Why Washing Your Legs In The Shower May Not Be A Good Idea

The internet has an uncanny ability to make you think about things you otherwise wouldn't — now it's the topic of washing your legs in the shower. Up until the year 2019, when Twitter blew up with a poll receiving over 800,000 votes, you probably never wondered whether or not you needed to bend down in the shower to soap and wash your legs. But when about 20% of those who voted in the poll said they didn't bother with their legs while in the shower, suddenly you were left wondering if there was a right way to wash your body. Perhaps you lather and rinse the upper part of your body and let the soapy water and gravity do their work on the rest of you. Or maybe you spend a few seconds pointedly soaping and rinsing your legs. 

According to some health experts, the former camp could be on to something. As Director of Cosmetic and Clinical Research in Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, Dr. Joshua Zeichner, told Women's Health, "Unless your legs are visibly soiled, you don't actually need to wash them directly with a cleanser. The cleanser that drips down your body is enough to remove most of the dirt and sweat that accumulates during the day." Here's everything we know about the leg-washing debate.

Washing your legs might strip away too much oil

Sebum, the waxy substance that's produced by our body's sebaceous glands, is a big part of why we need to shower. Yes, it does keep our skin moisturized, but it can also lead to clogged pores that cause acne. When sweat, dead skin cells, and dirt combine with sebum, that's usually when we know it's time to hit the showers. 

Our legs, however, contain a lower concentration of sebaceous glands than the rest of our body, per Well and Good. So pointedly soaping your legs, lathering up, and rinsing with water might be too much for the skin. 

"In general, your legs do not produce any significant body odor, other than your feet," Assistant Clinical Professor of Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital, Dr. Emmanuel (Michael) R. Loucas said to Best Life. If you have dry, sensitive skin or eczema, it becomes even more important not to scrub your legs. "Soaps, even the mildest, remove the natural oils from your skin. This allows the evaporation of moisture from your skin, resulting in increased dryness," Loucas added. But what about those times when you get home from a white water rafting trip down muddy rivers or spend an entire day at the beach? Should you be concerned that there are parts of your body you're not washing the right way?

If your legs are visibly soiled, by all means, wash them

If you've been outdoors and sweated a lot or have been involved in an activity that's soiled your skin more than on an average day, it's a good idea to wash your legs while in the shower. The same rule applies when you have cuts or wounds on your legs that could get infected if they're not properly cleaned out. 

Even factors like whether or not you rotate your body under an overhead shower or if you're showering under an angled showerhead can contribute to how clean your legs get if you don't focus on them and let gravity do its thing. So make sure to look at your legs after the shower to ensure they're visibly clean. 

At the end of the day, the key is to be mindful and adapt to different situations and skin conditions. For those with dry skin, you will benefit from focusing on post-shower care for your legs as well. Again, because of the lower density of sebaceous glands, your dry legs might require more TLC than other body parts. As explained by board-certified and fellowship-trained cosmetic dermatologist Dr. Claire Chang to Well and Good, "Use a hydrating cream with ceramides to replenish this natural lipid. It is also important to apply sunscreen regularly to the legs, especially in the summer when they are sun-exposed."