Do You Really Need To Put Lotion On After Every Shower?

Photographed by Braydon Olson.
Here are the things I always remember to do after I shower: Lay on my bed in my towel for 20 minutes while scrolling through Instagram, rinse out my plastic cup filled with shower wine (yes, I drink wine in the shower, and highly recommend it to anyone working in media), and double check that I have, in fact, successfully shaved both armpits. Here is something I often forget to do: moisturize. It's not like I haven't been reminded — just about every masseuse that's rubbed me down has commented on my scaly skin. But what can I say? I enjoy hot showers and do not enjoy standing naked in a freezing cold apartment. And, once my pajamas are on, they aren't coming back off. (Unless, you know...) I'm not alone here either: a few of my beauty-editors friends have also admitted to missing this moisture step. But, according to dermatologist Dendy Engelman, MD, these slips can have major consequences. "In biology class, we were taught that water moves from higher concentration to a lower concentration, and that's exactly what happens post-shower," she says. "When you emerge from the shower, you have a higher concentration of moisture compared to the air — especially in the drier months with heaters. So water evaporates off the skin quickly, leaving the skin dry." Moisturizing, Dr. Engelman explains, traps some of that water on your skin. (That's why it's so important to do it immediately when you step out of the shower.) And if you don't lotion up? Well, buckle up for an uncomfortable winter. "Dry skin doesn't function optimally because the barrier function is compromised, leaving the skin sensitive and unbalanced," Dr. Engelman says. For the best results, you need to add yet another step: exfoliation. "This helps your moisturizer to penetrate deeply into the skin, locking in natural oils, and aiding in repairing," she explains. "Depending on the ingredients of the lotion you use, applying it over cracked, dry skin can cause burning and inflammation." Now, if you're like me and tend to just slap some oil onto your legs, Dr. Engelman says you're missing some key zones in desperate need of protection. She specifically calls out your face, hands, and chest as areas to never miss with moisturizer. "Ceramides, cholesterol, and fatty acids make up the essential components of the lipid layer of the skin on your face," she explains. "This layer serves as your first line of defense against bacteria, pollution, and other harmful environmental assaults." And if it's dry and sensitive, those free radicals are more likely to attack your skin. She suggests adding a shot of ceramides to whatever cream you usually smooth onto your face. (She loves Elizabeth Arden's Ceramide Capsules.) "As for the rest of the body, I tell my patients this rule: ointments are more hydrating than creams, creams are more hydrating than lotions," she says. "So depending on the area and dryness, this can help guide you." And aside from remembering to moisturize, there are other things you can do to ensure you're staying smooth. "Make sure to drink lots of fluids," she says. "Water is the most essential ingredient for healthy, beautiful skin." A diet rich in omega-3 and omega-6 oils can boost your skin's inner hydrating functions. And, for the love of all that is holy, turn your shower temperature down; hot water removes the surface lipids from your skin, allowing moisture to leak out, causing dryness. But the easiest way to remember to moisturize is to invest in a lotion that you love. Lately I've been greasing up with French-girl favorite Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse as soon as I step out of the shower. After that, I continue on with my regular ritual — and maybe just one more glass of wine.

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