We all know that scalding-hot rinses, especially during the winter months, are deleterious to your skin, but what would be considered the just-right temp?

By Rebecca Norris
November 19, 2020
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Credit: Getty / YakobchukOlena

At the end of a long day, there's nothing quite as comforting as a piping hot shower to unwind—especially if it's cold outside. Unfortunately, as wonderful as it feels, subjecting your body, and, more specifically, your skin, to such extreme temperatures can cause more harm than good. "While hot steam helps open up our pores, which can be good for cleansing, hot water can also cause issues beneath the skin," admits cosmetic dermatologist Dr. Michele Green. "Hot showers affect the skin's most outer layer, the epidermis." This part of your skin is chock-full of sebaceous glands responsible for not only keeping your body hydrated, but protected against outside irritants, as well.

"Heat from hot water, combined with soap, will soften your skin and slowly strip away its natural, oily protective barriers," Dr. Green continues, noting that this can lead to dry, irritated, and itchy skin. Ultimately, the longer and hotter the shower, the bigger impact it has on your skin's health. But how hot, exactly, is too hot?

There's a simple way to determine this: According to Dr. Green, water hot enough to make your skin turn red is too intense. Lukewarm water will deliver the best results. "Cooler showers can awaken your body and increase mental alertness," she explains, noting that the water doesn't have to be particularly cold, either—just under 110 degrees Fahrenheit. "Cooler showers are also better for your hair, skin, and overall hydration, and in some cases can be used to treat depression."

Let's tap into skin, specifically. Our blood is filled with essential nutrients and oxygen needed for the body to function normally. According to Dr. Green, when you shower using cooler water, your blood flows more effectively, which leads to more nourished skin cells. "When your skin is properly nourished and receives enough oxygen, it will look more radiant," she points out.

In addition to the water temperature, the amount of time you spend showering plays a role in the look and feel of your skin. "While it may feel relaxing and refreshing, staying in the shower for too long can seriously dry out your skin," Dr. Green explains. "The longer you shower, the more moisture you lose." So, the next time you take a bath or shower, be as efficient as possible—linger 10 minutes at most.

If you prefer longer showers and baths, protect your skin as much as possible. "I believe it is important to 'soak and grease,'" says board-certified dermatologist Dr. Dendy Engelman. "Spend 20 minutes in the shower using an in-shower oil and immediately follow with lotion. Applying oil and lotion on wet skin will allow the products to lock in moisture."

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