Some of us shower at night, others are more into a morning shower, and some shower in the middle of the day. But regardless of what time we hop in to rinse off, one thing is true: We all shower pretty regularly. And in many ways that’s a good thing—showers leave us feeling fresh and clean and can be a rejuvenating or relaxing way to start or end the day. But chances are, most of us probably shower more often than we need to. We’ve been so conditioned to shower all the time that many people don’t realize that showering too frequently can actually dry out your skin and lead to irritation and other problems. To help separate fact from fiction when it comes to showering, we tapped board-certified dermatologists Dr. Doris Day and Dr. Devika Icecreamwala.
MEET THE EXPERT
- Dr. Doris Day is a New York City-based, board-certified dermatologist. She's won several awards for her dermatological research and is the author of Beyond Beautiful.
- Dr. Devika Icecreamwala is a board-certified dermatologist based in Berkeley, California and the owner of NorCal Dermatology Group.
How Often Should You Shower?
Showering frequency is one of those things that will vary from person to person, depending on various factors like your local climate, how active you are, your hair’s natural texture, and the temperature of the water you shower in. “If you live in a place that's hot and humid and you sweat a lot, you may want to shower every day,” says Dr. Day. “If you live in a place that's cold and dry and you're not very active, you don't necessarily need to shower every day.”
Day says that people who don’t sweat a lot and those who live in cooler, drier climates can probably shower every other day or every third day. Skin conditions play a role here too, so you’ll always want to check with your doctor before making any changes to your shower frequency.
How Long Should Your Shower Be?
Aim to keep your shower somewhere between five and 15 minutes long. This gives you ample time to get clean, but isn’t so long that it will cause your skin to become overly dry. “Showering is good because it'll add water to your skin,” Dr. Day says. “But if the shower is too hot or too long, it'll actually remove water from your skin.”
In some cases, staying in the shower for too long can leave you with drier skin than you had prior to showering. This brings us to another important point—the importance of moisturizing after your shower to keep your skin hydrated. Day recommends leaving your moisturizer in your bath or shower so that you can use it right away after showering. And keep in mind that not all moisturizers have the same effect. “If you're in a colder, drier place, then use a cream or an ointment,” Day says. “If you're in a warmer place that's more humid, you can use a lotion.”
Is It Possible to Shower Too Much?
Many people find this hard to believe, but it actually is possible to shower too frequently. The reasons are similar to the reasons behind why you shouldn’t shower for too long. “Excessive showering dries out your skin and strips your skin of natural oils,” says Dr. Icecreamwala.
Soaps and cleansers, especially the harsher types, can dry out your skin, so the more you use them, the higher the potential for dry and irritated skin. “Ordinary soaps can be too harsh for the skin,” Icecreamwala says. “I recommend avoiding products with many chemicals and fragrances because they can be irritating for sensitive skin.”
How Often Should You Wash Your Face?
Get yourself into a routine of washing your face each morning and evening. The morning wash is important for removing drool and anything you’ve put on your skin at night, and the evening wash is important for removing the pollution, dirt, and grime that’s accumulated on your face during the day.
If you wash any more frequently than morning and evening, you risk stripping the important natural oils that keep your skin hydrated. Horrified of the thought of heading back to work after a midday workout without washing your face? Rinse with water, moisturize, and you’ll be good to go.
Day recommends washing your face with a cleansing brush rather than with your hands. “If you use a brush, you're more likely to actually remove everything you're trying to remove without stripping your skin,” says Dr. Day. “So if you're just using a cloth or your hands, you could end up not getting a complete clean, which means you're leaving behind particles that could become toxic to the skin.”
Hair Washing Frequency and Tips
“I recommend washing your hair two to three times a week,” Dr. Icecreamwala says. “If your hair is dry, you may only want to wash it twice a week. If it is on the oilier side, every other day is recommended.”
Overall, how often you should wash your hair will depend on your hair’s texture, how oily or dry it is, and how much you sweat. “If you sweat a lot and you have straight hair, then you may have to wash it every day,” Dr. Day says. “If you have curly hair, it takes longer for the oil to wick down to the edges.”
But those with color treated hair, especially lots of highlights, will want to be careful about washing their hair too frequently, because overwashing can lead to breakage. “You may want to shampoo just the scalp, and condition the ends,” Day says. Overwashing can also lead to a dry or itchy scalp, and hair breakage, even among people who have not colored their hair.
While you don’t want to wash your hair too much, you want to make sure you’re washing it often enough that it’s clean. If you don’t, you may get an itchy scalp or a condition called seborrheic dermatitis, more simply known as dandruff. Other signs that you’re not washing your hair enough? Greasy hair or an oily scalp, a bad odor, a sore scalp, or hair that looks more flat or dull than usual. To get rid of minor oiliness, dry shampoo can sometimes do the trick, but you don’t want to use this as a replacement for hair washing in the long-term. Especially if you’re scalp is feeling itchy or unclean.