There’s nothing like a steamy shower to wash away all the dirt, grime and stress of the day. But it turns out that an ice-cold blast comes with some serious health- (and beauty-) boosting benefits. Here, five reasons why you might want to rethink which way you turn the tap.
It’s better than caffeine
You know how a warm bath can make you sleepy? A cold shower basically does the opposite. That’s because the temperature shock increases your body’s heart rate, which in turn releases a rush of blood throughout your body, kicking it into gear. The good news is that you don’t need to step into an ice bath every morning to reap the benefits—even ending your usual shower with a quick cold blast can increase alertness, say experts. Hold that double espresso.
You might lose weight
When we’re cold, brown fat (that’s the good kind, whereas white fat is the too-much-Netflix-and-chocolate kind) is activated and burns calories to keep you warm. How many calories, exactly? It’s unclear, but one Scandinavian study found that exposure to cold temperatures increased the metabolic rate of brown fat 15 fold, which could help you drop nine pounds in a year. Wowza.
Your hair and skin will thank you
As glorious as a steaming shower is, sadly it’s not doing your complexion or tresses any favors. Hot water is super drying (hello, eczema), but a cold blast soothes redness, reduces puffiness and closes pores to lock in moisture. When it comes to cold shower benefits, dewy skin and shiny hair are definitely two things we can get on board with.
You might feel happier
It sounds counterintuitive (happiness isn’t exactly the first thing that comes to mind when you think about a freezing shower), but a study published in the journal Medical Hypotheses found that taking two- to three-minute cold showers (like, 68 degrees) over a two-week period boosted the moods of participants. Researchers even suggest that cold showers could be used as a treatment for depression.
It could boost your immune system
You’d think that stepping into freezing water would make you sick, but one Virginia Commonwealth University study actually found that taking cold showers on the reg increased the number of disease-fighting white blood cells. This backs up research from a previous German study that found that people who showered for two minutes in frigid water developed fewer colds than those who took a hot shower. A few minutes of cold for a winter without a cold? Worth it.