Cold Showers vs. Hot Showers: Which One Is Better?

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Cold showers and hot showers both have advantages and disadvantages for your health. While cold showers can aid in avoiding dry skin, hot showers can help ease muscle tension.

You’re not alone if a hot shower is what your body desires in the morning. Most people turn the shower handle all the way up to experience the warmth of the water on their entire body.

Were you aware that cold showers can also be beneficial in your daily routine? Yes, those same showers you might avoid when you’re the last one to get up in the morning.

However, if you give them a chance, you may discover that you enjoy the feeling they provide.

Despite of your personal preference, studies indicate that both hot and cold showers offer various health benefits that you should know.

Why cold showers?

Some benefits of cold showers include:

  • Soothing itchy skin
  • Energizing and waking you up
  • Boosting circulation
  • Reducing post-workout muscle soreness
  • Potentially aiding weight loss
  • Promoting healthy and glowing hair and skin

Soothing itchy skin

Dr. Adam Friedman, professor and chair of dermatology at George Washington School of Medicine and Health Sciences suggests that cold showers can be helpful in soothing itchy skin or skin conditions that cause the urge to scratch.

Energizing and waking you up

When you take a cold shower, the sudden shock of cold water hitting your body can cause:

  • Increased oxygen intake
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased alertness

Boosting circulation

Experts suggest that cold showers are beneficial for increasing circulation in the body.

When cold water comes into contact with the surface of the body and limbs, it narrows the blood vessels, resulting in increased blood flow to the deeper tissues to maintain the ideal body temperature.

For those with hypertension or cardiovascular disease, a cold shower can have the opposite effect of a hot shower since it activates the circulatory system, reduces inflammation, and can aid in the prevention of cardiovascular disease.

Reducing post-workout muscle soreness

Cold water is known for its regenerative properties, which can help to relax and repair your muscles after a tough workout.

Potentially aiding weight loss

When your body is exposed to cold conditions, like in a shower, some types of fat cells, such as brown fat, can produce heat by burning fat and help with weight loss.

According to Gerrit Keferstein, MD, these cells are predominantly located around the neck and shoulder area, making cold showers an ideal way to activate them.

Promoting healthy and glowing hair and skin

Although there is not enough scientific evidence on how cold water affects the health of your skin and hair, personal experiences suggest that it has beneficial effects.

Dr. Jacqueline Schaffer, MD, an expert in wellness, explains that cold water’s tightening and constriction of blood flow can improve the appearance of the skin by giving it a healthier glow.

The website states that cold water can strengthen and seal the cuticles of your hair.

Unlike hot water, cold water doesn’t strip away the sebum layer, which is a natural protective barrier that keeps your skin and hair moisturized, according to experts.

With the beneficial impacts of cold water on hair, it is possible that over time, your hair may appear healthier and stronger.

If you have been hesitant to take a cold shower, it might be worth reconsidering. While the benefits of cold showers are numerous, there are relatively few disadvantages.

The negatives of cold showers

Taking a cold shower may not be suitable if you are already feeling cold, as the lower temperature can’t help you warm up. Instead, it may lead to further chilling of your body and delay the time needed for your body to warm up again.

Cold showers may not be recommended when you are ill. The sudden change in temperature can put a strain on your immune system, so it’s advisable to gradually adjust to cooler temperatures instead.

Why do we like hot showers?

You may be inclined to take a hot shower at night if you have difficulty relaxing or falling asleep due to the stresses of the day.

Gerrit Keferstein explains that taking a hot shower before bed is a common way to relax muscles and induce sleep because the heat activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which can make us feel tired.

Some benefits of hot showers include:

  • Providing relief from respiratory symptoms
  • Aiding in improving skin blemishes
  • Facilitating muscle relaxation

Providing relief from respiratory symptoms

A hot shower with steam has been a popular natural remedy to alleviate symptoms of cold and cough. The warmth and steam of the water can help with:

  • Help you breathe more easily by opening up your airways
  • Make it easier to cough up phlegm by loosening it
  • Clear your sinuses by opening up your nasal passages

Help in improving skin blemishes

Hot showers can help with the opening of skin pores, which facilitates the removal of trapped dirt and oil.

Facilitating muscle relaxation

Hot water can effectively help with body tension and soothe muscle fatigue.

However, it is true that a hot shower also has some negatives.

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 negatives of hot showers

  • According to Schaffer, hot showers can damage the keratin cells located on the outermost layer of our skin, resulting in dryness and a lack of moisture retention. This can cause irritation and dryness of the skin.
  • Hot showers can exacerbate certain skin conditions as the high temperatures can contribute to dryness, leading to the worsening of conditions such as eczema.
  • Hot showers can lead to itchiness as the heat triggers the release of histamine from mast cells in the skin, according to Friedman.
  • Hot showers can also raise your blood pressure. If you have hypertension or cardiovascular problems, taking a hot shower can exacerbate these conditions.

Which type of shower is better?

What should you do when there are clear advantages to both hot and cold showers?

Friedman suggests that ideally, you should take a shower with lukewarm water that is comfortable for you, and then moisturize your skin while it’s still damp.

A different method to consider is called a contrast shower, as explained by Keferstein, which was originally developed by Dr. Sebastian Kneipp.

To practice a contrast shower, you begin by standing in water as cold as possible for one minute. Then, you switch the water to as hot as you can tolerate for another minute. This method requires you to alternate between one minute of cold water and one minute of hot water for three to five cycles.

According to Keferstein, the benefits of the contrast shower come from the fact that the cold water causes the blood vessels to constrict, which redirects blood flow to the core of the body.

A contrast shower involving alternating between cold and hot water can help with regeneration and detoxification. This is because the cold water causes constriction of the blood vessels, while the hot water opens them up, allowing for increased blood flow to the muscles and organs.

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