In Hot Water?

Showering or bathing, a lot of people are getting ‘into hot water’ when it comes to their skin. Some do it because they love the feeling of scalding hot water or marinating in the depths of a near-boiling tub; others do it because they may feel it’s the only way to get really clean. Unfortunately though, volcanic water temps can do your skin and scalp more harm – and in some cases quite a bit of harm – than good. I’ve personally seen patients come in with severe eczema and rosacea flare-ups due to the heat of the water.

Safety concerns

For infants, toddlers and young kids, of course, the safety figures are much lower. To be safe, bathe them in water that’s no higher than 90° F (32° C).

Now I’m not telling you that we all have to bathe in tepid water by any means but just to adjust the temperatures downward. Aside from actually measuring the water temperature, a good rule of thumb is to turn down your thermostat on the water heater.

Beauty and comfort concerns

Excessively hot water messes with your skin in other ways too. If you have dry, sensitive or allergic skin it will make it worse by leeching away vital lubricating oils. If you have oily or actinic skin, it can make those worse too because of a backlash effect. By stripping oily skin of oils, it ironically produces more oil in response.

For those with skin problems like acne, some patients use overly hot water and too vigorous scrubbing as if they’re seeking to purge or punish their skin for misbehaving. But I can tell you that this kind of rough treatment could end up damaging your skin even more. It may be hard to treat your skin gently and lovingly when it’s not doing you any favors, but this is exactly what it needs.

A lot of hot water abuse comes from those who feel they can’t get themselves really clean with anything cooler than scalding. But even if you make your living crawling under cars and getting absolutely filthy, washing yourself clean does not require the same kind of temps that a car does. No matter how dirty or smelly we may get, soaps, cleansers, gentle scrubbing and exfoliation in warm water are all we need. Rinse and repeat if necessary but that’s it. Put an inanimate object of metal or glass in boiling water and it gets clean. But put a living, breathing being (e.g. yourself, your pet Chihuahua) into the same thing and it gets cooked.

Pore you

Another myth about hot water is that it is necessary to ‘open’ the pores to get them clean. Let’s lay this canard to rest once and for all. Pores are not like clams that open and shut in response to their environment. They contain no muscles. They do not open when warm or close when cold.

Now, when blocked with oils, dead skin cells, environmental debris, makeup, or occlusive topicals, pores do fill and stretch to accommodate the material. As a consequence, they become more visible and appear larger. To be sure, these oil-and-sludge plugs dissolve easier with cleansers or exfoliants in water that is warmer than cooler. But this does not remotely mean harmful hot water temperatures. Warm is plenty, warm is enough, warm is luxurious.

Bathing and washing happen but they don’t have to burn your skin.

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