9 Cold Shower Benefits | For Skin, Hair, and Weight Loss

Do you dread taking a cold shower?

Then why would you want to take one? The extraordinary cold shower benefits.

Coldwater immersion or “cryotherapy” is a popular practice among athletes who use it to recover faster. But the health benefits from a quick cold shower work for everyone.

Learning why it works should motivate you to give it a try.

What are the benefits of cold shower therapy?

A picture of a shower head pouring water, headline "9 cold shower benefits"

 

Cold Shower Benefits: Table of Contents

  1. Improves Circulation
  2. Reduces inflammation
  3. Helps with depression
  4. Relieves stress
  5. Promotes weight loss
  6. Boosts Immunity
  7. Increases energy and alertness
  8. Improves skin and hair
  9. Supports reproductive health
  10. Builds Discipline and Willpower

 

1. Cold Showers Improve Circulation

Cold showers increase circulation by rushing blood to your vital organs thereby improving your circulatory efficiency and adaptability.

Your body prioritizes protecting your vital organs. When your body is exposed to cold temperatures abruptly it causes your blood to circulate faster to protect your organs.

At first, your body has to work harder to maintain its natural core temperature. Eventually, your body adapts, meaning regular cold showers can make your circulatory system more efficient.

With a more efficient circulatory system, you can train harder and heal faster. It also promotes anti-aging, keeping you looking and feeling young.

Cold showers are one way that sedentary people can improve their circulation.

Those with poor circulation, high blood pressure, and diabetes may also benefit from more efficient circulation.

Further Reading: How To Lower Blood Pressure Naturally

2. Cold Showers Reduce Inflammation

Cold showers reduce inflammation for a new injury by restricting blood flow to the affected area. 

Heat and cold both change the amount of blood flow to the affected area, but at opposite extremes.

Cold temperatures cause vasoconstriction, the shrinking of blood vessels, in the affected area (1). Vasoconstriction reduces the amount of blood that can reach the affected tissue.

Heat causes vasodilation or the widening of blood vessels. Vasodilation increases the amount of blood that can reach the affected tissue.

Generally, new injuries such as tears, sprains, and strains cause acute inflammation. Your body responds to injury through your immune system. This immune response involves localized swelling, heat, redness, and pain.

Cold treatment restricts the blood flow to the affected area, reduces inflammation, and numbs the surrounding nerves.

You should use Ice or cold treatment within the first 72 hours of an injury (1). And It should be applied from 10 to 30 minutes at least three times a day in the first 48 hours. If you don’t use ice for at least 10 minutes, the cold may not have enough time to reach the injury.

If you apply ice for over 30 minutes, you risk frostbite. Always keep a layer of clothing between your skin and the ice.

Use heat treatment 72 hours after the injury.

 

3. Cold Showers Help With Depression

Cold showers help with depression by increasing blood flow and stimulation to your brain. It also increases endorphins which promote a feeling of well-being.

Applying water of various temperatures to your skin can alter your physiology and mood. Hydrotherapy is the application of water to help you heal and feel better both physically and mentally (2).

Hydrotherapy (cold shower therapy) is gaining popularity as a natural treatment for depression. Sadly, the CDC states that about 10% of American adults report depression at their physician visits (3). But the unreported number of those with depression could be even greater.

How does hydrotherapy work?

When you’re exposed to cold water your surface blood vessels vasoconstrict or tighten (4). This causes blood to flow from your surface to your body core to conserve heat and protect your vital organs. The fresh flow of blood brings nutrients and oxygen to your brain and other organs and helps detox the area.

Conversely, warm water causes your blood vessels to vasodilate (relax) which makes blood flow to the surface. This blood flow helps your core cleanse.

Because your skin has a high density of cold receptors (5). A cold shower sends a large number of electrical impulses to your brain. These electrical impulses can provide a burst of energy, increase alertness, and have anti-depressive effects.

Studies show that hydrotherapy can relieve depressive symptoms without any side effects or risk of dependency (5).

Cold exposure also increases blood levels of endorphins, and noradrenaline, and increases the synaptic release of noradrenaline (norepinephrine) to the brain.

Endorphins have an analgesic effect, they lower your perception of pain (6). They also promote positive feelings similar to morphine or a “runner’s high.”.

 

4. Cold Showers Relieve Stress

Coldwater exposure causes oxidative stress forcing your body to adapt by producing more natural antioxidants. 

One study found that cold water swimmers had more natural antioxidants and fewer free radicals compared to the control group (7). The researchers determined that this is the result of a natural adaptive response to repeated oxidative stress.

The more often you take cold showers, the better your body can adapt to stress.

 

5. Cold Showers Promote Weight Loss

Cold showers may promote weight loss by activating beneficial brown fat. Brown fat burns unhealthy white fat for energy and warmth.

You have two types of fat: white fat and brown fat. White fat is the harmful fat that is stored around your body. It promotes heart disease, diabetes, and many other metabolic diseases (8). Conversely, brown fat promotes energy production and weight loss.

