Of the two options, baths are, without a doubt, the more relaxing, which dermatologist Doris Day, MD, says can be great for your skin in the long run. "You can add ingredients into the bathwater to help treat the skin, which doesn't work in the shower," she says. "If you have aches and pains, you can add epsom salt. If you have eczema, dry, irritated skin, or a sunburn, you can add oatmeal, whole milk, and honey."
But, say you're competing in a Tough Mudder soon? You're going to want to read on.
Another time when a shower is preferable? Shampoo-and-conditioner days. "Not only is it difficult to fully rinse shampoo out in a bath, but sitting in a bath full of shampoo can strip skin of natural oils," says Dr. Bowe.
Like with baths, the temperature of your shower is crucial for determining just how beneficial it will be, Dr. Bowe says. "If you are prone to dry skin, keep showers lukewarm and short. Long, hot showers can really dry out the skin," she says. This also applies to your hair: "A cool rinse will help seal hair cuticles, resulting in shine and locking in moisture," she adds.
Well, it's not as cut-and-dry as I had hoped it would be. Dr. Day says the choice mostly comes down to personal preference and location.
Dr. Bowe, on the other hand, is in my camp. "I think daily showers are better than baths, but save a bath for a special night (once or twice a week) when you really want to unwind," she says. But if you're like my mother and don't want to give up your beloved bath time, she has a workaround. "You can continue to bathe daily if you prefer that, but if you are still unsure and like the idea of taking a bath to relax, you can always shower first to get yourself clean before enjoying the time to relax." In other words: Have your cake and eat it, too.