Your Post-Shower Routine Is Key For Preventing Dry Skin

While you likely have your in-shower routine down to an art — from your quick cleanses to your luxurious "everything showers" — your post-shower routine is equally, if not more important when it comes to the fight against dry skin. Showers, especially the super long and hot ones, can strip your skin of its natural oils and lipids that are key in protecting your skin and keeping it hydrated. "In general, dry skin is caused by an impaired skin barrier and dysfunction or deficiency in the necessary, healthy fats in the top layer of the skin — cholesterol, fatty acids, and ceramides — which are essential to normal skin function," says board-certified dermatologist Shari Marchbein (via Allure). "Any skin condition characterized by a defective skin barrier can be worsened by a hot shower. [It] strips the skin of sebum, the healthy fats, and oils necessary for skin health, and dehydrates the skin."


Additionally, we are more susceptible to dry skin when wet due to the way water evaporates. "In biology class, we were taught that water moves from higher concentration to a lower concentration, and that's exactly what happens post-shower," says dermatologist Dendy Engelman, MD (via Refinery 29). "When you emerge from the shower, you have a higher concentration of moisture compared to the air — especially in the drier months with heaters. So water evaporates off the skin quickly, leaving the skin dry."

For these reasons, mastering your post-shower routine is key in combating dryness and keeping your skin hydrated.

Be mindful of the way you dry yourself off

The first step in any post-shower routine is ensuring the way you are drying yourself off is conducive to maintaining healthy skin. It can be tempting to try to dry yourself off as quickly as possible after getting out of the shower. Maybe you're running late for work, or the cold bathroom air on your wet skin has you rushing to get warmed up. However, experts recommend taking the time to slowly and gently pat your skin with a clean towel as opposed to aggressively rubbing it. "The key is to be gentle and pat with a dabbing motion without being too aggressive, as that can lead to worsening of dryness or sensitivities," says dermatologist Shereene Idriss via Allure


Patting your skin dry can help prevent unnecessary tugging on delicate areas of your skin that can lead to fine lines and wrinkles. It will also make you less likely to overdry your skin by removing too much surface moisture. Most experts agree that air drying is better than aggressively and harshly over-drying with a towel. However, dermatologist Adam Friedman insists that letting your skin air dry is not only not the most practical method, but it can also contribute to the dehydration of your skin. "It desiccates the top layer of the skin, making it rigid, and can prevent proper skin [cell] turnover, which results in peeling," he says.

Work quickly

After patting your skin dry to the point of dampness, the next step is to begin applying your products. The catch is that you have to work quickly once you step out of the shower – as experts recommend applying your post-shower moisturizers and products while your skin is still slightly damp. "This will help to lock in the water from the shower when moisturizer is applied, which will keep your skin more hydrated and less irritated," says board-certified dermatologist and founder of Facet Dermatology, Dr. Geeta Yadav (via The Zoe Report).


"Showers remove some of the protective natural oils on our skin," points out board-certified dermatologist Tsippora Shainhouse, MD, FAAD (per Well + Good). "Lotions, creams, and oils can provide a temporary barrier, but they can't lock in moisture that isn't already there." 

Dr. Shainhouse recommends applying your moisturizer within three minutes of stepping out of the shower. This ensures your moisturizer still has enough water to work with on the surface of your skin by the time you apply it.

Use the right products

Almost as important as applying your products at the right time is applying the right ones. As a whole, the American Academy of Dermatology (ADA) notes moisturizing creams and ointments as being more effective and less likely to cause skin irritation than lotions. "You'll want to use something that will support your skin barrier with nourishment and hydration," adds Dr. Yadav (per The Zoe Report), adding that it's best to opt for formulas that contain ceramides and hyaluronic acid as ingredients, which can help maximize your skin's hydration.


"Ceramides are very important lipids that are naturally found within our body, [which] help to maintain the integrity of the skin barrier and hold hydration in the skin," says board-certified dermatologist Dr. Alexis Stephens, adding that they also "help to keep the skin looking healthy, firm, and plump by minimizing the appearance of fine lines," in addition to being a "crucial component to healthy, hydrated skin" (per Vogue). 

"We know that ceramides are a missing component in people that have eczema, or clinically dry skin," adds dermatologist Dr. Morgan Rabach. "Putting on moisturizer with ceramides greatly helps restore the outer layer of the skin." According to the ADA, in addition to ceramides and hyaluronic acid, moisturizers containing shea butter, glycerin, jojoba oil, lactic acid, and mineral oil can also help aid in preventing dry skin.


Consider adding an oil to your routine

In addition to a rich moisturizer, many experts also recommend adding a body oil to your post-shower routine to help really lock in the hydration. While body oils themselves aren't capable of adding any additional hydration to your skin like a moisturizer can, they are great at helping your skin retain the hydration that's already there. Board-certified dermatologist Marisa Garshick, M.D. says that oils help add to the moisturizing process by "serving as an occlusive to help lock moisture in." Cosmetic chemist Ron Robinson, adds that they can also work as an emollient to help smooth and nourish skin while sealing in that hydration – "assuming that the skin is already hydrated before the oil is applied" (via Allure).


Lipids in the skin can be stripped away over time due to harsh environmental conditions, such as over-cleansing and exfoliation, overly dry or humid weather, and sun exposure. Certain detergents and soaps can also strip your skin of essential lipids. "Oils can help replenish this lipid layer that is stripped away to moisturize the skin," cosmetic chemist Nick Dindio explains. "A strong skin barrier will prevent water from escaping, therefore keeping the skin hydrated."

While oils should never replace your moisturizer altogether, they are a great supplemental product to work into your existing post-shower routine, They are especially helpful if you struggle with dry skin or simply want your bare-faced complexion to have that dewy glow.