11 Point shower plan for problem skin.
This post might seem ridiculous for those who have never had to deal with a chronic skin condition. What do you mean, you have recommendations on my shower routine?
It is this level of detail that is needed when trying to solve the root cause of your skin problems. Especially when it is something you do, well for most people at least, everyday.
My Showering Journey
Showering was always a love hate relationship for me. On the one hand there is that feeling of self-care, washing away stress, reflecting, emerging new and refreshed. On the other hand, for most of my early life, the shower was one of the greatest sources of pain for me.
Half the time I would be quite itchy after the shower and end up with small raised red bumps over my body, especially my chest. I also didn't like looking in the mirror. It was a shocking thing to confront, especially when you are told by doctors that you will have it for the rest of your life. Instead, I would often dry and change with my back against the mirror so I wouldn't have to see myself.
I used all the typical commercial cleansers, acne washes with microbeads, anti-dandruff shampoos and the conditioners promoted by supermodels. I didn't understand anything about ingredients or labels. If it said gentle or a beautiful person was using it surely it was fine or they wouldn't promote it. What a naive kid I was.
Half the time the shower would leave me itchy and I would take Loratadine, a non drowsy antihistamine. I would then apply a thin layer of a topical steroid and a moisturiser on top. If my skin was somewhat infected, I would apply a thin layer of a topical antibiotic on the effected areas. It sounds like insanity looking back, managing symptom after symptom. Then using another product to deal with the adverse effects of another.
I guess that makes good business. It took me 10 years of showering to make the connection that my shower routine was causing me issues. The shampoo was going all over my body, soaps were drying my skin, the shower was too hot and long and I was irritated by the laundry detergent and fragrances which built up on my towels.
10 point shower plan
- Use pH balanced shampoos, without SLS using gentle surfactants like decyl or coco glucoside. Only once or twice a week, not everyday. Tip your head forward when rinsing the shampoo to avoid any of it going on your body.
- Use luke warm, not hot water which dries the skin.
- Keep the shower as short as possible, between 1-3 minutes if you can.
- If you have extremely sensitive skin or live in an area with overly hard water you can install a shower filter.
- End the shower cold. This stimulates blood circulation and closes the pores. If you can't take the full cold just tip your head forward to the cold water and then stick your arms and legs out. If you don't get your torso cold it is quite easy.
- Use a separate towel for your hair and body to avoid any potential shampoo transfer. I like to have different colours or sizes so I don't get them mixed up. Make sure nobody else uses your towel, have different towels to the rest of your friends and family.
- Wash all your clothes and towels using a gentle, natural laundry liquid or better yet using organic soap berries. Wash them above 50 degrees to kill dust mites. Always clear the lint filter in the dryer before using it and don't use any fabric softeners. Wash them in a separate load from your other housemates.
- Pat your skin dry rather than rub.
- Look yourself in the mirror. Appreciate yourself. Appreciate how far you have come.
- Within the next 5 minutes, apply the minimal amount of moisturiser to dry areas.
Conventional advice recommends frequent washing in order to increase the water content of the skin, then immediately applying a copious amount of moisturiser. This is overly simplistic thinking.
Overly frequent bathing or showering for extended periods weakens the skin barrier. Extended water contact dissolves the skin lipids, washes out the natural moisturising factor and elevates the naturally acidic pH of the skin. Any beneficial effect is temporary and the skin will be drier once the water has evaporated.
Showering should be limited to once per day, kept as short as possible ideally between 1-3 minutes and using luke warm water. Its main purpose is to remove any foreign substances including dust, pollution and chemicals. The pH of most tap water is between 6.5 and 8.5 while the skin is between 4.7-5.75. In Europe the tap water has a pH value around 8.0. This will increase the skin pH up to 6 h after contact before returning to its natural value. Many soaps and detergents can also elevate the skin pH so we recommend pH balanced products.
Constantly elevating the skin pH can lead to a disturbed skin barrier and skin microflora. In addition, those with chronic skin problem exhibit a reduced ability to buffer against strongly acidic or alkaline substances so repeated water contact will lead to longer than usual elevated skin pH.
I now love the shower. It is such a powerful, healing, rejuvenating daily ritual. Especially when they no longer make me itch. Do you have any other shower tips?