Cold showers can be intimidating, but can offer great health benefits
The idea of a cold shower can be intimidating, but if you brave the cold, it can offer great health benefits.
Studies show that cold water may stimulate blood flow, boost mood, promote healthier skin and hair, and more.
Here are five science-backed benefits of taking cold showers.
1. May boost your immune system
Studies show that when your body is exposed to cold, you produce more white blood cells, the cells your body uses to fight off infections.
This may be partly why cold showers can boost the immune system.
For example, a 2016 study from the Netherlands found that people who added cold showers into their regular routine were statistically less likely to self-report sickness.
The study showed that adding just 30 seconds of cold water — about 50°Fahrenheit — at the end of a warm shower was enough to have an effect.
2. May relieve depression
Cold showers stimulate nerve receptors in your skin, which in turn stimulates activity in your brain and may have an anti-depressive effect, says Michele Green, MD, a dermatologist in private practice.
A 2008 study found that participants who were exposed to cold water experienced relief from symptoms of depression. Moreover, the study stated that the cold water therapy did not have any adverse side effects.
3. May make you more alert
When cold water hits your body, it causes a minor shock and stimulates your sympathetic nervous system.
Your sympathetic nervous system controls the automatic functions of your body like your heart rate and digestion. It also helps you respond quickly to stress, so it can trigger functions like increasing heart rate, sweating, and increased alertness.
4. May keep your hair healthy
"Cold water for the hair is better than hot water," says Debra Jaliman, MD, a dermatologist and professor at Mt. Sinai.
This is because hot water may be more likely to strip away the natural oils in your hair that keep it shiny and healthy.
Showering with cold water increases shine and helps smooth the outer layer of hair strands called the cuticle, so that your hair looks less frizzy, Jaliman says.
5. May help relieve dry skin
If you're looking to prevent chapped skin — especially when it's dry and cold out — you may want to lower the water temperature of your shower. "Cold or cool showers do not dry out your skin as hot water showers do," Jaliman says.
Similar to how cold water affects hair, a cold shower is less likely to dry your skin out by stripping away the natural oils that keep your skin hydrated, says Jaliman.
If you already have dry skin, hot water may exacerbate it. "Hot baths can cause inflammation, redness and itching," Jaliman says. Cold water decreases inflammation and can help reduce swelling and itching.