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Should you wash your face in the shower? A dermatologist weighs in on what's best for your skin

It may be convenient, but experts say you should proceed with caution — especially if you love hot water.

Woman showering under water jet
Washing your face in the shower seems harmless enough, but it all comes down to water temperature. (Getty Images)

Some people like to take steaming hot showers, turning the daily necessity into a relaxing ritual. I'm one of them — and I even add a mint shower steamer to wake up in the morning or a lavender one to relax before bed. And while a little steam is fine, experts say I might need to tweak my routine. Hot water isn't great for your skin, they say — especially your face. Long exposure to hot water can damage the skin barrier, drying it out and worsening some skin conditions. With that in mind, I wondered: Should you wash your face in the shower? I spoke to a dermatologist to find out.

"Washing your face in the shower is perfectly fine, so long as you do not use extremely hot water," says Dr. Michele Green, a board-certified cosmetic dermatologist in New York City. Green adds that hot water can strip the skin of its natural protective oils. "The best temperature for washing your face in the shower, or just generally for showers, is lukewarm water," she says.

But hot water creates steam, and the steam in your shower can be good for washing your face — so what gives? Green explains that steam opens up your pores, making it easier to remove dirt and other toxins than it might be when you wash your face at the sink. The trick: using warm water, not hot water, to create steam. It just might take a little longer. You can try shutting the bathroom door, running your shower for a little longer before getting in, or using a facial steamer if you want to skip the shower.

This steamer can help open up pores, humidify a room or even steam towels. It also comes with blemish extractors (but most dermatologists recommend you leave that job to the professionals to prevent irritation and bruising).

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I've washed my face with water that was too hot, and I could tell as soon as I looked in the mirror. My face turned red and splotchy, making my rosacea flare up. So I switched to cold water — but it turns out that's not ideal either. Green says I should wash with warm water, then rinse with cool. Washing with warm water opens the pores and eliminates bacteria, she says. Cold water tightens pores, and it may actually trap bacteria and dirt inside — gross!

"Cold water can reduce the appearance of open pores. When cold water hits the skin, the pores slightly contract, trapping natural oils inside," she says. "Cold shower rinses are recommended for individuals with dry skin, as tightening the pores can help to retain natural oils and keep the skin hydrated. [But] it's important to note that cold water may not cleanse your face as effectively as warm water."

Of course, no matter where you wash your face — in the shower or at the sink — a regular routine and a gentle cleanser are key to keeping your skin in check. Dr. Muneeb Shah, TikTok's famous @dermdoctor, said in a video that he recommends washing your face "at least once a day, but no more than twice a day," and patting your skin dry with a towel. After that, you know the drill: Toner, moisturizer and sunscreen.

Looking for a cleanser that won't irritate sensitive skin? Amazon shoppers love this longtime favorite from CeraVe.

More than 90,000 Amazon shoppers give this cleanser a five-star rating. "My dermatologist recommended this cleanser for my extremely sensitive skin," said one happy customer. "It is very nice, cleans well and has almost no scent. It leaves my face soft and smooth."

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$21 at Ulta Beauty$18 at CVS Pharmacy

Another great option: This gentle but hydrating cleanser by Naomi Watts' brand, Stripes, that's specifically formulated for peri- and post-menopausal skin.

This cleanser, suitable for sensitive skin, is packed with calming ingredients and smells amazing. It has over 3,300 "loves" at Sephora, but you can get it for a bit less from Amazon. 

$38 at Amazon
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$42 at Sephora

The reviews quoted above reflect the most recent versions at the time of publication.

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