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Should Your Skincare Routine Be Done Before or After a Shower?

Never before have consumers had so many options for individualized skincare. Dry skin? There’s a plethora of serums and moisturizers for that. Acne? Not a problem. Do you have issues with dullness, congestion, puffiness or splotches? We’ve got you covered.

There’s a certain thrill that comes from finding just the right products. Once you find those products, you want to make sure you’re getting their maximum benefits–that means using them at the appropriate time of day and at the appropriate place in your skincare routine. There are products, for example, that work optimally at night and should be applied before bedtime. Others, such as those with SPF (obviously), work better for daytime use. 

Long story short–each part of your skincare routine should be applied properly and at the right time. 

That being said, where do showers fit into your skincare regimen? Should you do your skincare regimen before or after a shower? What about during? 

You might have guessed that there’s some debate over this. So let’s take a look at the arguments for applying your products before, during, or after your shower.

The Before-Shower Team

Most of the arguments for this approach are variations of two basic assertions, the first being that your skincare products protect your skin from shampoo, conditioner,  body wash, et cetera that might strip the skin of its protective oils. The second assertion is that the humectants in your serums and moisturizers will draw in the moisture from the shower, giving your skin extra hydration. 

Fans of this method also say that it allows them to focus on each individual step of their routine. Applying products in the shower or afterward encourages people to rush through the process, they say. 


woman applying eczema cream before a shower



Team During Shower

The arguments in this camp don’t differ radically from those made by the before-shower crew. The difference is that they believe that the warm water from the shower opens pores for deeper cleansing and better absorption of serums and moisturizers. Since lotions, serums, and moisturizers are most effective when applied to damp skin, they regard using them during showers as a no-brainer. 

Team After-Shower

Those who prefer to go through their skincare regimen after showers claim that product is washed away in the shower before it’s had adequate time to sink into the skin. They say applying products before or during showers gives people a false sense of security about their skin’s hydration needs after showers. 

Warm showers strip skin of its oils, which interferes with its barrier function. This is especially true for people with sensitive skin or conditions like eczema, where the barrier function is already compromised. In addition, most showers are far too hot and far too long; ten minutes of a warm shower is just about enough, but lingering in a hot shower for twenty minutes or more tempts many of us. Failing to apply moisturizer after a long, hot shower deprives our skin of needed hydration.

Going through your skincare routine before a shower allows the heat and the water to strip away both your skin’s natural oils and the product you applied earlier. Adding your skincare to the shower unnecessarily prolongs your time in conditions that are not ideal for your skin–at least according to Team After. 

Those who take the after-shower approach say that the skin is still damp enough after bathing for the application of humectants and emollients. They also say that the pores are still open enough after showers to allow for the deep cleansing and product absorption sought by those who add their routines to their shower. 

So…Should Your Skincare Routine Be Done Before Or After A Shower?

Should you do your skincare before or after your shower? Is there a right or wrong answer here, or is it all a matter of individual preference? As it happens, most skincare experts agree that your skincare routine is best left for after your shower. 

Dermatologists and aestheticians make the same points made by lay people who favor an after-shower skincare routine: the shower strips away most of the product, leaving the skin thirsty and in need of care when it’s done. Furthermore, prolonging your time in the shower negates many of the benefits of your product. 

Applying your lotions and moisturizers after the shower replenishes your skin and allows it to hang on to its moisture. This is even more true for people with skin disorders such as eczema. Their skin’s barrier function is already compromised, and the shower worsens drying and itching.

Is There a Middle Ground?

Is there a compromise that can be reached, or is it all or nothing? Well…there is something of a middle way, a “hybrid” method that unites the goals of Teams Before, During, and After. Before your shower, gently remove your makeup. Cleanse and exfoliate during your shower. Finally, apply any anti-aging treatments and moisturizer after showering.

Going this route makes the most of the warmth of the shower, allowing you to deep clean while your pores are open. It also makes it easier to thoroughly rinse away your cleanser and exfoliator. 

For the best results with this method, make facial cleansing/exfoliation the last order of business in your shower. This effectively removes any residual shampoo or conditioner that has found its way to your face, allowing you to take the next steps in your regimen with a clean canvas. 

Once you get out of the shower, gently pat-dry your face and body. Apply body lotion and facial serums/moisturizers while your skin is still damp. 

By using this approach, you can leverage your shower’s efficiency without literally pouring your skincare product down the drain. 

This routine can be tweaked for those experiencing eczema flares. If you are currently being treated for eczema, your routine might look a little like this: 

  • Remove makeup before your shower (with a gentle makeup removal product and careful handling of your sensitive skin)
  • Wash your hair, condition, wash off your body, and cleanse your face in the shower.
  •  Gently pat-dry the affected skin, then apply treatments like ElidelⓇ.
  • Allow the ElidelⓇ (or any other treatment your dermatologist instructs you to apply before moisturizing) time to penetrate the skin. 
  • Once your treatment has had time to sink in, you can lightly spritz your skin with water and then apply body lotions, humectant serums and moisturizers.

If you’re using SmartLotionⓇ, apply it after moisturizing. If you’re not currently using SmartLotionⓇ during flares, consult your doctor to see about adding it to your treatment regimen. SmartLotionⓇ was developed by a board-certified dermatologist, Dr. Steve Harlan, and for most people, it’s a safe addition to eczema treatment when the eczema cream is used under a physician’s care. Dr. Harlan stresses moisturization, by the way–he tells his eczema patients to moisturize at least twice a day. 


woman in shower having applied eczema cream

To Wrap It All Up…

There you have it, folks! Most parts of your skincare routine should be handled after your shower, although removing makeup beforehand and cleansing/exfoliating during is OK. 

There are a few more caveats concerning showers and skin care. First off, if the water is hot enough to make your skin red, it’s too hot! Hot showers are relaxing, but they don’t do your skin any favors. The heat dilates the blood vessels–which is why your skin turns red–and this can trigger an inflammatory response. For people who are already battling inflammation, the effects are even more noticeable.

Secondly, watch the time! It may sound nonsensical, but long showers and soaks contribute to moisture loss in the skin. You should shower for a maximum of ten minutes, and this is doubly true for people with eczema, sensitive skin, psoriasis, or other inflammatory skin conditions. You should also avoid showering more frequently than necessary; most people with sedentary lifestyles don’t need to shower every single day. 

To sum it all up: shower only as often as you need to, use warm–not hot–water, and limit your time in the shower. Save all the steps of your skincare regime for after your shower (cleansing is the only exception). Moisturizers and serums work best when applied to damp skin. 

You’ve taken the time to educate yourself about your skin’s needs. You’ve spent money on your skincare products and trust them to do what you need them to do. It would be a shame to  let all that research and expense go down the drain! 




  Cee Van

  Medical Writer



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