Battling bouts of dry, flaky skin can be frustrating, especially when you don’t know what’s behind it. Here, dermatologists give the low-down on the most common culprits.
Taking long, hot showers
We don’t blame you for wanting to turn up the temperature dial in your shower as hot as you can handle, but this seemingly harmless act of self-pampering will quickly leave you with dry skin. “Excessive exposure to water, especially hot water, can strip the skin of natural oils and disrupt the skin barrier,” explains Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. Instead, keep showers short—down to ten minutes or less—and temperatures no higher than 84° F, or the temperature of most heated pools. Here are all the ways to keep your shower from ruining your skin.
Washing with harsh soap
You might think your average bar of soap is good enough to cleanse your skin, but you may be mistaken, especially if it contains harsh detergents and chemicals (who knew a bar of soap could be so intense?). “Traditional bar soaps use harsh cleansing ingredients called surfactants that have an alkaline pH,” explains Dr. Zeichner. “Alkaline products can disrupt the outer skin layer and prevent the skin from protecting itself properly causing dryness and irritation.” A gentle, unscented soap, like Dove or Aveeno, is a much better match for the slightly acidic pH of your skin and will fully cleanse without compromising the integrity of the skin, Dr Zeichner adds.
Exfoliating too often
There’s a reason the directions on your exfoliating face scrub say to use no more than one to two times a week. While exfoliating can be extremely beneficial, especially for dry skin, over exfoliating can lead to microscopic tears that result in inflammation, redness, dryness, and peeling. “The purpose of exfoliating is to remove dead cells from the surface of the skin and enhance radiance by allowing light to reflect off the skin surface,” explains Dr. Zeichner. But when you don’t allow enough time in between exfoliations, the exfoliant removes healthy skin instead of dead skin. Stick to using exfoliating washes once or twice a week at most and reach for brands that contain ingredients like salicylic acid or glycolic acid, like EradiKate Daily Foaming Cleanser. “These ingredients dissolve the connections between skin cells so that the cells gently exfoliate from the skin surface,” Dr. Zeichner says. Here are 11 things itchy skin could reveal about your health.