Cold vs. hot showers: Which is optimal?
Cold vs. Hot Showers
In recent months a popular topic of conversation has been, Cold vs Hot showers: Which is optimal.
If you are like me, a hot shower in the morning is a beautiful introduction to the day. It is after all, the most common way the western world wash in the morning.
But did you know that cold showers could also have a place in your daily routine?
That’s right — cold showers. Perhaps the ones which you would only ever have if your heating has turned off. But if you give them a chance, you could discover that you feel some really important benefits.
Regardless of how you feel about either type of shower, research shows that both have some great benefits.
What’s so great about cold showers?
Benefits of taking a cold shower include:
- calming itchy skin
- waking you up
- increasing circulation
- reducing muscle soreness post-workout
- glowing hair and skin
- potentially boosting weight loss
Calm itchy skin
Adam Friedman, MD, says if you suffer from itchy skin or skin conditions that cause you to itch, cold showers can help you overcome the sensation to scratch.
Help you wake up in the morning
When that cold water hits your body, there is a bit of shock. This shock increases:
- oxygen intake
- heart rate
Increase your circulation
Increased circulation is one of the top reasons experts recommend cold showers.
As cold water hits your body it constricts circulation on the surface of your body. This causes blood in your deeper tissues to circulate at faster rates to maintain ideal body temperature.
In that sense, a cold shower has the opposite effect of a hot shower for someone with hypertension or cardiovascular disease, since exposure to cold temperatures triggers the circulatory system to reduce inflammation and can help prevent cardiovascular disease.
Help reduce muscle soreness after intense workouts
Since cold water has regenerative properties, your muscles will relax and repair after a tough workout. Many Athletes put a lot of emphasis on this part of their rest and recovery, it can be particularly effective when doing a lot of compound exercises.
Help boost weight loss
It may be music to peoples ears to hear that some fat cells, such as brown fat, can generate heat by burning fat. They do this when your body is exposed to cold conditions like in a shower.
Gerrit Keferstein, MD, says these cells are mostly situated around the neck and shoulder area. So, perfect for showers!
Give your skin and hair a healthy glow
Though scientific research is limited regarding the effect cold water has on your skin and hair, anecdotal evidence points to positive effects.
Wellness expert Dr. Jacqueline Schaffer, MD, says that cold water tightens and constricts the blood flow which gives your skin a healthier glow.
Cold water closes and strengthens your hair cuticles. Also, cold water, unlike hot water, doesn’t dry out the sebum layer, a naturally lubricated barrier that provides protection for your skin and hair.
As a result of the effects of cold water, your hair may be more likely to become stronger and healthier over time.
If you’re convinced a cold shower is totally out of the question, you might want to rethink your philosophy. Unlike the long list of benefits that come with taking a cold shower, the list of cons is surprisingly quite short.
Perhaps it is fitting to mention the king of the cold Wim Hoff in this article if you wish to find out more evidence to support these claims about the cold therapy.
The cons of cold showers:
- Cold showers might not be a good idea if you’re already cold, since the cooler temperature isn’t going to help warm you up by any means. It could actually make you even colder and increase the amount of time it will take for your body to warm back up.
- They may not be a good idea if you’re sick, either. Initially, the cold temperature might be too hard on your immune system, so it’s best to ease into the cooler temperatures.
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 ease the stress of the day.
This is a common practice for muscle relaxation before going to sleep because 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
- helping with muscle relaxation
Hot showers provide relief from cold or respiratory symptoms
Standing in a hot shower with the steam surrounding you has long been used as a natural remedy to reduce cold and cough symptoms. The heat from the water and the steam can help to:
- open airways
- loosen up phlegm
- clear out your nasal passages
Help with Blemishes
Hot showers can help open up the pores of the skin, which allows you to clean out the trapped dirt and oil.
Being in hot water effectively helps relieve body tension and can help soothe muscle fatigue.
But, yes, beloved a hot shower does have some downsides.
However, the good news is, you don’t have to give them up completely. You just need to turn down the temperature a bit and take care of your skin afterward.
The cons of hot showers include:
- Hot showers can dry out and irritate your skin. Schaffer says the 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 locking in moisture.
- They can also make certain skin conditions worse. Higher temperatures make it easier for the skin to dry out and worsen conditions like eczema.
- Hot showers can cause you to itch. Friedman says the heat can cause mast cells (which contain histamine) to release their contents in the skin and cause itching.
- They can increase your blood pressure, too. If you have problems with high blood pressure or cardiovascular disease, taking a shower that’s too hot can make these conditions worse.
Cold vs Hot Showers – which type is better?
There are obvious benefits to both hot and cold showers, but what should you do?
Well, in an ideal world, Friedman says you should take a lukewarm shower — so it’s tolerable — and apply a moisturizer to damp skin after bathing.
Another approach to try is what Keferstein describes as a contrast shower, which is an age-old technique Dr. Sebastian Kneipp developed.
Basically, you get the water as cold as possible and stand in it for one minute. Then, once the minute is up, you then change the water to as hot as you can handle for an additional minute.
Alternate between one minute each of cold and hot for three to five cycles.
He said the health benefits come from the cold water constricting the blood vessels. This means all the blood will go to the middle of the body.
The hot water will open the blood vessels and all the blood comes rushing out again. This can pump the blood completely through the muscles and organs and is great for helping with regeneration and detoxification.