By Elsa de Berker, she/her
When it comes to the matter of bathing, showers are a cooler choice for our skin and the environment. According to industry research, the average bathtub holds 42 gallons of water (with the majority of people filling it up to around the 30 gallon mark), while a standard showerhead uses around two gallons of water per minute. That means a ten minute shower uses 20 gallons, and if you cut that length of time in half—per the Environmental Protection Agency’s recommendation—a five minute shower is a low impact change that could make a big impact difference.
Fortunately, shorter showers do not mean forgoing looking after the skin—or being less clean. In fact, says board-certified dermatologist Dr. Morgan Rabach, the switch can actually be beneficial.
“The ideal showering technique for the skin is five minutes or less with lukewarm water,” she explains, adding that it’s the case whether you’re prioritizing skin health or the environment . “It’s best for your skin, period, because longer showers strip the skin of natural oils and can lead to dry areas.”
So, how does the doctor recommend utilizing 300 seconds once you’ve turned the faucet? Here, find her ideal shower regimen from start to finish.
Cleanse Before or During
“You can wash your face outside or inside the shower—it doesn’t matter,” says Dr. Rabach. “The biggest tip is using products that are best [suited] to your skin type.” The same wisdom applies to in-shower formulas: “I’m not a huge fan of [using] many different products, all you need are a few customized ones that work for your skin,” she continues.
When it comes to the correct water temperature, there’s only one answer for showering:
“Lukewarm water is comfortable, but doesn’t have the effect of stripping oils from your skin like hot water does, and cold water can cause vasoconstriction (meaning the blood vessels close down and provide less circulation to the skin),” she says. If you enjoy the occasional icy blast, that’s still a go, though. According to Dr. Rabach, “Cold showers may also help tighten pores and can benefit people with itchy or irritated skin.”
Dry Brush or Exfoliate (If You Feel Like It)
You may have read about the practice of dry skin brushing as a pre-shower ritual to improve lymphatic drainage and alleviate cellulite, but the jury is still out for Dr. Rabach on this one.
“There is no scientific evidence that dry skin brushing will combat cellulite, but it may help exfoliate dead skin,” she says. If you enjoy using a brush, exfoliating mitts, or a loofah, she recommends sticking with it once a week, using a gentle amount of pressure—but if your skin feels irritated, dry, sensitive, or sunburned, it’s best to avoid physical and chemical exfoliants.
Become a Multitasker
It might sound overly obvious, but the best way to conserve water is to use less of it. That means washing your hair first, applying conditioner, washing your body, and then rinsing it all off together in one fell swoop. Dr. Rabach recommends showering at night to help “remove sweat, excess oil, dirt, and bacteria that accumulate from the day,” but the same steps apply if you opt to shower in the morning instead.
The term “toweling off” conjures up the image of a robust, near-scrubbing motion, but the correct dry down technique is closer to a soft dab.
“Pat dry with a towel, and then moisturize immediately,” says Dr. Rabach. “This seals the extra dampness into the skin and provides the most moisture.”
Make the Most of It
One of the best parts about minimizing the length of your shower is that you’ll have extra time to dedicate to a more nuanced self-care routine. Put the surplus minutes to good use and try your hand at learning how to gua sha, or luxuriate in a new face mask for extra pillowy-soft skin.
Written by Elsa de Berker for Youth To The People