Cold showers: Good for your skin, good for your mind, good for the planet!
As we go into Autumn, cold showers might be the last thing on your mind, but the benefits may make braving the icy water worthwhile. A cold shower is any shower with a temperature below 70 degrees Fahrenheit, around 21 degrees Celsius. The idea that different temperature water can affect the body has been around since ancient times, with ancient bathing houses having both hot and cool baths available to use.
So why not stick to a hot shower? Well hotter showers can strip your skin of natural oils, dry out your skin and damage the keratin cells in the outer layer of skin and prevent them from combatting skin damage. With the colder seasons approaching (which already dries out your skin) now could be a perfect time to take the cold shower plunge. Hot showers can also worsen itchy skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis because the warm water reduces the skins ability to protect itself. Heat also stimulates nerve endings which increase the itchiness.
What are the benefits of colder showers? Cold water constricts your blood vessels to tighten your pores and help reduce redness. In the long term this can make your skin appear firmer. By closing your pores you can also help avoid dirt getting into your skin which reduces breakouts. Cold water also increases your blood flow, carrying essential nutrients and oxygen around the body to nourish your skin cells. This helps the skin recover from damage by accelerating cell repair and can help prevent premature ageing.
Cold showers can also improve your skin indirectly. It is thought cold showers can improve your sleep quality and help you fall asleep faster. They are also thought to be good for your immune system with a Dutch study showing that taking cold showers can reduce the number of sick days you take (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5025014/ ). Both lack of sleep and illness can make your skin more spot-prone. Cold showers can also improve your mental health and by fighting stress can help improve your skin!
Taking a cold shower for 5 minutes 2-3 times per week was shown to relieve depressive symptoms in a clinical trial (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S030698770700566X ). The cold water causes the body to release endorphins, the happy hormone. Whilst research in this area is fairly new, cold showers are also thought to ease anxiety. When the body is repeatedly exposed to cold water, the stress response triggered by the cold is reduced over time. It is thought that this reduction in stress response can be translated into other mental stressors.
However, Gaia&Vie does not offer medical advice. Please seek advice from a medical professional when treating mental health conditions. Cold showers also may take some getting used to and so if you are in recovery out of hospital or your immune system is compromised in some way, it may be best to wait until you feel better to try them out.
Cold showers are also better for the planet (and your energy bill) by reducing your use of hot water. Climate change is a huge issue and lots of energy usage and carbon emissions are caused by big companies, but attempting to reduce your everyday carbon footprint is a positive step towards tackling climate change. Taking a cold shower also means you are likely to stay in the shower for less time, reducing your water usage. And got those who want glowing skin, Shorter showers also help skin by being less dehydrating.
After reading about all the benefits involved in taking a cold shower, I wanted to test out whether in practice this actually an enjoyable experience with obvious improvements to skin? It is recommended to start with a warm shower then slowly turn down the temperature when taking your first cold shower. So I started with the water at the normal temperature I shower in. I love a warm shower and have the temperature as hot as it goes and so this was going to be a big change for me!
I then began to slowly turn the temperature down, when it got to lukewarm, I found it was manageable and still quite relaxing. But when I turned it further down it was very hard to cope with. I was shivering, covered in goose bumps and could not think of anything except how cold I felt. I washed my hair and body as quickly as possible and leapt out the shower as soon as I could. So I can confirm cold showers reduce your water usage! When I got out I was still cold and desperate to put on fluffy pyjamas and get into bed.
I think to achieve any of the potential benefits from cold showers, you may have to have a few more than one. I can’t say I’ve noticed an instant improvement in my skin or stress levels but I think it is more of a long-term process than quick fix. People do say it gets easier to cope with the more times you have a cold shower. I’m currently debating whether to persevere but cannot say my first experience was the most enjoyable! Considering how hot I have my normal showers, I might attempt to go for a lukewarm shower instead and hope that achieves some of the benefits.
If any of you have cold showers or are going to try them out, please let us know how you get on via our Instagram dms. I would love to know what anyone else thinks!