Everyone loves a hot shower, except maybe your skin and hair. As it turns out, hot water dries out skin and leaves hair brittle, Sejal Shah, MD, a dermatologist in New York City, told Women’s Health. And, if you dye your hair, the color is likely to fade faster once the water gets steamy. To make matters worse, by stripping your skin of natural oils, hot showers—above 99 degrees—may trigger inflammation, causing rashes and exacerbating eczema. You may not like it, but the shower temperature that offers the greatest hair and skincare benefits is, well, cold.
Cold showers “strengthen the contractile fibers around pores, muscles, and hairs, which improves the firmness of skin,” says Carl Thornfeldt, MD, a dermatologist with over 30 years of skin research experience. Though many people believe hot showers open and clear pores, it’s actually wiser to close them. “Closing pores helps keep pollution from getting into the skin, at least temporarily,” Dr. Thornfeldt says. “It also strengthens the skin arterioles and veins to improve the blood vessels’ ability to both constrict and dilate, improving skin’s ability to respond to injury.”
The benefits of cold showers are numerous, but surely we can’t be expected to stand under cold water shivering every day—not to mention that too cold (below the body’s average temperature of 96.6) is also bad. Fortunately, Dr. Thornfeldt recommends a happy medium. “The best solution is to take a warm, tepid shower and then finish off with cold rinse for the last few seconds to still reap the rewards of the cold water,” he says.
Okay, that doesn’t sound too unbearable. Considering the fact that our beloved, steamy showers may cause so much damage to skin and hair, it’s best to switch to tepid temps to avoid losing natural oils and drying out, especially in winter when indoor heat is already sucking moisture out of skin. So, when the bulk of a warm shower is complete, finish off with a cool splash. Your hair and skin will thank you! Check out the other ways in which you’re probably showering wrong.