Ask An Expert·3 min read

What’s the Correct Shower Routine? We Asked A Dermatologist

Woman in a towel stepping out of shower
Design: theSkimm | Photo: iStock
November 7, 2023

Showering might not sound like something you can do right or wrong — and if you’re clean by the end, you’re probably doing it right. But did you know that the way you shower really matters? Erin Gilbert, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Gilbert Dermatology, helps break down the ideal shower routine you’re going to want to implement immediately (or, you know, the next time you shower). 

What’s the correct order for my shower routine?

Before your shower

  1. Dry brush. It’s optional, but if you like the extra exfoliation, dry brush your body beforehand to loosen up any dead skin buildup. 

  2. Brush your hair. If it’s a hair wash day, brushing your hair will detangle it and help your shampoo and conditioner do their jobs more easily. 

  3. Apply any leave-in hair treatments. If you have any hair oils or masks that need to sit for a certain amount of time, this is typically the time to apply them. 

During your shower

  1. Do a temperature check. Lukewarm water (generally between 98 and 105 degrees Fahrenheit) is ideal. “Hanging out under a steady stream of hot water invariably strips your skin of natural, healthy oils,” says Gilbert. That can irritate and dry out your skin.   

  2. Shampoo and condition your hair. It’s best to do these steps first, so the shampoo and conditioner can be rinsed off your body afterward, says Gilbert.  

  3. Wash your body with gentle soap and your hands. “I always recommend using a non-drying soap or bodywash,” she says. You'll want to use products with ingredients like shea butter and glycerin. Also, avoid overly stripping soaps, which “rapidly suds [up] and leave your skin feeling too tight after using them.” These products can strip your skin of its natural oils and disrupt the natural balance of bacteria. Speaking of bacteria: Loofahs and washcloths can breed a lot of it, so stick to just your hands. 

  4. Exfoliate. Gilbert recommends a chemical exfoliant here. But save this step for your “everything” showers, no more than once a week or every two weeks, says Gilbert. “Your skin is your biggest line of defense against your daily environment. If you thin out that protective layer, you can actually increase your susceptibility to dryness and even infection,” she says. If you dry brushed before your shower, skip this step.

  5. Shave. If you only shave once a week or less, do it after you exfoliate. That'll help reduce razor bumps and ingrown hairs, and give you a smoother shave. If you shave more often, do it right after you wash your body. 

  6. Wash your face. This should be your last step so you can wash off any shampoo or conditioner residue that may have run over your face, says Gilbert. Plus, it means your face will still be damp when you apply moisturizer post-shower, which will help lock in that moisture.  

After your shower

  1. Dry off and moisturize. As soon as you step out, lightly towel dry your body, then put moisturizer on your body and face. You want to do this while your skin is still damp, which helps it stay hydrated. 

Ask an Expert is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice, and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician, mental-health professional, or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. By submitting a question, you are agreeing to let theSkimm use it—in part or in full—and we may edit its answer for length and/or clarity.

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