I have finally taken a shower SO SUBLIME that it has made all other showers pale in comparison. The shower that makes me feel like a million bucks. The shower that makes me look like a glassy, freshly-glazed Krispy Kreme doughnut. The shower that makes me want to curl up underneath clean sheets and rub my ultra-soft shins together for eternity like some kind of cursed cricket. If you saw me out and about after this shower, you’d say, “WOAH, is that a sleek, smooth land dolphin in front of me? Or wait…no…just a really clean woman?” And guys, it’s okay – it’s just me, Caitlin, a really clean woman!
Here’s the deal: I know that as a fellow adult person, you’ve probably showered at least a couple of times in your life. And hey, after decades of experience, you’re probably pretty good at it, too! But I’m not here to talk about our standard bleary-eyed, auto-piloted, in-and-out morning rinse or the classic oh god, just let me get this gunk off so I can go to sleep nighttime soak. This one is BETTER.
After almost 30 years of constant experimentation (with, uh, some questionable breaks between like, March and June of last year), I’ve nailed the formula and order that just works. I take this shower – hereby deemed the “special shower” – once a week, and it’s the closest thing to a reset button that I can create in my own life. I emerge feeling SO CALM on the inside and with skin that is (a.) glowing, quenched, and happy and (b.) fortified to stand another week of me bumping into things. And before I lose you, YES, there are before & afters below to prove my claims. I’m serious about this.
I’m going to jump right in and I’ll share the tools and products that have worked for me, but if you have any favorite shower essentials, please drop a name or link in the comments. Last week, you helped me find an everyday moisturizer (praise be) so I know y’all are a wealth of information. I’m just one gal with dry skin (part lizard over here), so let’s share our favorites so EVERYONE can find the perfect products for them. SPECIAL SHOWERS FOR ALL!!!
Timing Is Everything
This baby has to happen in the afternoon. (I start mine around 3 or 4 PM on Saturday.) Two reasons:
- You’ll be able to spend the rest of the evening luxuriating and appreciating the fruits of your labor. Remember how it feels to go on a vacation, get a little sunburnt in the morning, take a super relaxing midday nap, and then hop in the shower right before dinner? That’s the energy we’re channeling here. You’re setting the tone for the rest of the night – even simple things like eating dinner or watching Netflix or journaling on the couch (read: the only things I do) will feel extra special.
- GOLDEN HOUR. You, a person who is now shining like a stone plucked straight out of a river, are going to leave the bathroom and step into the most beautiful light ever. Nobody will be able to tell you ANYTHING. (I hope this is the post that spawns a million thirst traps.)
Make it Special
There are really 3 things you’ll need to set the scene – a beverage, lighting, and some music. I know that line sounds like it came straight out of a post called “Ah, Someone I Have a Crush on Is Coming to My House for the First Time, What Do I Need?!” but stick with me, okay?
- A Drink: Shower beers aren’t for me and I don’t really have the space (or coordination) to risk bringing in a glass of wine (or barware of any kind, TBH), so I default to kombucha. Gingerade is my everyday flavor; Mango is my special Saturday flavor. Bring in whatever you want, but having a beverage in the shower is SO FUN, even if you only take a few sips.
- Music: HUGE POINT. SO IMPORTANT. It’s not fun to stand in the bathroom for this long without a playlist. (This is the one I’ve been using lately – it’s my 2020 favorites; please don’t judge me.) I usually default to playing it straight my phone on full volume but if I’m listening to something SUPER mellow and quiet, I’ll break out an old Beats Pill I got when I worked there so I can actually hear once I’m inside the shower. Use whatever you have!
- Lighting: Just change it up from your daily shower lighting. I like keeping the lights off and using this $10 candle, but it’s dealer’s choice here. Maybe you can go wild and use your canned lights instead of your vanity lights. GIVE IT A WHIRL!
Break out the Dry Brush
Yeah, buddy, we’re putting in WORK before we even turn the shower on. Dry brushing was new to me and I only started because I wanted to slough off some winter skin manually, but it turns out that it’s SUPER good for you – dry brushing actually helps drain your lymphatic system and it increases circulation. (In fairness, I, a lover of woo-woo nonsense, had written this off as some wellness-y woo-woo nonsense until I googled it and found doctors confirming that yes, this is actually good for you BEYOND exfoliating. WIN/WIN.) I’m sure there are fancier brushes, but this one is $7, has a loop for your hand, and it works fine.
I do my dry brushing facing a window and I really like it because I can see the skin cells floating off of me while I scrub. It’s simultaneously very gross and very satisfying. (Also, it’s nice motivation to deep clean my bathroom more frequently.)
Exfoliate Dry (& Apply Other Specialty Masks)
This is where our actual routines may diverge a bit, but the ~general spirit~ will remain the same. If you have any specialty masks or cleansing products, break them out now! You can probably turn on the shower and let it start to heat up at this point.
But for me, I love starting with this cleansing balm – it simultaneously gets rid of dirt/grime/makeup/buildup while moisturizing. (I also love NOT washing my face in the sink, so being able to rinse this off in the shower is a real treat.)
