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Dermatologist explains why taking a shower is better than a bath

One dermatologist explains which bathing method is better and why it's especially important to moisturize within 30 minutes after bathing.
by Brittany Loggins / / Source: TODAY

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Photos of beautiful bathtubs filled with flower petals and bubbles are splashed all over Instagram and on home design shows. Sure, they look luxurious and relaxing, but are baths actually good for your skin?

The short answer: not so much.

Dr. Rachel Nazarian, a dermatologist at the Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York City, noted that while baths can help people with skin conditions, they're not beneficial for everyone. In fact, a shower is actually better for your skin.

Who should opt for baths?

“The only benefit (to baths) is its ability to easily apply certain ingredients to skin,” Nazarian explained. “You can add oats to bath water which can be quite soothing to skin suffering from eczema, or even certain medication treatments can be placed in the water to avoid applying to your entire skin by hand, but otherwise, showers are much more beneficial.”

The National Eczema Association recommends people limit baths to 10 to 15 minutes, and notes that adding oatmeal, salt or vinegar to a bath can ease itching symptoms.

If you don't have a skin condition, showers are the way to go. Showers expose thebody to less water than a bath. Too much water, like during a bath or a long shower, can strip the skin of natural oils. This can cause the skin’s surface to break down, leading to “irritation and inflammation.”

If you're a shower or bath person, you should always moisturize afterward.

Moisturizing right after getting out of the shower or bath is important for everyone.

“Skin will absorb some water during both baths and showers,” said Nazarian. “It’s important to utilize the small window of opportunity — less than 30 minutes — after cleansing to apply your moisturizer to damp skin.”

And it's important to make it a habit.

“Using smart moisturizers will enhance your skin’s ability to retain moisture with continued use, and will improve the ability of your skin to remain a healthy barrier over time,” said Nazarian. “Look for moisturizers with ceramides and hyaluronic acid; avoid those with perfume or added fragrances.”

Using moisturizers with fragrances can cause inflammation and trigger allergies, noted Nazarian. And while she generally advises against the use of bath bombs, if you really want to use them, look for calming ingredients such as oats, olive oil and coconut oil.

How to deal with body breakouts and acne

“Make sure to thoroughly wash your body and rinse again after conditioning your hair since many conditioners contain cuticle-smoothing ingredients that can cause acne,” she said. “And look for a body wash that contains salicylic acid to wash acne-prone areas three times a week — the active ingredients help decrease breakouts and clean away acne-causing bacteria.”

So remember: Opt for a shower if you can and watch what you're putting on your skin when bathing. Finally, don't forget to moisturize!

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