Today’s Solutions: June 30, 2022

For when your mind is foggy, your body is tired, or when you just need to shake yourself out of a mood, taking a shower is one of the most refreshing things you can do! Whether you prefer piping hot sessions to quick cold spray downs, a good shower has the power to make anyone feel restored. 

That said, is a hot shower better than a cold one? There are many die-hard supporters on both sides, but here’s what a dermatologist has to say about it.

The benefits of a cold shower

Cold showers in the morning are great for energizing your body and can even boost your metabolism. Research suggests that they can lift your mood as well because of their anti-depressive effect. “A cold shower is expected to send an overwhelming number of electrical impulses from peripheral nerve endings to the brain, which could result in an antidepressant effect,” the study author states.

On top of boosting energy and mood, NYC-based cosmetic dermatologist Michele Green, MD, says that cold showers can improve skin health and appearance. “When cold water hits your skin, the body increases blood flow to maintain the core temperature to protect vital organs, while constricting circulation near the skin,” she says. Cold water is also soothing and can relieve itchiness, decrease inflammation, and tighten pores which all contribute to a clearer, brighter complexion.

On top of closing pores, cold water closes “the cuticle layer of the hair,” says R+Co director of content Adam Federico. “This can help to lock in moisture, as well as help to keep frizz and flyaways to a minimum. A cold rinse is particularly helpful for coarse/curly hair because of its ability to keep the cuticle from swelling (and becoming frizzy).”

But it’s not all positives when it comes to cold showers. According to Dr. Green, “a cold shower can put a strain on your body because the body’s natural response to cold water is to put the circulatory system into overdrive.” This could be especially risky for people suffering from heart disease, “because the cold water puts additional stress on your heart and could lead to irregular heartbeat or arrhythmia,” she adds. “Additionally, cold showers are not advised if your body is already cold. It can increase the amount of time that your body will take to warm back up.”

Hot showers

While cold showers close pores, “steam or a hot bath opens up the pores and makes it easier for dirt and toxin build-up to be cleaned out, leading to reduced blemishes and clearer skin,” says Dr. Green. “Hot showers also relax muscles and release tension in the body to induce a feeling of tiredness to improve sleep.”

If you’ve got a wound that’s been exposed to bacteria, then a hot shower might be your best bet as some bacteria can’t tolerate hot temperatures, so hot water “reduces chances of infection,” while promoting circulation to the exposed area, which can speed up healing.

But before you get too comfortable in that steamy shower, you should be aware of the negatives. “In truth, hot water can be very damaging for the hair,” warns Federico. “That’s because it serves to dehydrate it, plus it swells the strands and lifts the cuticle, making hair appear frizzier than it actually is.”

Skin conditions like eczema can also be exacerbated by hot water. “The heat can make your skin red and irritated. It also dehydrates your skin, removing essential oils and moisture from its surface.”

Lukewarm showers?

To get the best of both worlds, Dr. Green says that “a shower that is lukewarm is typically best. Cold showers can help reduce itchy skin and retain natural oils in the skin and hair, while hot showers help relax muscles, improve sleep, and can even relieve respiratory symptoms like congestion.”

If like most people, you don’t think you can give up a deliciously hot shower, then Dr. Green suggests doing “a cold rinse at the end—and make sure that you saturate the hair and scalp with the cold water.” 

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