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Does the way you towel off after a shower affect your skin?

Good old towels! Having them around when you need them can put a smile on anybody's face.  See more personal hygiene pictures.
Victor Keppler/George Eastman House/Getty Images

Towels tend to be pretty unassuming bathroom accessories that never really receive much notice -- at least until you reach around the shower curtain and find your hand grasping at empty air. Then it's a real bummer unless another one is close at hand. It can be especially awkward if, say, you're visiting your elderly grandmother who's not in the best of health, or if you're liable to be intercepted by a herd of rampaging children who always seem to come racing around corners at the worst possible moments.

At times such as these, towels take on greater significance -- as you long for the fluffy, warm comfort of a cuddly towel, wishing the linen closet wasn't so far down the hallway. They can even seem like vital fixtures for any modern home. And towels have not been ignored by the entertainment industry, either; indeed, they've achieved a respectable level of cultural notoriety on several occasions. South Park fans are going to have to sit this one out, though; we're going a little more ageless and unforgettable than a talking towel with a drug problem.

In Douglas Adams' "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" series, for example, towels assumed a role of great importance. Not only were they incredibly useful items to have along on any galactic adventure, they were also extremely valuable when it came to psychological ploys. Basically, as Adams described it, if a man has the wherewithal to keep tabs on his towel while struggling through a place as downright dangerous as the universe, then he is not someone you want to be messing with.

So while in "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," towels were essential in all sorts of emergency situations, here on Earth we primarily use them just to dry ourselves off. But have you ever considered the possibility that you've been going about this seemingly simple task completely wrong for years? That the towel hanging so innocently on its rack might actually be having a negative impact on your skin?

It's true, experts recommend drying off with towels a certain way. Although towel usage usually doesn't top the list of things that can damage your skin (factors like smoking or getting too much sun tend to come in a little higher up), this could be information you need to be sure your skin doesn't sustain any more damage than it has to.

So don't panic! On the next page, we'll answer the ultimate question: Which is better for your skin, rubbing it dry or patting it dry?