“White fat stores energy as large droplets” explains Dr. Francis Collins, “while brown fat has much smaller droplets and is specialized to burn them, yielding heat.” (8)

Brown fat has a large number of mitochondria that produce energy that contains iron, giving them its brown color.

Brown adipose tissue (brown fat) is inversely related to your body mass index (BMI) (9).

This means that the more beneficial brown fat you have, the less harmful white fat that you store.

Infants have a high proportion of brown fat (about 5% of their body weight) on their spine and shoulders for warmth (8). But adults have a small amount around their shoulders and neck. How can you increase your brown fat?

Cold temperatures activate brown fat, which is meant to keep you warm.

Cold showers and other hydrotherapies have many evidence-based health benefits, but the mechanism is still not clear (10).

Further Reading: How To Maximize Your Mitochondria

6. Cold Showers Boost Your Immune System

Cold showers may help prevent common illnesses such as colds and serious diseases such as certain cancers.

Coldwater exposure stimulates the leukocytes in your blood. Leukocytes are a type of blood cell that helps your body fight infection and other diseases (11).

One study found that cold showers may even help prevent certain cancers. Cold exposure “can increase the numbers and the activity of peripheral cytotoxic T lymphocytes and natural killer cells, the major effectors of adaptive and innate tumor immunity, respectively.” (12)

This means that cold showers can boost your natural cancer-killing cells.

Related: How to Get Rid of A Cold Fast: 25 Natural Remedies

 

7. Cold Showers Increase Energy and Alertness

Coldwater exposure activates your sympathetic nervous system giving you energy and preparing your body and brain for action.

If you want to wake up fast, start your day with a cold shower. The shock to your system activates your sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight), and increases endorphins and noradrenaline (5).

Endorphins lower your perception of pain (6) and promote positive feelings similar to morphine or a “runner’s high.”

Noradrenaline (norepinephrine) is the primary neurotransmitter of the sympathetic nervous system.

Noradrenalin prepares your body for instant action, it: (13)

  • increases heart rate
  • blood pressure
  • dilates air passages in the lungs
  • narrows blood vessels in non-essential organs
  • strengthens the force of your heart’s contraction

 Unlike caffeine, cold showers always work to wake you up and won’t keep you up at night

 

A woman taking a shower rinsing her hair, headline "Cold shower benefits for hair and skin"

8. Cold Showers Improve Hair and Skin

Cold showers support healthy skin and hair by improving circulation, preventing drying, tightening pores, and preserving your natural oils.

Coldwater tightens pores and cuticles which prevents them from getting clogged while hot water tends to dry your skin (14).

According to dermatologist Jessie Cheung, MD, “the cold will flatten the ruffled cuticles and lock in moisture to prevent breakage.” (15)

Also, dermatologist Jessica Krant, M.D. warns that hot water can “strip healthy natural oils from your skin too quickly.” (16)

Lastly, cold water improves your circulation efficiency. This allows your skin to cleanse from the inside and receive a consistent flow of nutrients.

Lastly, cold water gives you a rosy-cheeked, all-natural glow (14).

 

9. Cold Showers May Support Men’s Reproductive Health

Cold showers may support men’s reproductive health but not necessarily increase testosterone.

One study found that “sperm concentration and percentage of fast motility showed a significant decrease from spring toward summer and fall…with recovery noticed during the winter” (17). They argue that the higher fertility rate in winter and spring helps explain peak deliveries during the fall.

Is this seasonal or does temperature play a role?

Another study tested the optimal temperature for “DNA, RNA, and protein syntheses in the human testis” (18). They studied testicular tissue at 28 °C, 31 °C, 34°C, and 37 °C in vitro.

They found that the maximum temperature for DNA synthesis is 31°C (87.8°F). Also, the RNA and protein synthesis maximum is at 34 °C (93.2°F) or 37 °C (98.6 °F).

They conclude that the temperature sensitivity of DNA synthesis may be a primary cause of infertility.

Cold showers stay well below 31°C (87.8°F), but the average hot shower stays above this critical temperature. This includes hot tubs and saunas that reach temperatures above 31°C (87.8°F).

 

A smiling man taking a shower, headline "Does Taking a Cold Shower Boost Testosterone for men?"

Does Taking a Cold Shower Boost Testosterone?

One study tested the effect of physical exercise and cold stimulation on testosterone in men. The study found that exercising boosted testosterone levels by 20.8% (19). On the other hand, cold water stimulation decreased testosterone by 10.0%.

Many people claim that cold showers boost testosterone, but I am yet to find the data.

Relative to hot showers, cold showers appear to be better for reproductive health.

 

10. Cold Showers Build WillPower and Discipline

Every time you take a cold shower, your willpower grows. This gives you the discipline to take control of your life.

The first time you take a cold shower, it takes all of your willpower. Eventually, it becomes a habit, and your body adapts to the cold. 

Turn the water to cold for a few seconds at the end of your regular shower. Then for your next shower, stay under the cold water for longer. Your willpower and confidence will grow, and you’ll want to take on other healthy changes.

