• How Beneficial Is A Cold Shower?

How Beneficial Is A Cold Shower?

Research from the AMC revealed that a cold shower each day is healthy and leads to a reduction in sick leave. Such a daily cold start has already been shown to have a positive effect on depression. But what does a splash of cold water actually do to skin? Will it make you firm and radiant again?

Lovely fresh news
A study undertaken by healthy participants from the Academisch Medisch Centrum in Amsterdam revealed that a short cold shower each day has beneficial effects; it causes a reduction in absenteeism. By the way, it didn’t mean that there was suddenly a reduction in people being off sick, but that sickness became less severe and lengthy within the group ‘cool die hards’. Apparently cold showers have a positive effect on the immune system. Further research needs to be carried out into the biological process. In a follow up study the researchers want to see if the effects are measureable in brain activity.

Cold water and the brain
Studies have often been carried out to see if cold water ‘does something to the brain’, for example with depression. In one study, albeit with a small group of participants with depressive tendencies (not severe depression), a cold start in the bathroom appeared to be able to improve the mood for instance. Cold water, according to the research hypothesis, activates the so-called sympathetic nervous system and causes an increase in, among other things, noradrenaline in the blood, as well as an increased release of noradrenaline in the brain. This hormone is concerned, among other things, with emotions such as sombreness and depression. Thanks to all the receptors on the skin, a splash of cold water causes an immediate rush of stimulation to the brain, whereby an anti-depressive effect can be achieved. Stress hormones such as noradrenaline are also broken down quickly. Such a cold shower is primarily a pick- me- up.

But what does cold water do to skin?
Much has also been written– and alleged- about the effects of (alternating) cold showers on the skin and skin problems. And for this reason cold water should be able to make and keep pores smaller. Alternating baths, also known as hydrotherapy, are often promoted to improve the skin as well. Alternating between cold and hot showers can improve the blood flow. The skin should become tighter and firmer, giving complaints such as cellulite less of a chance. I, however, think very differently about this.

Avoid alternating baths for your face
Without beating about the bush: basically I always advise strongly against temperature fluctuations. Especially for people with sensitive skin and, in particular, with rosacea problems – since that already applies to twenty percent of women. Varying cold and warm baths is not good at all for the skin barrier. So I always advise showering with a temperature which is approximately the same as the temperature of your body; not hotter and also not colder. Of course a fresh dip is sometimes very invigorating. But try to minimise water contact with your face.

Small pores due to coldness?
Pores don’t just become smaller because of the cold. The size of these openings in the skin which lead to the sebum and sweat glands below is, to a large extent, genetically predetermined. But pores may be (remain) large or stretched because of, for example, long term obstructions such as in acne conditions. The skin openings have no muscles; therefore pores are simply unable to change size when the temperature changes. The same therefore applies with heat but in reverse; your pores don’t increase just like that. What does happen is that coldness and warmth can cause sebum and sweat glands to work more or less. Studies have also shown that warm water increases the permeability of the skin, allowing skincare products to absorb more easily. I am no advocate for water on your face which is too warm. It can dehydrate the skin.

Cold showers don’t rinse cellulite off
And what about cellulite on the legs and bottom? Don’t expect miracles from saunas, thermal baths and – also often referred to – massages. Cellulite arises through a combination of factors; a thinner deep skin layer, an irregular structure in the supportive connective tissue and an increase in localised fat under the skin. Sticking with the orange metaphor; cellulite is like a soft orange being pushed through a net with bigger gaps here and there. Unfortunately, in order to burn fat and strengthen connective tissue, more is required than just letting the blood vessels work a bit harder with alternating baths.

Kind regards,


Research Physician Cosmetic Dermatology

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