Just as is true with fitness, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to showering. Every body—and every skin type—is different. But from how you bathe to how often you bathe, here are the top mistakes athletes tend to make.
1. SHOWERING TOO FREQUENTLY
Showering daily, or even twice if you work out later in the day, helps remove excess oils, sweat, dead skin cells, bacteria, and dirt, which could clog pores leading to acne and folliculitits (infected hair follicles), says Melissa Levin, M.D., a New York City-based dermatologist and clinical instructor at Mount Sinai. But, frequent showers can irritate sensitive skin, drying out your body’s biggest organ. “For some people, the extra showering can strip the natural oils off the skin and lead to over-drying, itching, flaking, and redness," says John G. Zampella, M.D., a dermatologist at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. If you notice any of these symptoms, try replacing every other shower with a quick wipe-down (try Simple Kind to Skin wipes or Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleansing Cloths) to see if they improve.
2. LUXURIATING IN THE SHOWER
If you want to spend some time just standing in a warm environment, get in the sauna pre-shower, then keep the rinse-off short. All showers should be less than five minutes, says Levin. Otherwise, you risk the same over-drying of your skin that occurs with too-frequent showering.If you work out twice a day, or enjoy a morning rinse and then a post-workout shower later in the day, cap these showers at three minutes, Zampella says.
3. CHOOSING THE WRONG TEMPERATURE
Aim for lukewarm rather than hot water, suggests Levin. Your skin, Zampella says, makes its own natural moisturizers that get stripped away every time you wash with hot water, drying it out. (It's like washing dishes with hot, soapy water to get the grease off; hot, soapy water removes the skin's natural moisturizers.) Another option: Alternating between hot and cold water can get you a cryotherapy effect and benefit your recovery. Cold water on the skin isn’t as dehydrating so it also helps in that regard. (Read more about how to do cold water therapy after a workout here.)
4. KEEPING CONTACTS IN
A study out of the Optometry Clinic at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center found that while 86 percent of people thought they complied with good care and wear practices with contacts, only 34 percent actually did. One thing most of the people surveyed likely didn’t know: “You should never shower while wearing contacts,” says Brittney J. Mazza, O.D., an optometry and contact lens service specialist at Massachusetts Eye and Ear. Here’s why: Microbes naturally found in water can be easily absorbed into the matrix of contact lenses. “These intrusive ‘bugs’ have the ability to cause sight-threatening eye infections,” says Mazza. Even if you wear daily lenses, eye doctors say it’s fine to place them in solution while you shower after a workout, and then put them back in afterwards.