Second, I really like this underarm mask. It’s not essential for everyone, but it’s $16 and really makes a huge difference – whatever’s in this definitely helps made my pits less stinky overall. You also really only need it once a week, so it lasts forever.
But third, AHHH. Let me sing the praises of this exfoliator. I’ve never found one I loved or that really worked for me – they oftentimes feel a little too oily or not gritty enough to get the job done. But this one, from Skinfix, is the perfect texture AND it’s applied pre-shower to dry skin. GUYS, I LOVE THIS PRODUCT. If you can splurge on a new exfoliator (it’s $30), I’d recommend this one in a heartbeat!!! But if not – or if you’ve already found a product you love – try applying your exfoliator of choice while you’re still dry. Newborn baby skin is en route!
Hop In & Shave (Round 1)
FOLKS, WE HAVE ENTERED THE SHOWER. We all have our own routines and preferences here, so skip ahead if shaving isn’t your thing! That said, the next step here is to rinse off – you’ll already be amazed at how baby-soft you feel after just dry brushing and exfoliating – before going to work on your legs. You can save any other bits for later (we’ll come back to them).
Pre-quarantine, I was a pretty vocal advocate for waxing (it’s so much easier for me because I am lazy), but I’ve grown to enjoy the process of shaving as I’ve perfected THE SPECIAL SHOWER process. These three razors were recommended to me by my own waxer and they all serve different functions: this super tiny one is great for intimate areas (ew, sorry for using that phrase, but I’ve tested and can confirm), this one is a great store brand product that does double-duty, and this metal one is a real top of the line investment piece that you’ll keep forever. (I don’t normally use shaving cream though, so if you have a good one to recommend for folks who need it, please drop it in the comments!)
Massage in Your Shampoo
Alright – you’re brushed, masked, exfoliated, and (partially) shaved. Next up: shampoo. You know your hair better than I do, so use whatever you have. My one ~special shower tweak~: add a massaging scalp brush.
I asked for one of these for Christmas via a Link Up (what good is the website if not for soliciting presents from your family???) and my mom delivered. Y’all, I love this thing, and I’ve been using it long enough to tell you that it’s actually stimulating baby hair growth. That’s not why I got it, though – it’s awesome at lifting your hair at the root and ACTUALLY getting your scalp clean. This thing’s a 10/10 and it’s the best $15 I have ever asked someone to spend on me.
Apply Your Conditioner (Or A Mask!)
Ah, yes, the familiar order of shampoo and conditioner. Again, you know your hair, so use whatever conditioner or treatment makes the most sense for your hair.
But speaking of treatments, this is a great time to apply them – you’ll be in here for a while longer, so it’ll actually have time to work. (“Uh??? How??? Do I get in the shower and then get out???” – me, any time a hair mask says “apply to damp hair.” But NOW is the right time, pals! Your hair is damp and you have at least 10 minutes! Get wild!)
According to my hairstylist, my hair is pretty thin but very dense (tiny hair, lotta follicles – “like constantly walking through a spiderweb,” if you want a description from a boy I used to date), and this is a great treatment that adds moisture without weighing it down.
Serious Scrub-a-Dub-Dub Action
STOP READING. IF THERE IS ONE THING I CAN EVER CONVINCE YOU TO BUY, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE LET IT BE A SCRUB CLOTH. Your loofah is garbage and it needs to go. This is WAY more effective, soap actually rinses out of it (no more standing around squeezing and rinsing, waiting for the water pouring down from loofah to run clean – girl, it never will), it dries super fast, and it’s also great for folks with mobility issues.
A scrub towel is rougher – it’s not necessarily like being kissed by kittens, like, you’ll feel it working – but it’s a game-changer. I could write another 1,000 words on how my scrub cloth changed my life (turned my skin a piece of silk) and how I use my scrub towel (folded up at first, then like a cartoon of someone scrubbing themselves after it’s fully lathered) or how much soap my scrub cloth has saved me (A LOT), but I’ll let the reviews do the talking. PLEASE GET A SCRUB TOWEL. The pack of 3 is $13 and it will turn you into an evangelist, too. This is the secret sauce of the special shower – it was my final, previously-missing piece. My whole body feels like your shins and ankles do after you get an awesome pedicure. I am smooth FOR DAYS.
When it comes to soap, though (you know, the stuff you have to put ON the cloth you’re about to fall in love with), I’ve been really surprised by the quality of this $7 Target find. It’s my mom’s go-to and I gotta say…Brenda’s got good taste. It’s super moisturizing and it smells awesome. I like to follow that up with this $8 underarm soap from Megababe because I am weirdly obsessed with the way my armpits smell – especially after switching to natural deodorant – and am on an eternal quest to make them smell like nothing all the time. (This helps.)
Shave (Yes, Again)
Yeah, just do it again. Full disclosure: I went to Catholic school and aced the whole “shave from the top of your knee sock to the bottom of your skirt” lesson, but clearly missed the whole “here’s how you get the entirety of your leg in one go without missing enormous patches” class.
Plus, if you’re trying to shave anywhere else, your skin is super warm and open and it’ll be more receptive thanks to all the prep you’ve done. Good job!!!
