, according to Dr. Griffin. "Soaps like Dial, Lever 2000, Zest, and the like are too harsh and drying, as are many body washes. I recommend choosing a gentle, moisturizing soap without any fragrance," he says.
Dr. Griffin recommends Cetaphil gentle skin cleanser and the Dove white bar soap for dry skin. "People with very dry skin should avoid putting soap on their bodies more than one time per day," he adds. And remember to be gentle; stick with a soft, clean washcloth or your hands to apply soap.
Don't Over Exfoliate
You can physically damage your skin barrier from over-exfoliating, according to Dr. Griffin. "Mechanical exfoliation is harsh on the skin, this includes face scrubs, facial cleansing brushes, and washcloths. If you are using a mechanical exfoliator, I remind patients that it's important to be very gentle," says Dr. Griffin. You can also consider switching from a mechanical exfoliant to a chemical exfoliant during the cooler months since chemical exfoliants are more gentle on the skin, he adds.
Cleveland Clinic. How often do you really need to take a shower? Updated April 27, 2020.