Which is better for your skin a cold or a hot shower?

Taking a cold or hot shower is more than just a daily hygiene ritual. It can be both a boost in the morning to start the day well, and a relaxing moment in the evening to end the day. It can even make you feel better when you step out of the shower than when you stepped in. However, have you ever wondered if the temperature of the shower affects your body?

Your temperature sensors in the skin

Your skin temperature is around 30-36 degrees Celsius and can differ up to 12 degrees depending on the localization where you measure it. Cheek and lips are most sensitive to temperature.

In our skin there are receptors responsible for the perception of temperature. There are two types of receptors: heat receptors and cold receptors. Cold receptors are located closer to the surface of the skin than heat receptors. For example, on the forearm there are 7 cold receptors per 100 mm2, while there are only 0.24 heat receptors on the same surface. This means that our body is much more sensitive to cold stimuli than to heat stimuli.

The heat receptors are: Transient receptor potential vanilloid 1-4 (TRPV 1,2,3 and 4). There are also certain substances that make the heat stimulate skin sensors. An example TRPV1 responds to capsaicin, the active component of a hot pepper. But also allicin and diallyl sulfide from garlic, piperine from black pepper and gingerol from ginger. Heat pain starts at 44ᴼC, 1st degree burn at 48ᴼC and 2nd degree 55ᴼC.

The cold receptors in our skin are referred to as transient receptor potential cation channel M8 (TRPM8) and transient receptor potential ankyrin 1 (TRPA1). When a substance such as menthol is applied to the skin, it stimulates the TRPM8 cold receptor, creating a feeling of coolness. At temperatures below -10°C, ice crystals form in the skin cells, which can lead to freezing of the skin and tissues.


A fun fact about tiger balm

Tiger Balm is known to most people as a means of relaxing muscles and relieving local pain in muscles and joints. This popular product contains two active ingredients: camphor and menthol. Camphor has the unique ability to activate both heat (TRPV1,3) and cold (TRPM8) receptors. Because of this, it can provide relief from various types of pain. Menthol, on the other hand, only stimulates the cold receptor TRPM8 and can therefore mainly provide relief from pain associated with cold sensations. This combination of active substances means that tiger balm can be used for various purposes.

A cold shower

A cold shower in the morning is a pretty unpleasant way to start the day for most of us. Yet many have been tempted to adopt the habit. Soaking in cold water has purported health benefits, both physical and mental.

Origin of cold shower

The origin of a cold shower was first performed for health reasons in the early 19th century. Physicians used this to treat “insanes” to “cool hot, inflamed brains and instill fear in order to tame the impetuous will.”

In the mid-19th century, the Victorians realized that the shower had other functions, namely washing. It would be even better if the water was warm. Thus, the shower changed from an hour and a half of mental reset therapy to one that was pleasant and lasted about five minutes.

What is the effect of a cold shower on your body

Shower Cold

A Dutch study examined a group of more than 3,000 people in the month of December. They were divided into four groups and asked to take a hot shower every day. Group one was asked to end it with 30 seconds of cold water (10ᴼC), group two to shower off with cold water for 60 seconds and group three with 90 seconds of cold water. The control group was allowed to enjoy only a warm shower. The participants were asked to follow this protocol for one month.

After a three-month follow-up period, it was found that those who had used cold water had a 29% reduction in self-reported absenteeism from work. Remarkably enough, the duration of cold water use had no influence on absenteeism. In addition, 64% of the participants liked the cold water regimen so much that they continued it after a month! A possible explanation for this is the stimulation of the own immune system.

This study saw a 350% increase in your body’s metabolic rate after immersion in cold water (14℃). Metabolism is the process by which your body converts what you eat and drink into energy, so a higher metabolism means more energy burned. This can help with weight loss.

A hot shower

That also has some benefits for the body. Hot showers relax the muscles and in the evening it can induce a feeling of fatigue and improve sleep. Warm water also promotes blood circulation in the skin and muscles.

However, a hot shower has fewer advantages than a cold shower.

For your skin

Cold or warm water affects your skin barrier function and transepidermal water loss (TEWL). The higher the TEWL, the more moisture you lose from the skin and the worse the barrier function of your skin is.

A study (from 2000) showed the impact of water temperature differences on the skin barrier. Both hot and cold increased the TEWL from the skin and also increased skin acidity. With warm water more TEWL and a slight increase in your acidity (pH) compared to cold water. The combination of disruption of your skin acidity and TEWL can lead to disruption of your skin barrier. This can make a difference, especially for people with sensitive, dry and/or eczematous skin. It is better for them to take less hot and short showers. More about what you can do more against dry skin

Natural Moisturizer Cream: A Triple Action for Dry Skin

Dry skin can cause itching, flaking and discomfort. It is essential to keep your skin hydrated, especially in dry climates. Our Natural Moisturizer Cream offers the right solution with its unique triple action.

  1. Natural Balm: Our cream contains a rich, natural balm that deeply hydrates and repairs the skin. It prevents moisture loss and keeps your skin supple.
  2. Ceramide and Squalane: These ingredients help strengthen your skin’s natural barrier, which is essential for retaining moisture and preventing dryness.
  3. Glycerin: Attracts and retains moisture in the skin, keeping your skin hydrated for a long time.

For skin that looks healthy and radiant, hydration is key. Try our Natural Moisturizer Cream


Both cold and hot showers each have their own unique benefits and it depends on what you want to achieve and your personal preference. While most of us prefer a nice hot shower, a lukewarm or cold shower can actually be better for your body. Taking a cold shower can help reduce troubled skin, preserve the natural oils in the skin and possibly contribute to weight loss.

On the other hand, if you have trouble falling asleep or have a restless sleep, a hot shower before bed can help relax your muscles and calm your mind, which can lead to a better night’s sleep. In short, the temperature of your shower can have more influence than you might think!

While you are here

Winter is over and your thick scarf and heavy parka are exchanged for a lighter coat. Just like changing your clothes, your skin care routine changes. The dry, cold air outside and the warm, dry heating heat inside can have major effects on your skin during the winter months.

Winter and our skin, what’s happening? The winter cold, wind, little sun, heating & lower humidity, possibly that you shower longer and warmer or bathe more often have influences on our skin barrier. This leads to reduced hydration of your top layer of your epidermis, the acidity (pH) of your skin rises and the lower temperature makes you sweat less. In winter, less ceramide is also formed in your sebum, a lipid (fat) that consists of 50% of your sebum composition. This results in your skin becoming drier.

More on spring skin care

Picture of Dr. Francis Wu

Dr. Francis Wu

Dr. Francis Wu, een vooraanstaande dermatoloog, is de drijvende kracht achter Iconic Elements. Hij heeft sinds 2004 zijn expertise ingezet om een veilige en effectieve huidverzorgingslijn te creëren, geschikt voor zowel gezonde huid als huidproblemen. Iconic Elements, opgericht in 2016, is de eerste brede skincare lijn in Nederland ontwikkeld door een dermatoloog. Als medisch specialist streeft Dr. Wu naar het bevorderen van het welzijn van mensen door hoogwaardige en effectieve huidverzorgingsproducten te bieden. De proefdiervrije en vegan producten vermijden schadelijke chemicaliën en bevatten natuurlijke ingrediënten.
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