Why People Who Love Cold Showers Could be Healthier

updated May 3, 2019
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(Image credit: Stocksy / Alexey Kuzma)

My long-held belief has been that a shower is not a shower until it’s practically scalding my skin. But people change, you know. I didn’t understand the whole “cold shower” contingent until I spent a week in a Florida vacation rental last summer with a broken air conditioner. The icy cold downpour coming from the showerhead the next morning was refreshing and downright magical.

I won’t go so far as to say I’m a cold-shower convert just yet—I still turn the dial as far left as it will go almost every time I step in. But… I’m saying I can see why many people might think a chilly shower can be nice once in a while (searches for “cold showers” are up 75 percent on Pinterest, according to their 2017 trend report, the Pinterest 100). Besides the invigorating polar bear feeling you get from braving the chill, there are a whole host of potential health benefits to a frosty bath.

Cold Showers Keep You Alert

Who needs coffee when you’ve got cold showers? If you usually rely on Red Bulls to get you up in the morning, know that the shock of a cold shower can get it done in a more natural and healthy way. The cold will have you breathing quicker, thinking faster, and you’ll likely jump around a bit in the shower to try and stay warm, too. And there is certainly something to the idea that facing a challenge first thing in the morning sets you up for a day of success.

Cold Showers Can Lessen Your Stress

By studying people who regularly swim in ice-cold water in the wintertime (polar bear club, anyone?), researchers found that the exposure to cold drastically decreased their subjects’ uric acid levels—which means that polar plungers’ bodies are better equipped to handle stressful stimuli.

Cold Showers Can Improve Your Hair and Skin

When you’re hot, you swell. When you—and your hair and pores—are cold, things do the opposite: tightening and constricting in beneficial ways. Health sought out a dermatologist to confirm the beauty benefits of cold showers, who had this to say:

In terms of your hair, “the cold will flatten the ruffled cuticles and lock in moisture to prevent breakage,” says Jessie Cheung, MD, a dermatologist in the Chicago area. Cold water will initially help constrict blood vessels in your skin to temporarily tighten pores and decrease redness and puffiness, she adds.

Cold Showers Can Improve Circulation

It’s not so much about the cold water, but the concept of going from hot to cold and back again that makes this magic happen. Standing in a cold shower encourages your blood to flow to your vital organs to keep them warm, while warm water sends your blood rushing to your skin (that’s the cause of that flush you might get coming out of a hot bath or sauna). So alternating from hot to cold water when you shower—or stepping in and out of a cold shower—can help get your blood flowing better.

How about you? Are you a fan of cold showers?