Ever step out of a nice, long shower, only to feel itchy/dry/generally just kind of gross a few moments later? Does washing your hair seem to actually make it look worse than leaving it dirty? Isn’t good hygiene supposed to be a, well, good thing?! That depends on how you’re showering. Here, a list of ways your behind-the-curtain habits may be effing up your look, along with things you can do to stay hydrated, gorgeous, and clean all at the same time.
1. Your Spend Too Much Time in the Shower
While it might seem counterintuitive, logging too many minutes under the showerhead can actually dry you out (especially if you’re using hot water). Dermatologist Sandy Johnson, M.D., says the American Academy of Dermatology recommends limiting your baths and showers to no more than 10 minutes to avoid dehydrating your skin since hot water removes your skin’s natural oils. Prolonged exposure to hot water can also make your blood vessels open up (or vasodilate), which can cause the appearance of red splotches or rashes on your skin, similar to when you get ruddy after sweating at the gym. Not convinced that you should give up your long-shower habit? It can also make your skin more sensitive, which will aggravate any existing skin conditions, like rashes or eczema.
RELATED: 3 Sensitive Skin Myths—Busted!
2. You’re Toweling Off Too Harshly
Johnson suggests patting your skin dry rather than rubbing, which can aggravate skin. Afterward, liberally apply a plain, unscented moisturizer—like Cetaphil Moisturizing Cream ($13.49, cetaphil.com) to your entire body and nails to rehydrate them and lock in moisture. When it comes to your hair, Michael Forrey, creative director of Sassoon Salon in New York City, suggests blotting your hair dry with the towel and not rubbing or twisting it around your locks, as that can cause major breakage (your hair is weakest when it’s wet).
3. You Use Harsh Soaps and Scrubs
“I suggest using only gentle products without fragrance,” says Johnson. Why? Scents can often contain chemicals that irritate sensitive skin. You should also skip harsh scrubs and exfoliants, which can be abrasive and aggravate existing skin conditions. You’ll want to look for some sort of moisturizing agent, too, since regular soap can remove the natural oils from your skin and cause dryness and irritation.
RELATED: 5 Ingredients to Avoid if You Have Dry Skin
4. You Wash Your Hair Daily
If you have finer hair, you may be able to suds up every day—but if your hair is thicker, curly, or textured, washing too frequently can cause major frizz and dryness. “For a lot of hair textures, the cleaner it is, the more unruly it is,” says Forrey. To tame unruly squeaky clean locks, he suggests using a cream-based leave-in conditioner like Kérastase Nectar Thermique ($43, kerastase-usa.com), which can restore moisture. Shampooing too frequently—especially if you are using hot water—can also dull your hair color because heat expands the hair cuticle, which causes color molecules to escape (this is especially true for dyed redheads). Washing your hair with cold water is best for locking in color, and if you can’t bring yourself to use frigid H2O, at least do a cold rinse with your conditioner to seal the cuticle and keep your color looking fresh.
One last note: While you might be inclined to wash your hair more frequently if it’s fine (since even one day of grease can make it look limp and flat), doing so can still lead to dry, brittle strands. To avoid overwashing finer hair, Forrey recommends using dry shampoo as needed in between regular shampoos.
RELATED: How to Make Your Hair Color Last Longer
5. You Shower with Hard Water
Ever notice how your skin or hair can feel totally different when you wash it while traveling or at the gym? That’s becasue hard water contains a higher mineral content, and these minerals can irritate your skin (read: cause breakouts) and leave buildup in your hair. While it might be difficult to tell if you have hard water (and there’s unfortunately not much you can do to change your water type), a sulfur-y smell or a grimy residue on your hair and skin mean you probably have it. “It can also actually change your hair color, ” says Forrey—and not for the better. If you’re regularly washing your hair with hard water, it can actually affect the way hair dye interacts with your locks, particularly if you don’t do a clarifying treatment first. To reverse the effects of hard water, Forrey recommends using a clarifying shampoo once a week or trying a Malibu Hard Water Treatment ($3.50/packet, malibuc.com), which is specifically formulated to remove mineral and chlorine deposits from your hair.