Why Does My Acne Look Worse After a Shower? (We Have the Answer!)

why does my acne look worse after a shower

Battling breakouts can take over your day. Many people who experience acne, pimples, or breakouts find that a shower often makes their skin look worse. About 60 million people in America struggle with acne today, so you’re not alone if you notice breakouts after a shower.

While a hot shower might seem like a good idea, a shower that’s too hot can strip essential natural oils from your skin. Hot water can create excess sebaceous oil gland production. Foaming cleansers, shampoos, and body washes that are packed with chemicals and preservatives can also increase inflammation, intensify redness, and trigger breakouts that always seem to pop up after a shower. 

Check out these 5 questions behind why acne looks worse after a shower and how to resolve the problem.

Why Does my Acne Look Worse After a Shower?

It’s a common question that dermatologists and skincare questions encounter on a daily basis. The answer is a simple one, but it’s a common mistake when it comes to reducing acne flare-ups. 

It’s pretty common to get your face wet during a shower. If you regularly wash your face in the shower, the hot water can have a harsh effect that strips natural oils from your skin. Try to avoid scrubbing your face with hot water during a shower, Rhea Souhleris Grous, the Director of Aesthetics at Union Square Laser Dermatology, suggests.

Water that’s too hot can cause the sebaceous oil glands on your face and along your hairline to produce more oils to replace the oils removed by the hot water. According to aesthetician Caroline Hirons at Insider.com and Refinery29, extra oil can clog pores, make your skin greasy, and attract bacteria that makes pimples pop up faster.

Can Shower Water Affect Acne?

This basic part of our morning and evening routines can make the difference between acne breakouts and better skin. You’ve probably noticed that your skin looks and feels different when showering at the gym or while traveling at a hotel. That’s because all water isn’t created equal. 

A popular culprit that can cause acne breakouts after a shower is water hardness. Hard water refers to water that has absorbed dissolved minerals along the way before it reaches your shower pipes. Harsh minerals like sulfur can irritate or damage sensitive skin.

An easy way to check if hard water is the cause is to fill a bottle with one-third water. Add several drops of liquid soap. Shake the bottle for a couple of seconds. If the water turns milky, looks cloudy, or doesn’t produce any foam or bubbles, then you have hard water.

You can boil hard water for an inexpensive solution or you can consider installing a water softener that’s a water filtration system that removes the hard water minerals. 

More than 85% of tap water in the US has chlorine. Shower water can make acne worse if you’re dealing with chlorinated water. While some sources such as Bustle might suggest that a little chlorine water can dry up acne due to its antibacterial properties, the truth is that chlorine is a hard, drying chemical that strips Vitamin E from your skin and can make acne worse.

A reverse-osmosis water filtration system is a good, long-term solution to fix chlorinated water that can make acne worse after a shower.

Why Does Acne Get Worse After a Shower?

While it might not seem logical, spending too much time under a showerhead can dry out your skin. This side effect is compounded when the water is too hot. Spending more than 10 minutes in the shower can dilate your blood vessels, causing red rashes and aggravating skin conditions like acne, psoriasis, or eczema.

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends showering a little less if you take several showers per day. They also suggest limiting time spent in the shower and moving around to prevent a steady stream of water from drying your skin out when you stand still under the showerhead.

For many people, long, hot showers are a form of self-care. If you find that you break out after your shower, you can still indulge in a shower that’s warmer than usual. If you take hot showers every day, just reduce it to once or twice a week to help keep your skin from dehydrating.  

Does Your Acne Look Worse After Washing?

Maybe you already take short, cool showers and use a water softening system, but can’t beat the post-shower acne issues.  

Strong fragrances, harsh exfoliating scrubs, and soaps and shampoos that are full of chemicals and preservatives are an often-overlooked cause of acne that worsens after a shower. Artificial fragrances can trigger breakouts, while exfoliating beads and other types of harsh exfoliants can irritate sensitive, damaged, or inflamed skin.

Skip harsh shower products and regular soaps that can dry out your skin. Choose gentler, more natural products instead. If you can’t readily identify or pronounce most of the ingredients on a soap or skincare product, then chances are that it’s loaded with harsh chemicals and allergens that can harm and irritate your skin.  

Why Do I Break out After my Shower?

While everyone’s skin is different and might take a few adjustments to reduce post-shower acne, gentle toweling can go a long way to preventing breakouts after a shower.

Dermatologist Dr. Sandy Johnson, quoted in Women’s Health Magazine, recommends patting your skin dry rather than rubbing it with a towel. This will help avoid rougher towel fabrics from irritating overdried skin and triggering acne breakouts.  

The Takeaway

If you’re tired of acne that looks worse after washing and you’ve tried everything, making a few changes to your shower routine can make a big difference.

Limit shower time. Stay cooler. Avoid harsh shampoos, scrubs, and soaps, and opt for natural ingredients that don’t abrade the skin and cause pimples or rashes like many chemical-packed brands. It’s a good idea to pat rather than rub your skin dry.

Following gentle skincare and shower routines that preserve your body’s natural oils, keep your skin hydrated, and avoid abrasive towels and products can help your skin heal and prevent those frustrating breakouts after a shower.

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