 

How Long Should My Cold Shower Be?

You can get many of the benefits of a cold shower in just a couple of minutes. Almost instantly, your blood will flow to protect your vital organs and activate your parasympathetic nervous system.

You need at least 10 to 15 minutes of cold exposure to activate your brown fat. This is when your body attempts to warm itself beyond shivering by burning white fate.

An ice bath is another option, but be careful as frostbite can happen within 30 minutes.

Use long cold exposure sparingly, about once or twice a week. Because your body may adapt to being in the cold all the time by storing more fat.

 

How to Take Cold Showers

The easiest way to start taking cold showers is at the end of your shower. Turn the water to a cooler temperature for a few seconds at the end of your shower. Every time you take a shower, extend your cold water time until you reach 5 minutes.

In the summer, take a cold shower without turning on the warm water. In the winter, alternate between hot and cold.

 

Is a Hot or Cold Shower Better For You?

Cold showers are best for the morning, giving you energy and alertness to start the day. Taking a cold shower in the morning will even help you fall asleep at night. This is because stress hormones are released at the right time of day. Hot showers are best in the evening to help promote sleep.

Cold showers are also useful for reducing inflammation by reducing blood flow to the affected area after an injury.

Benefits of Hot Showers

  • Hot showers or baths help you relax for sleep or stress reduction.
  • Warm water relax you before bed
  • Warm water helps heal injuries older than 72 hours by increasing flow to the affected area.

Related: How to Fall Asleep Instantly

Hot Cold (Contrast) Shower

A contrast shower involves switching between hot and cold water. First, cold water causes your body to rush blood to your vital organs feeding them nutrients.

Then hot water forces your body to send blood to your skin to cool your core. This rush of blood brings oxygen and nutrients to your skin.

Also, wastes move up to the surface. Your pores open up, allowing you to cleanse from the inside out.

 

How to do a contrast Shower

Start with hot water, as hot as you can take it, for 30 seconds. Then turn the water to as cold as you can stand it for 30 seconds. Do as many sets as you can take up to 8 sets. Start with shorter sets at first until you can adapt.

Starting your contrast shower with cold water at first may be more painful. The feeling is similar to warming your cold hands after being outside in the cold. But your body should adapt eventually.

Always end your contrast shower with cold water to tighten your pores and hair follicles.

 

The James Bond (007) Shower

The James Bond character (007), started in a series of novels and short stories written by Ian Fleming. In these stories, James Bond Started his shower hot, and he turned the water to cold for the last few minutes. The James Bond shower is also known as a “Scottish Shower.”

 

Disadvantages of Cold Showers

  • Cold showers are inconvenient, especially during the winter.
  • You need more willpower to take a shower.
  • You should not use cold showers if you have a fever as your body needs heat to fight off infection.
  • Cold showers taken before bed may keep you up at night.

 

Conclusion: Cold Showers Are Worth The Freeze

You can get the health benefits of a Cold shower within a couple of minutes. The benefits include:

  • improved circulation
  • reduced inflammation
  • help with depression
  • stress reduction
  • fat loss
  • immunity
  • energy and alertness
  • hair and skin health
  • reproductive health.

Cold showers are effective for the same reason they are dreaded, the shock to your body. Cold showers give your body a good kind of stress which causes it to adapt. The more you take cold showers, the healthier you’ll be, and the easier they become.

Do you take cold showers? Did you notice any improvements? 

 

Further Reading

Resting Heart Rate Chart | What is a Good, Normal, or High RHR?

How to Regrow Telomeres Naturally | The Latest Findings

 

Sources Cited

  1. https://www.mmtrphysiotherapy.ca/hot-cold-question-understanding-use-heat-ice-manage-pain/
  2. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/inner-source/201407/cold-splash-hydrotherapy-depression-and-anxiety
  3. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/depression.htm
  4. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/inner-source/201407/cold-splash-hydrotherapy-depression-and-anxiety
  5. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S030698770700566X
  6. https://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/exercise-depression#1
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10396606?ordinalpos=1&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_DiscoveryPanel.Pubmed_Discovery_RA&linkpos=1&log%24=relatedarticles&logdbfrom=pubmed
  8. https://directorsblog.nih.gov/2013/03/26/brown-fat-white-fat-good-fat-bad-fat/
  9. https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa0810780
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4049052/
  11. https://www.cancer.gov/publications/dictionaries/cancer-terms/def/leukocyte
  12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2211456/
  13. https://www.britannica.com/science/norepinephrine
  14. https://www.netdoctor.co.uk/beauty/a27237/reasons-why-the-cold-weather-is-actually-good-for-your-skin/
  15. https://www.apartmenttherapy.com/why-people-who-love-cold-showers-could-be-healthier-244408
  16. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/how-to-wash-face-tips-healthy-skin_n_2134381
  17. https://www.ajog.org/article/S0002-9378(13)00146-4/abstract
  18. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.3109/01485018808987051
  19. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1890772

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