Cleanse Face & Rinse Off
The final step: start your skincare routine in the shower! I normally use Clinique’s cleanser because I love the exfoliating texture, but I recently grabbed one of these cleansing sponges to use with smoother cleansers, like this one from Glossier. If you’re super into skincare, you can see a ton of recommendations from a BUNCH of different EHD women with different skin types right here!
And pat yourself on the back, because your time IN the shower has come to an end. Now, it’s time to treat yourself outside of the shower.
The Cozy Essentials
A nice towel really is everything, folks, so I’m here to shout at you a little bit about the wonders of the bath sheet. TOWELS BE GONE, THIS IS A SHEET-ONLY HOME. Bath sheets are enormous, plush, cozy, and you’ll feel like a little kid getting wrapped up after a bath. They’re such a luxe, everyday indulgence – I grabbed these from Boll & Branch last year (thereby retiring the neon Target Room Essentials towels I’d had since 2009, RIP) and while I had originally balked at the price tag, they were absolutely worth the splurge.
I also love a memory foam bath mat – stepping out of the shower and on to something soft, drying, and bouncy NEVER gets old. This one from Target is only $22 and it’s not ugly (trust me – finding affordable, aesthetically pleasing, memory foam bath mats is a TASK).
And last but not least: the robe. THIS IS THE ONE. I’ve purchased this one from Brooklinen in a few colors (for what it’s worth, the white stays more stiff and “hotel,” while the colors seem to soften up a little bit more) and truly, NOTHING COMPARES. It also cleans up like a dream – I may or may not have splattered A LOT of plum sauce all over myself while wearing the white robe this morning (you DON’T eat dumplings for breakfast???) and the stains came right out without any special treatment. You’ll have this for a LONG time, so it’s 100% worth the investment.
Break out the body butter, guys. This is not the time for your everyday lotion – this is the time to use your special occasion, super-hydrating moisturizer. You’re going to be so soft and smooth – even if you didn’t shave – and now, it’s time to lock that feeling in. (As a side note, I cannot recommend grabbing a set of these $4 silicone brushes enough to help with application. I use one for face products and one for body products, and the brushes mean that I (a.) don’t waste any product under my nails and (b.) don’t have to stick my little paws in a million different containers.
I oscillate between these three moisturizers, but this whipped argan oil butter is my all-time favorite. I have it in the vanilla apricot scent and it is SO UNBELIEVABLY GOOD. The first time I used it, I woke up in the middle of the night and in my disoriented haze was like, “what smells so good?” and y’all, IT WAS ME. I WAS THE THING THAT SMELLED SO GOOD.
Since Josie Maran’s products really work for my dry skin, I also love her body butter with retinol. And I need to thank you, the readers – last week, I put out a call for a great, affordable, daily moisturizer and you delivered with the recommendations for Vanicream. It’s a great choice for every day and it means that I can keep my special moisturizers on hand for use after SPECIAL SHOWER. Thank you!!!
The End: Oil It Up
WE’VE MADE IT. THE FINAL STEP. I know that it’s been a long process, but this one was a surprise to me (even though it shouldn’t have been). Look, I know that oils help lock in moisturizers on your face…I just didn’t realize that it’d do the same thing for your body. These are products that I like, but I’m sure you could also just use, like, an ACTUAL oil of your choice.
First up: Fur Oil. If you have any body hair, this stuff makes it SUPER soft. (They also have a life-changing ingrown concentrate and if these two products sound like something you’d be interested in, I can’t recommend this duo enough.)
My final oil choice depends on what I have on the docket for the rest of the day. If I eschew my own advice and take a special shower early in the morning before spending a lot of time outdoors, I’ll top myself off with Supergoop’s Glow Oil. This stuff makes you look like you’re fresh off a beach – it’s just a little bit of long-lasting shine and I LOVE IT. (Plus, can’t hate on the SPF.)
But if I’m staying indoors, this shimmering oil has been a life-changer. It’s a super splurge for me so I only bought it per Em’s recommendation and dang, THAT LADY KNOWS HER BEAUTY PRODUCTS. She was right!!! This oil has a super subtle shimmer, locks in my moisturizer, and not to put too much value on a product, but like, wearing this stuff boosts my confidence by SEVERAL notches. I really, really, really love it. I will continue to pay $90 for this for the rest of my life because of what it does for my mental state.
Proceed as a Glowing, Dewy, Dolphin-Skinned Baby
That’s all, folks. For me, this takes about an hour and a half if I’m not rushing but it’s the best hour and a half of my week! Follow this with your standard skincare routine and leave the room as a whole new dolphin/person hybrid. Actions speak louder than words, so give this process a try and then let me know what you think. (Please!) I can’t really describe how delightful I feel after finishing this whole thing, so I just want to spread the joy.
But in the meantime…what are YOUR shower essentials? Any splurges that are worth it? I think this is my routine for the long-haul, but y’all are a persuasive bunch, so I could be swayed to add some new products to the arsenal…LET’S CHAT??? xx
Opening Image Credits: Photo by Tessa Neustadt | From: Portland Reveal: Creating the Dreamiest of Master Bathrooms