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The Case for Cold Showers

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Thanks to the novel invention of the water heater, most of us don’t have to endure a cold shower unless we’re the last to use it or someone (so kindly) flushes the toilet mid-scrub. However, experts suggest we may want to start turning the dial to cold on purpose to reap benefits like a revved metabolism, better mood, improved immunity, and shiny hair.

“A cold shower leaves oils in the skin for natural moisture,” explains Jessica Krant, M.D. “Any water exposure strips away the skin’s natural oils, but hot water does this much faster.” The less time spent under water, the better, Krant adds. And this is more likely to happen when you’re uncomfortable in a cold shower than a warm one.

Fortunately, you don’t have to be in there for long to reap those immunity benefits. A study showed that 5 to 7 minutes of swimming in 60-degree water amped up white blood cell count and increased concentration of helper T cells. “Cold is much more of a shock, [which] kicks the cardiovascular system into high gear to ramp up metabolism for the day," says Krant. There is some research that suggests the cold chill also activates brown fat, which can help burn calories.

Does the thought of 10 minutes of cold sound tortuous? Start with ending the last two minutes of your shower at a cool 68 degrees. A study investigating depression used this method and found that that temp lifted the moods of their subjects over a two-week period. 

And, according to Krant, there are beauty benefits to briefly going cold too. “Ending a shower with a blast of cold water will help seal down the cuticle, or outer layer, of the hair shaft. When the cuticle is sealed flat, instead of raised up like shingles, the hair shaft is more transluent and reflective, giving it a glow and shine difficult to achieve when a rough cuticle causes dullness."

The bottom line: While these studies do show health benefits, cold showers aren't going to be instantly life-transforming (or cure depression or leave you with luscious locks over night), but, hey, we're open to nudging our shower faucet toward the blue every now and then. It's worth the lower energy bill, at the very least!


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