Healthy Living: Common Showering and Bathing Mistakes

Bathing too often can remove healthy oil and bacteria from your skin, which can cause skin problems.

Bathing Too Often

Showering every day may be a habit, but unless you're grimy or sweaty, you may not need to bathe more than a few times a week. Washing removes healthy oil and bacteria from your skin, so bathing too often could cause dry, itchy skin and allow bad bacteria to enter through cracked skin. When you expose your body to normal dirt and bacteria, it actually helps strengthen your immune system. Plus, showering too often wastes water.

Using the wrong soap, like antibacterial or scented soaps, can cause skin problems for some people.

Using the Wrong Soap

Antibacterial soaps can kill too much bacteria, including the good kind. This can allow bad bacteria that's resistant to antibiotics to move in. Harsh soaps can dry out your skin, so stick with mild soaps with added oils, gentle cleansers, or shower gels with added moisturizers. If you have eczema or sensitive skin, scented soaps can irritate your skin. Use fragrance-free soaps instead.

Change or launder your towel at least once a week to avoid toenail fungus, jock itch, athlete's foot, and warts.

Not Washing Your Towel Often Enough

Damp towels are a breeding ground for bacteria, yeasts, mold, and viruses. A dirty towel can cause toenail fungus, jock itch, athlete's foot, and warts. Yikes! To avoid this, change or launder your towel at least once a week and make sure it dries between uses. Hang it spread out on a towel bar rather than from a hook to help it dry quicker. Wash towels more often when you're sick and if your home is humid, like during the summer.

Clean your loofah weekly by soaking it in diluted bleach and rinsing well.

Not Cleaning Your Loofah

Loofahs are great for scrubbing, but their nooks are the perfect hiding place for germs. You should clean your loofah weekly by soaking it in diluted bleach for five minutes and rinsing well. Although it's convenient to store your loofah in the shower, it's safer to shake it out and hang it somewhere cool where it will dry faster. You should replace a natural loofah at least every 3 to 4 weeks and a plastic one every 2 months.

A blasting hot water shower removes your skin's natural oils and can leave you dry and itchy.

Blasting Hot Water

A long, hot shower feels so good, especially in winter, but hot water removes your skin's natural oils and can leave you dry and itchy. Protect your skin by sticking with warm water and keeping your shower to 5 to 10 minutes. This is especially important if you have a skin condition like eczema or psoriasis.

Don't wash your hair too often. Try going longer between washes and see how it feels.

Washing Your Hair Too Often

Unless you have an oily scalp, you probably don't need to wash your hair daily. If you have curly, coarse, or chemically treated hair, wash your hair less often to keep it from getting too dry. Try going longer between washes and see how it feels. Even if you exercise or sweat every day, it's best to keep a regular hair-washing schedule. As you get older, you don't need to shampoo as often because your scalp makes less oil.

Install a grab bar in your shower to avoid slips and falls.

Not Installing a Grab Bar

Tens of thousands of people in the U.S. fall and get hurt each year while bathing or getting in or out of the tub or shower. A grab bar can help prevent falls. It's also a good idea to put nonslip mats inside bathtubs and showers.

By cleaning your showerhead, you can remove bacteria that enter the air you breathe.

Not Cleaning Your Showerhead

Your showerhead is an ideal home for bacteria, which love to grow in its small, damp, dark holes. When the water runs, the bacteria can enter the air you breathe. This is hard to avoid, but you can remove and clean the showerhead in boiling water to help kill the bacteria. It also helps to run hot water for a minute before you get in the shower, and drain as much water as possible from the showerhead when you're done bathing.

The best time to put moisturizer on is right after you bathe or shower.

Not Moisturizing Right After

Lotion, cream, or any moisturizer works by trapping the moisture in your skin. The best time to put it on is right after you bathe. Apply moisturizer within a few minutes of drying off.

In the bath or shower, limit soap to your armpits, groin, feet, hands, and face

Using Soap Where You Shouldn't

Not all areas of your body need soap in order to get clean. Limit soap to your armpits, groin, feet, hands, and face, and stick to warm water for the rest of your body. This will help keep your skin from getting too dry. Using soap on your vagina could irritate it and upset the balance of natural bacteria, which can lead to bacterial vaginosis.

Don't cover minor cuts when showering. Clean it every day with soap and warm water.

Keeping Minor Cuts Covered

There's no need to keep minor cuts dry or cover them for showering. If you have a minor wound, it's best to take the bandage off and clean it every day with soap and warm water, and the shower is a great place to do that. Put on a new bandage after you dry off. Your doctor will tell you how to care for more serious wounds.

Turn on the bathroom fan or vent every time you bathe or shower.

Not Running the Bathroom Fan

The bathroom can get mighty humid during a bath or shower, and over time that moisture in the air can damage your woodwork and drywall. It also makes a welcome home for mold and bacteria to grow. Turn on the bathroom fan or vent every time you bathe to help control the humidity, and leave it on until the humidity goes down after you're done showering.

Clean your shower curtain regularly to remove soap scum and bacteria.

Not Cleaning Your Shower Curtain

Shower curtains can be a sneaky place for bacteria to hide. For most people, the soap scum that builds up is just gross, but if your immune system is compromised it could be a problem. Clean or change your shower curtain regularly to stay safe.

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REFERENCES:

  • Harvard Health Publishing: "Showering daily — is it necessary?"
  • Mayo Clinic: "Dry Skin."
  • American Academy of Dermatology: "How Can I Find Eczema Friendly Products?"
  • Cleveland Clinic: "How Often Should You Wash Your (Germ Magnet of a) Bath Towel?"
  • Cleveland Clinic: "Do You Know What's Growing on Your Loofah?"
  • Cleveland Clinic: "Why You May Want to Rethink That Long, Hot Shower."
  • National Eczema Association: "Eczema and Bathing."
  • National Psoriasis Foundation: "Managing Itch."
  • American Academy of Dermatology: "Tips For Healthy Hair."
  • Cleveland Clinic: "The Dirty Truth About Washing Your Hair."
  • CDC: "Nonfatal Bathroom Injuries Among Persons 15 Years or Older — United States, 2008."
  • Consumer Reports: "Why you need grab bars in the bathroom."
  • Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America: "Opportunistic pathogens enriched in showerhead biofilms."
  • Consumer Reports: "Recent study points to showerheads as bacterial breeding ground."
  • American Academy of Dermatology: "Dermatologists' Top Tips for Relieving Dry Skin."
  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women's Health: "Bacterial vaginosis."
  • Cleveland Clinic: "Handling Injuries: From Small Cuts to Serious Wounds."
  • WHO Guidelines for Indoor Air Quality: Dampness and Mold, World Health Organization, 2009.
  • U.S. Department of Energy: "Ventilation Systems for Cooling."
  • Applied and Environmental Microbiology: "Molecular Analysis of Shower Curtain Biofilm Microbes."
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