Taking a shower doesn’t have to stop at personal hygiene. By simply turning down the temperature, you can reap some pretty stellar health benefits. Sure, it will make for a chilling experience, but once you learn about the benefits of cold showers and believe in their positive effects, you’ll be hooked.

If ice baths and cold therapy pique your interest, you may have heard Huberman Lab Podcast’s episode, “Using Deliberate Cold Exposure for Health and Performance,” in which neuroscientist Andrew Huberman, Ph.D., discussed the positives of deliberately exposing yourself to the cold because you believe it will be beneficial to you.

In the episode, Dr. Huberman explained, “The key point is that your mental state is shifted when you are exposed to certain forms of cold, and many people use deliberate cold exposure specifically to shift their body state as a way to train their mental state so they can better cope with stress in real life.”

Cold showers are gaining even more popularity among health-conscious and wellness-focused individuals—for good reason. People on TikTok are raving about their benefits and life-changing results.

Doctor Sood, M.D., on TikTok, explained in a video that initially, cold showers can feel uncomfortable and even painful. However, “After about a week, your body will become desensitized and tolerate the cold much better. The proposed benefits from cold showers include benefits to your skin and hair, immune system, and will even make you feel alert for the day.”

Another TikTok user, Melissa Urban, Whole30 Co-founder and CEO, revealed in a clip that she started taking cold showers daily in 2020 for 365 days and continued the practice into 2023. “The benefits include instant energy and dramatically improved mental health … Basically, cold showers kicked me out of my seasonal depression.”

Whether you already believe in the powers of cold therapy or need some convincing, we spoke with experts who break down the differences between cold showers and cold plunges, the cold shower benefits you won’t want to miss out on, and tips for adding cold showers to your routine.

Table of Contents

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Cold showers vs. cold plunges:

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For those who have hopped in an ice bath before, you’re likely wondering how cold showers differ from cold plunges.

“Most scientific research has been done with cold plunges or ice baths, but cold showers can offer benefits as well,” explains Dorsey Standish, MS, a neuroscientist, wellness expert, mechanical engineer, and the founder of Mastermind Meditate. “Cold showers are more accessible and convenient for most people, and they can also be less intense, so they are a great place to start experimenting with the benefits of cold exposure. Cold plunges provide a more intense and immersive experience, so they may be better suited for athletes looking for deeper recovery benefits or people with prior cold exposure history wanting to increase their tolerance.”

Cold immersion times can vary depending on the individual’s preference. Research shows that taking cold showers for as little as 30 seconds can yield immune benefits, and immersing yourself in a cold plunge anywhere from five to 15 minutes can be beneficial. However, it’s always wise to check in with a medical professional to determine the ideal cold immersion time for you.

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The benefits of taking cold showers:

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When it comes to shower time, many of us have opinions. Some individuals prefer morning showers as opposed to nighttime showers, longer showers over shorter ones, and even showers that wrap up with a bath. Shower temperature is another hot topic of debate on which most voice strong views, Mike Bohl, MD, MPH, ALM, says.

“Some people may like a hot or lukewarm shower, while others talk about how great a cold shower can be and how it helps wake them up,” Dr. Bohl explains. “Well, while your specific shower routine should be focused [on] whatever makes you happy, relaxed, and clean, it’s true that there are some positive benefits to taking a cold shower.”

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While there is a growing body of research that suggests that voluntarily exposing oneself to cold water, such as in cold showers, may offer a range of health benefits—listed below—a 2022 review published in the International Journal of Circumpolar Health emphasizes the need for additional controlled studies to further investigate these promising results.

1. It helps wake you up.

The next time you wake up and hop in the shower, make it a cold one! Spending quality time showering in cold water can unsurprisingly help “shock” your body, meaning your heart rate, alertness, and breathing rate will increase.

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2. It positively impacts your circulation.

The blood vessels near your skin and in your extremities constrict when you shower in cold water, which helps bring more blood flow to your core and warm up your organs.

3. It helps you avoid dry skin.

If you didn’t already know, warm showers are wreaking havoc on your skin! Opting for a cold shower instead (or washing your face with cold water) won’t remove the natural oils of your skin as much as a hot shower would.

4. A cold shower can soothe or relieve pain.

According to Dr. Bohl, cold showers may help you deal with inflammation, which could help speed up your recovery time after working out.

One 2022 study found that cold exposure supported recovery after high-intensity exercise and endurance training by producing positive outcomes for muscle power, perceived recovery, and decreased muscle soreness.

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5. It can boost your immunity.

Research supports that showering in cold water can help you get sick less frequently. According to a study published in PLOS One, individuals who showered in cold water for a total of 30, 60, or 90 seconds called out of work for sick days 29% less than individuals who didn’t take cold showers.

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6. It can improve your mood.

Turning your frown upside down could be as simple as adjusting the water temperature of your shower. Research suggests that showering in chilly water can help relieve symptoms of depression pretty efficiently.

How to safely start a cold shower routine:

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Standish recommends wrapping up your regular shower with a 30-second cold water blast as you gradually get used to it.

“Over time, increase the duration of the cold exposure by 15 to 30 seconds each week until you can tolerate a full cold shower or at least several minutes of cold during each rinse (some experts/evidence points to a target of 11 minutes of cold exposure per week for significant health benefits),” Standish points out. “During the cold exposure, focus on deep breathing to keep yourself calm while your body adjusts to the temperature change.”

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Who should avoid cold showers?

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Taking a quick cold shower can be an incredibly invigorating way to wrap up your wellness routine, and we’ve established they’re associated with many health benefits. However, they may not be suitable for everyone.

“Individuals with cardiovascular issues (like high blood pressure or heart disease) should be cautious and consult with a medical professional before incorporating cold showers into their routine,” cautions Standish. “In addition, people with respiratory conditions or a history of cold-induced asthma or breathing issues should avoid sudden exposure to cold water. Always start any new health protocol gradually and pay attention to your body’s signals.”

In conclusion:

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If you’re looking for a quick, energizing boost in your daily wellness routine, cold showers are certainly worth a try. You’ll reap the benefits of improved immunity, circulation, skin health, and mood so you can kickstart each day in a positive, healthy way.

A version of this story was originally published in May 2023. It has been updated to include new information.

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