How Bad Bathing Habits Can Harm Your Skin

Cynthia Bailey, MD|October 12, 2015

Bad Bathing HabitsI see many patients in my dermatology practice whose skin problems started because of the wrong bathing practices. The way you bathe is really important to your skin's health, especially after 50 when skin oil production and skin barrier integrity both decrease. I frequently tell patients:

Bathing, when done correctly, can deeply hydrate skin to prevent eczemas. It also washes germs off the skin. However, when bathing is done "incorrectly," it can dry skin out, which can lead to eczema, allergic skin reactions, and skin infections that can be inconvenient or even dangerous.

The wrong bathing or showering habits start a cascade of events that go something like this:

  1. The skin gets dried out.
  2. The barrier is compromised because the skin is dry.
  3. Eczema-like rashes start, which itch and hurt.
  4. Allergens get into the skin, and you become allergic, which can become a big problem.
  5. Germs get in and you get skin infections, which can make you sick.

The 5-part drama all starts with the wrong bathing or showering habits! In the exam room, I explain the following information to patients regarding good bathing and showering habits to keep skin healthy:

Whether you prefer a bath or a shower is not the issue; it’s how you take it that’s important. Follow these steps to do it right and keep your skin safe and healthy:vanicreamcleansingbar

  1. Always avoid really hot water and harsh soaps if your skin is at all prone to dryness.
  2. Always moisturize with a really hydrating skin cream within three minutes of toweling skin dry.
  3. Always choose hypoallergenic shower cleanser and body moisturizer to limit allergen exposure. saluxwashclothnew
  4. Always wear sandals or disinfect a shower or bath that is used by someone with skin fungus infections, or you might get the infection too.
  5. Always be sure that your shower sponges and razors dry out. Discard them when they look worn, as the nooks and crannies will hold water and invite organisms to grow.

Lastly, understand that damp bathroom and shower mats harbor germs - egads! Nasty germs like bacteria, fungi, and yeasts that would ordinarily die in a dry environment live fat and happy in a damp and humid bathroom. It's so thoughtful of you to help them survive, but they may show their appreciation by moving onto your skin! This means that, if your bathroom and its "accessories" don't dry out, you and your family are at greater risk for the following unpleasant infections:

  1. Staph aureus infection (that can cause skin infections like impetigo, folliculitis, and worse)
  2. Candida yeast infections, like shaving folliculitis, skin fold "pimples," and rash
  3. Nail, foot, and groin fungus
  4. Nail infections from other molds that normally don't infect skin, but will when you so generously give them a chance

Bottom line, be a bad host to these germs and be certain your bathroom and its accessories dry out every day. BONUS TIP: Why  do I recommend only hypoallergenic skin care soaps, cleansers, and moisturizing creams and lotions? The reason is because once allergens are in the skin, you can develop a lifelong allergy to them. Allergens include fragrances and preservatives in skin care products. Developing an allergy to common skin care product ingredients can be a big problem and inconvenience. Once a rash develops from allergy or dryness, your skin barrier is really opened, and you become prone to skin infections. To add to the "drama," contact with contaminated shower sponges and bathroom surfaces are the perfect places for infecting germs to hide. The hypoallergenic moisturizers, cleansers, and shower accessories that I depend on for my patients include:

While this information is somewhat unpleasant to hear, the harmful impact to your skin if not corrected makes it more than worth the read. Here's to showering and bathing like we're supposed to!  

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