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FYI: You're Showering All Wrong

Tired of unruly hair and dry skin? It's time to give your showering routine a facelift
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My showers usually fall on either end of a spectrum: they're either super short (like hop in, do one turn under the running water and hop out) or ridiculously drawn out blocks of contemplation -- drawn out to the point that I start getting lightheaded and I risk ending up unconscious, passed out on the shower floor. Turns out, both of these are doing a number on my hair and beauty routine.

According to skin care and hair experts, showering habits go way beyond making sure you smell so fresh and so clean -- they can mean the difference between a glowing complexion and face full of breakouts; shiny commercial model hair and a dull, tangled mess.

Can't seem to kick dry, scaly skin or put an end to that trail of pimples? Snap out of your usual lather, rinse, and repeat mentality and see if you're committing one of these damaging shower don'ts.

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Your Shower Is Too Steamy
How it's hurting: While relaxing, super hot showers strip the skin and the scalp of essential oils and dry you out, especially the longer your shower drags on. The end result: Parched skin that requires you to slather on lotion throughout the day to no avail and an itchy, flaky scalp.

The fix: Keep the temperature of your water lukewarm or tepid to open up the skin's pores and the hair's cuticles while keeping your skin and scalp hydrated and essential oils intact. Caroline Mitgang, stylist at Paul Labrecque Salon and Spa in New York backs up the age-old advice to finish your hair with a cool rinse: "Cool water is ideal because it seals and smooths the outer cuticle of your hair -- hot water causes the cuticle to swell more," she explains. But it's not the end of the world if a warm shower is all you can bear. "As long as the water is not blazing hot, your hair will be just fine and the water won't cause any damage."

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You're Showering Every Day
How it's hurting: We apologize to the germaphobes out there, but the experts we spoke to were unanimous: You're doing more harm than good by showering every day. "Overwashing depletes our skin of valuable natural oils and lowers its acidity (or pH) levels," says Jolie Martin, director of SKINNEY Medspa in NYC. "Lower acidity levels make our skin too alkaline and weaken its ability to fight bacterial infections, skin damage and disease."

The fix: Unless you're working up a hearty sweat every single day, consider this your permission slip to skip your shower and sleep in. Limit bath time to every other day, and keep it as close to 10 minutes as possible. Why? 10 minutes is enough time for the warm water to let your pores open up and actually moisturize the skin instead of drying it out. You'll clearly have to go over on the days you shave or deep condition but be forewarned: the longer and hotter your shower gets, the more damage control you'll have to do with moisturizing products afterward.

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You're Not Starting With Your Hair
How it's hurting: If you're taking down your pony, hopping in the shower and saving your conditioning 'til last, your hair could be in for a world of hurt in the form of matted tangles and fragile strands.

The fix: Take a cue from Marcia Brady and brush all the tangles and snags out of your hair before hopping in the shower. Because water weakens your strands, wet hair is especially prone to matting and breakage. Mitgang recommends a soft multi-bristle brush pre-shower for gentle detangling and minimal yanking. Once you step into the shower, shampoo and condition your hair ASAP. "The best way to deep condition is to start at the beginning of your shower," says Mingtang. "Shampoo first, rinse, squeeze (don't wring) excess water, slather your product on and then use a shower cap so it can soak in. Do this during a long shower so it's on a while" (i.e., on a day you're shaving your legs and you know you'll be going over 10 minutes), says Mingtang.

While it may be tempting to rake through tangles when your hair is covered in conditioner, Mitgang says if your hair isn't on the coarser side, step away from the wide-tooth comb. "When hair is wet, it's a little more fragile ... so damaged or fine hair is better off being detangled out of the shower," she warns.

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You're Still Using Soap
How it's hurting: According to the American Academy of Dermatology, traditional soaps, antibacterial soaps and many perfumed soaps contain harsh ingredients that strip natural oils from the skin, leaving you with tight, scaly skin.

The fix: Martin recommends turning to non-soap hydrating cleansers over a true soap.

If you're sticking to the 10 minute time it's important to hit the key areas that need the most attention -- the pits, under breasts and between the legs -- but when it comes to intimate areas, steer clear of lather and fragranced body washes that can disrupt your body's natural balance of bacteria.

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