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

The Softer Side of the Towel Debate

Relax and enjoy gently toweling yourself off.
Relax and enjoy gently toweling yourself off.
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While some people vigorously towel themselves off to clear away any water or persistent suds as quickly as possible, others spend a few leisurely minutes gently patting their skin to soak up the excess.

As it turns out, according to the Mayo Clinic and the American Academy of Dermatology, patting is the way to go. You may enjoy the feel of a brisk towel-off, but your skin is less of a fan. This can be especially true if you have dry skin. The combination of rough chafing and efficient water removal can exacerbate dry skin issues. That's in part because moisturizers generally don't add any actual moisture to the skin. Instead, they lock in moisture that's already there, sometimes pulling it in from the surrounding environment. So for best results, lightly pat or blot your skin to leave some of that moisture behind.

You may have already guessed the next step experts recommend: It's time to moisturize. Whether or not people partake in intense moisturizing rituals, pretty much everyone has heard the news that adding a moisturizer into your daily morning routine is good for the skin. Now that you haven't toweled away every last drop of water left over from your recent shower or bath, it's a good idea to get out the creams and lotions immediately and start moisturizing -- within a matter of minutes, in fact, otherwise much of the remaining water will have evaporated.

And here are a few other quick tips that can help ease dry skin issues related to shower time:

  • You might crave a steaming hot shower in the morning, but most people's skin prefers warm temperatures instead. Hot water can get rid of skin's natural oily goodness, leaving it dry and unhappy.
  • Length is also a factor. Don't stay in too long -- keeping showers and baths between five to 15 minutes in length, if not less, can also combat dry skin demons.
  • If you close the bathroom door while you shower, not only can you draw fun pictures in the mirror when you're done, you'll also be immersing yourself in swirls of serious humidity that are perfect for priming skin for a round of moisturizer.

To find out more ways you can keep your skin shipshape, slide over to the links below.

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

More Great Links


  • "Dermatologists' Top 10 Tips for Relieving Dry Skin." The American Academy of Dermatology. (8/25/2009)
  • "Eczema: Tips on How to Care for Your Skin." American Academy of Family Physicians. December 2006. (8/25/2009)
  • "Frequently Asked Questions." Towel Day. (8/25/2008)
  • "Moisturizers: Options for softer skin." Mayo Clinic. (8/27/2009)
  • "Skin care: Top 5 habits for healthy skin." Mayo Clinic. Dec. 28, 2007. (8/25/2009)
  • Tharp, Michael et al. "The Importance of Maintaining Hydration for Skin Barrier Health." Skin and Allergy News. May 10, 2006. (8/26/2009)