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Are hot showers bad for your skin? Here’s what dermatologists have to say

While taking a hot shower can feel relaxing in the moment, it’s stripping your skin of moisture.
Taking a warm shower isn’t necessarily bad for you, but it’s important to know how hot is too hot.
Taking a warm shower isn’t necessarily bad for you, but it’s important to know how hot is too hot.Vivian Le / NBC News

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Taking a long and relaxing hot shower at the end of a tiring day is probably the oldest self care routine in the book. This is especially true if you live in a particularly cold climate, where hot showers feel like a luxury. That said, there’s a difference between a warm shower that helps melt stress away and a scalding hot shower that billows with steam. While you do not need to take ice cold showers, it’s crucial to know how taking an extremely hot shower can negatively affect the skin on your face and body.

We spoke with two board-certified dermatologists to get their insight into how hot showers can damage the skin and what exactly constitutes a potentially harmful “hot shower.” Plus, we rounded up a few products recommended by our experts that you can use to maintain the health of your skin.

SKIP AHEAD Are hot showers bad for your skin? | How to protect skin if you take hot showers

Are hot showers bad for your skin?

Experts we spoke with strongly recommend against hot showers. That’s because hot water strips the skin of water content and breaks down its natural barrier function. As a result, your skin can become dry, itchy and irritated. “Our skin barrier is important because it keeps moisture in and protects us from potential allergens and irritants in the outside environment,” says Campbell. “If we impair this barrier, too much moisture gets out and allergens and irritants get in, which leads to dry skin, rashes, irritation and potential increased risk for developing allergies.”

Plus, you can also make any potential skin damage worse if you do not put on lotion or moisturizer after taking a shower. The length of your shower also contributes to how it affects your skin, according to Campbell. It’s best to keep showers short to reduce drying out the skin. 

How to protect skin if you take hot showers

While both Campbell and Rayhan recommend against taking hot showers, there are other habits to avoid doing that could further harm your skin’s natural barrier. In addition to hot water, regularly using harsh soaps, body washes with strong fragrances, loofahs, wash cloths and anything that rubs against the body or face can further damage your skin, according to Campbell. In fact, you should use soap sparingly when showering. “Limit soap to face, underarms and groin unless you are dirty in other places and use a fragrance free gentle soap like Dove or Vanicream Wash,” says Campbell.

Additionally, if you do take hot showers, it’s even crucial that you use a body lotion, ointment or cream — this will help restore your skin’s natural moisture, according to our experts. “Moisturizing immediately after you finish helps to trap the moisture that enters your skin in the shower and keep it hydrated,” says Rayhan. “This may help avoid dry skin, itching, worsening eczema, and the temporary but harmful effects on your skin’s appearance.” 

To defend your skin against the effects of hot showers, Campbell recommends using an ointment, such as CeraVe’s Healing Ointment. . If you find ointments too sticky, you can use a body cream or lotion — anything is better than putting nothing on your skin post shower. 

Meet our experts

At NBC Select, we work with experts with specialized knowledge and authority based on relevant training and/or experience. We also ensure all expert advice and recommendations are made independently and without undisclosed financial conflicts of interest.

  • Dr. Caren Campbell is a San Francisco-based board-certified dermatologist at Caren Campbell MD.
  • Dr. David Rayhan is a Huntington Beach-based board certified dermatologist at Rayhan Dermatology

Why trust NBC Select?

Cory Fernandez is a commerce editor at NBC Select, where he writes about cooking, cleaning, lifestyle and wellness. He spoke with board-certified dermatologists for their guidance about hot showers and product recommendations to use to maintain your skin’s moisture barrier.  

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