If a warm shower is what your body craves in the morning, you’re not alone. Most people crank the handle all the way up in order to feel the hot water all over their body.
But did you know that cold showers should also have a place in your routine?
That’s right – cold showers. The ones you dread taking when you’re the last person to get up in the morning. But if you give them a chance, you may find out that you like how you feel after taking one.
Regardless of how you are feeling about either type of shower, research shows that both hot and cold showers have health advantages and disadvantages you should be aware of.
What’s so great about cold showers?
The benefits of taking a cold shower include:
- calming itchy skin
- waking you up
- increasing circulation
- reducing muscle soreness after training
- boosting weight loss
- glowing hair and skin
Cold showers calm itchy skin
According to Dr. Adam Friedman, says if you have itchy skin or skin conditions that cause you to itch, cold showers can help you overcome the feeling of scratching.
Cold showers help you wake up in the morning
When that cold spray hits your body, little shock occurs. This shock increases:
- oxygen intake
- heart rate
Cold showers increase your circulation
Increased circulation is one of the main reasons why experts recommend cold showers.
When cold water hits your body and external limbs, it constricts circulation on the surface of the body. The blood then circulates faster in the deep tissues to maintain an ideal body temperature.
In that sense, a cold shower has the opposite effect of a hot shower for a person with hypertension or cardiovascular disease, as exposure to cold temperatures triggers the circulatory system to reduce inflammation and can help prevent cardiovascular disease.
Cold showers help reduce muscle soreness after training
As cold water has regenerative properties, your muscles will relax and repair after an intense workout.
Cold showers may help to boost weight loss
Some fat cells, such as brown fat (BAT), can generate heat by burning fat. They do this when the body is exposed to cold conditions such as in the shower.
According to Dr. Gerrit Keferstein, says these cells are mostly situated around the neck and shoulders. So, perfect for showers!
Cold showers give your skin and hair a healthy glow
Although scientific research is limited as to the effect cold water has on your skin and hair, anecdotal evidence indicates positive effects.
Wellness expert Dr. Jacqueline Schaffer says that cold water tightens and constricts the blood flow, which gives your skin a healthier glow.
According to an article published on the NaturallyCurly.com website, cold water closes and strengthens the cuticles.
In addition, cold water, unlike hot water, doesn’t dry out the sebum layer, a naturally lubricated barrier that ensures the protection of your skin and hair.
As a result of the effects of the cold shower, your hair may be more likely to become stronger and healthier over time.
If you’re convinced that a cold shower is totally out of the question, you may want to rethink your philosophy. Unlike the long list of benefits of cold showering, the list of cons is surprisingly quite short.
The cons of cold showers:
- Cold showers may not be a good idea if you’re already cold, since the cooler temperature isn’t going to help warm you up in any way. It could actually make you even colder and increase the amount of time it will take for your body to warm up again.
- They’re also not a good idea if you’re sick, either. Initially, the cold temperature might be too hard on your immune system, so it’s better to dilute the lower temperature.
Why do we like hot showers?
If you have trouble relaxing or falling asleep at night, you might be tempted to take a hot shower to relieve the stress of the day.
This is a common practice for muscle relaxation before falling asleep, as hot showers activate the parasympathetic nervous system which makes us tired, says Keferstein.
Other benefits of hot showers include:
- providing relief from respiratory symptoms
- helping with blemishes
- help muscle relaxation
Hot showers provide relief from cold or respiratory symptoms
Standing in a hot shower with the steam around you has long been used as a natural treatment to reduce cold and cough symptoms. The heat of water and steam can help to:
- open the airways
- loosen up phlegm
- clear the nasal passages
Hot showers help with blemishes
Hot showers can help open up the pores of the skin, which allows you clean to up trapped dirt and sebum.
Hot showers are good for muscle relaxation
Standing in a hot shower effectively helps relieve body tension and can help soothe muscle fatigue.
But, yes, taking a hot shower does have some downsides.
However, the good news is that you don’t have to give them up completely. You just need to lower the temperature a bit and take care of your skin afterward.
The cons of hot showers include:
- They can dry out and irritate the skin. Schaffer explains that hot water causes damage to the keratin cells that are located on the most outer layer of our skin — the epidermis. By disrupting these cells, it creates dry skin and prevents the cells from retaining moisture.
- Hot showers can also make certain skin conditions worse. High temperatures make it easier for the skin to dry out and worsen conditions such as eczema.
- Hot showers can cause itching. According to Friedman, heat can cause mast cells (which contain histamine) to release their contents in the skin and cause itching.
- They can also increase your blood pressure. If you have high blood pressure or cardiovascular disease, taking a shower that is too hot can make these conditions worse.
So, which type is better?
There are several benefits to both hot and cold showers, so what should you do?
Well, in an ideal world, Friedman says you have to take a warm shower — so it’s tolerable — and apply a moisturizer to damp skin after bathing
Another method to try is what Keferstein describes as a contrast shower, which is an ancient technique developed by Dr. Sebastian Kneipp.
Basically, you get the water as cold as possible and stay there for a minute. When the minute is up, you then change the water to as hot as you can handle for one more minute.
Alternate between one minute each of cold and hot water for three to five cycles.
He said the health benefits come from the constriction of the blood vessels due to the cold water. This means all the blood will go to the middle of the body.
The hot water opens the blood vessels and all the blood comes rushing out again. This can get all the blood pumping through the muscles and organs and is great for helping with regeneration and detoxification.