How You Could Be Damaging Your Skin Without Knowing It

Written by Denise Bissell

When you expose your skin to various environmental or chemical factors, there's always a risk that you'll damage your dermis in some way. There are certainly things you know to avoid for optimal skin health, but what about the stuff you don't think twice about? That's right, something as basic as taking a shower could, over time, seriously weather your skin, leading to premature aging, damage, enlarged pores, broken capillaries, and dull skin.

So, though it's something you do every day and seems innocent enough, your shower routine could be doing some pretty harsh work on your skin. Surprising, I know, but a few small changes could seriously improve the relationship your shower has with your skin. Here are five places to start:

1. Adjust the water pressure.

Imagine pressure-washing stone on a daily basis. Eventually, you're going to erode the surface. Now swap out the stone for your face, and a pressure-washer for your shower head in that image. See the damage you could be causing your skin? Obviously you need to rinse off debris and cleansers while showering (after all, isn't that the whole point of bathing?). But if you let water pour onto your skin for an extended period of time or the water pressure is incredibly strong, think about turning it down.

Heavy, continuous water pressure can ultimately lead to vascular malformations like broken capillaries and spider veins. Heavy pressure might feel good on your muscles and help you wash that shampoo out quicker, but think about your skin and turn it down!

2. Find the optimal water temperature.

Similar to water pressure, the temperature of your shower can cause damage to your delicate skin. Very hot showers can seriously dehydrate your skin. Your skin contains proteins and fats that form a protective barrier to lock in moisture and protect you from a harsh outside environment. When the water you bathe with is too hot, it strips that natural protection away, leaving your skin vulnerable to harmful external elements and letting the moisture in your skin escape.

3. Test your water pH level.

Did you know water can be "hard" or "soft"? (And I don't just mean when it's frozen or melted!) When water is hard, it has a high mineral content. The minerals accumulate as water makes its way through deposits of limestone and chalk, which are largely made up of calcium and magnesium carbonates. On the other hand, soft water contains low concentrations of ions of calcium and magnesium.

If the water in your home is too hard, you're depositing excess minerals onto your skin that can then act like powder, dehydrating your skin and leading to lines, wrinkles, and a host of other problems. If the water is too soft, it may not be doing a great job of rinsing off products in the shower, leaving behind residue that will leave your skin in almost the same condition it was in before cleansing.

A neutral pH of 7 is ideal for shower water: not too hard, not too soft. You can test the pH of your water by using test strips (available at health food stores or online), and then adjust accordingly. There are many shower heads you can purchase that will help filter out excess minerals, thereby softening your water.

4. Dry off gently.

Close your eyes. Pretend you've just finished your daily shower and your face is still wet. Do you grab a towel and blot your skin dry or do you rub vigorously? If you're a blotter, good job! It’s the gentler, and therefore more skin-friendly, approach. If you're rubbing, the pressure and friction are seriously drying out your skin. Over time, this can lead to microscopic lesions, increased sensitivity, and dehydration.

5. Choose your products wisely.

Using the proper products as recommended can help you avoid weathering your skin. Make sure you're choosing natural, toxin-free skin care products that work with your skin type. For example, using an acne-specific cleanser if you don't have acne can seriously dehydrate your skin and, with prolonged use, can subject you to premature wrinkles, discoloration, and thin tissue.

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