When your shower water for some reason goes cold, you hop around trying to get yourself clean and out as quickly as possible. But could that instinct be all wrong? Recent science points to yes. Bracingly cold water immersion can be a key to better skin, weight loss, shiny hair and other beautifying benefits.
What is cryotherapy?
Whole body cryotherapy isn’t quite as sophisticated as it sounds – it simply involves cooling the surface of your skin. Of course, there are several ways to do this – from taking a cold shower to a cold water plunge to liquid nitrogen-fueled machines that cool your skin to -130°C (-266°F) within minutes.
Cryotherapy is gaining popularity with athletes, celebs, and biohackers with treatment centers popping up across the country. People pay to stand in -240°F chambers that look like space portals for a two or three-minute session, dropping core body temperature. The cold triggers anti-inflammatory norepinephrine release that reduces short-term pain from injuries and the blood vessels in your skin’s surface and muscle tissue constrict, forcing blood away from the peripheral tissues and toward your core.
If you don’t have access to a -240° cryotherapy chamber, longer (20+ minutes) cold water baths relieve sore muscles and localized pain if you soak within a few days of onset. But what does any of this have to do with your skin and hair?
Cryotherapy as a beauty treatment
Cryofacials, which are available at cryotherapy spas as well as general spas, use nitrogen in a small directed stream on your face to create a quick constriction and dilation of blood vessels, reducing any puffiness from jet lag or perhaps a late night with a few too many glasses of keto wine (hey, it happens!).
If a shot of nitrogen to your face sounds like a little much, or you don’t want to head to a spa every time you’re feeling puffy, you can recreate the result at home. While it might feel good to lather your face up with warm water, switch on the cold to increase blood flow to the skin on your face. Increased circulation gives your cells a powerful push they need to nourish your skin. Your blood carries oxygen and nutrients to your skin cells, boosting collagen production and giving you that youthful glow.
Ever put cool cucumbers on your eyes? Cryotherapy applies the same principle to your whole face. You can either incorporate cold water into your morning cleansing routine or try sitting with a cold washcloth on your face when you have a few minutes. Or, swipe an ice cube over your face for a few minutes after you cleanse at night or in the morning. Bonus, it will probably wake you up enough to get your Bulletproof Coffee prepped!
What about the rest of your body?
The impact cold water has on your face naturally applies to the rest of your skin, and incorporating cold showers into your routine can have a major impact. Hot showers pull the moisture from the skin, and in cold winter months, you end up with dry, itchy, flaky skin. Cold or lukewarm showers, while not as soothing as a hot shower, are much gentler on your skin.
A quick cold shower after breaking a sweat at the gym can also relieve delayed-onset muscle soreness, but challenging yourself to a below 50-degree shower every morning can push anyone’s limits. Especially during the cold winter months. Ease into it by starting with a lukewarm rinse and crank up the cold, shooting for a total of 2-3 minutes of cold every morning.
Cold water for shiny hair
You’ve probably heard that rinsing your hair at the end of your shower with cold water helps keep it shiny, and it’s true. When it comes to your hair, cold water helps to seal your hair cuticle. Hair cuticles are similar to shingles on a roof, and the cold water makes them lie down flat. A smoother hair cuticle better reflects light, giving your hair the appearance of shine.
Cryotherapy for weight loss
Your body responds to extreme cold by increasing your metabolism to heat up your body, which in turn burns fat through a process called cold thermogenesis. Cryotherapy can increase your metabolic rate by up to 350%.
Shivering causes hormonal changes that trigger the production of brown fat, which, unlike normal fat tissue, doesn’t burn many calories throughout the day. Brown fat is the good fat, which generates heat to keep our bodies warm, and is activated when exposed to extreme cold. You’re basically hacking your own metabolism, as active brown fat is more common in lean people than in those who are overweight. Shivering increases the level of a hormone called irisin, which triggers brown fat production the same way exercise does.
If you’re already exercising, you could get extra impact from shivering if you’re trying to lose weight, although more studies need to be done.
With the impacts to your body composition, skin, and hair, a few cold showers a week is worth a few minutes of discomfort. Start with as little as 30 seconds, and work your way up.
If you’re willing to try cold showers or cryochambers, you’ll love experimenting with the tips and hacks we send each week. The rest of them are much warmer 😉 Enter your info below to discover your next favorite biohack!