5 Reasons to Simplify Your Washing-Up Routine
Treating your skin from head to toe can keep you healthy, but going overboard can do more harm than good.
When it comes to your hygiene, less is more—and usually enough to keep you healthy. While the logic of “more equals better” makes sense in certain cases (like how many pairs of socks you own), having too many steps in your beauty and hygiene routine on a regular basis can actually backfire and have adverse effects on the body. “It is not about quantity, but quality,” says Dendy Engelman, MD, a dermatologist in New York, NY. Here’s why it’s worth rethinking your cleansing routine from head to toe.
Reason 1: Multiple products can make them all less effective.
Cocktailing your skincare—that is, layering on multiple skincare products—is popular for a reason. After all, the more antioxidants, the merrier—right? Not always. "Cocktailing, when done right, can yield amazing results," Engelman says. "However, some ingredients cancel out the effects of others or can be irritating to the skin, causing dryness or sensitivity." If you're not seeing results or, worse, experiencing redness or dryness, simplify your skincare routine to just cleanser, moisturizer, and sunscreen. You can add your extras back in one-by-one to see what actually works for you...and what doesn't.
Reason 2: Picking can cause inflammation or irritation.
So, you have a zit. It can be tempting to throw all of your acne-fighting products at it in an attempt to shrink it—and then pick at it once that doesn't happen. But fixating on and picking at imperfections can have lasting consequences. "Excessive exfoliation can break down the stratum corneum, whose job is to be a barrier against pathogens," Engelman explains. "If the barrier function is damaged, skin becomes vulnerable to infection from microorganisms, such as bacteria and fungus, and leads to sensitivity and irritation." It can also lead to chronic inflammation, she says, which can lead to premature aging. Resist the urge to pick; instead, cover your zit with acne treatments at night and concealer during the day — and if you really need it to go away ASAP, see your dermatologist, who can inject the pimple with a corticosteroid, or use a safe, sterile procedure to drain it for you.
Reason 3: Over-scrubbing can create bigger problems.
"If there's any excess sweating, odor, or visible dirt and grime, it's definitely a good idea to do a more detailed cleaning," says Qian Gu, MD, a family medicine physician in New York, NY. "However, one must be careful with excess scrubbing as it may cause broken skin, which is a lovely area for infections to develop." The same goes for your body as it does your face. So if, say, your butt is feeling itchy or uncomfortable, try using just one gentle product, like Preparation H Flushable Wipes. Not only will they cleanse, but they'll temporarily relieve irritation due to hemorrhoids and help protect sensitive tissue.
Reason 4: Shampooing too often can throw off your body's natural balance.
If you can't take a shower without shampooing your hair, you're not alone. It's one of those habits that's hard to break, especially if you exercise often or have a naturally oily scalp. But "showering too much can strip hair and scalp of natural oils, resulting in skin that is over-exfoliated, sensitive, and vulnerable," Engelman says. "We need those natural oils to create a barrier, keeping bacteria and toxins out." It's all about finding balance—so if your scalp feels clean or even just slightly greasy, skip the shampoo or use dry shampoo instead. Once you really notice grease at your roots, consider it your cue to suds up.
Reason 5: You don't need a specialized product for every area of your body.
"Our nether region has its own optimal pH and microflora," Gu says. "Using more than soap and water can disrupt the natural environment and actually cause infections." So when in doubt, stick to good old soap and water — it's a basic standard for a reason!
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