8 Ways You’re Probably Showering Wrong

Updated: Apr. 07, 2021

Dermatologists reveal the most common showering mistakes you might not even know you’re making. Here are smart moves for a cleaner and healthier shower.

How to shower

Taking a shower might seem pretty simple, but there are ways you could be doing it wrong. Even if you have the basics of soap and warm water set, here’s what you need to knowfrom how you scrub your scalp to what temperature you use—for an even better shower, according to dermatologists.

woman washing hair in shower
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You scrub your scalp with your fingernails

A good scalp scrub can feel refreshing, but you’re actually doing more harm than good if you use your fingernails to wash your hair. “Your fingernails can scratch the scalp and even cause flaking,” says Sandy Johnson, MD, of Johnson Dermatology in Fort Smith, Arkansas. Instead, to properly wash your hair, use your fingertips to work up a lather. It’s also important to avoid aggressively rubbing strands of hair between your hands, which can damage it and cause split ends, she says.

bar of soap in shower
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Your soap doesn’t contain any moisturizer

“Bar soap without any moisturizing agent, like many antibacterial deodorant soaps, can really dry out your skin,” says Mona Gohara, MD, of Advanced Dermcare in Danbury, Connecticut. Look for bars with stearic acid in the ingredient list or “moisturizing” advertised below the name, says Dr. Gohara. Check out the best bar soaps for every skin type.

view through glass of woman in shower
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Your shower is too hot and too long

Nobody’s asking you to take a cold shower in the middle of winter, but don’t take a scalding hot one, either. “Showers, especially in winter, are way too hot and long. This strips your skin of natural oils and lipids that help trap water to keep it moist,” says Dr. Gohara. (Learn the other mistakes you make when showering in the winter.)

woman washing hair in the shower
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You don’t condition your scalp

Many people concentrate on spreading conditioner throughout the body of their hair while avoiding the roots. But Dr. Johnson advises conditioning the entire length of the hair, from root to tip. Conditioner hydrates the skin of your scalp, which helps prevent itchiness and flaking. (Here are 12 more everyday mistakes damaging your hair.)

loofahs hanging in the shower
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You scrub your body during washing

“People are too aggressive with loofahs and washcloths,” says Dr. Gohara. “Loofahs are terrible for scrubbing because they’re rough and can remove the skin’s natural protective barrier.” That’s one of the reasons why dermatologists never use loofahs. She recommends a cotton baby washcloth; gently glide it over skin with minimal rubbing. Dr. Johnson says using just your own hand is good enough, but urges people who must use a loofah or cloth to switch it out for a clean one regularly to avoid bacteria buildup.

close up of woman shaving legs in shower
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Your razor has too many blades

A four- or five-blade razor might give a close shave, but it can also damage your skin. “You actually cut into your skin when you shave, so the more blades you use, the worse off you are,” says Dr. Gohara. “To minimize trauma, a simple one- or two-blade razor is ideal.” Technique matters too. Dr. Gohara says to make sure to move the razor down and away from you, not up. Shaving up means you’re going against the grain, which makes you likelier to cut yourself. It also inflames the hair follicle, causing razor bumps. Be sure the area is well lubricated with soap or shaving cream for the smoothest and safest shave. That’s just one of the ways you’ve been shaving your legs wrong.

man taking a shower
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You don’t rinse well enough

It’s important to make sure all soap and hair products are completely rinsed off, Dr. Johnson says; lingering product can lead to skin irritation and clogged pores, which can cause acne. Prevent “back acne” (pimples on your back) by rinsing your hair with your head tilted to the side, allowing the shampoo and conditioner to run right into the drain and not down your back.

woman taking body lotion from dispenser
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You wait to apply lotion

The best time to moisturize is as soon as you finish patting dry when your skin is still damp. “Make use of the ambient heat from the shower and humidity in the bathroom and put on moisturizer within minutes,” says Dr. Gohara. “Lotion soaks into skin best when it’s a little damp.”