For most people, one word comes to mind when you mention cold showers: why. But there’s a small, vocal faction who seem to love shivering in icy water. They talk about how it increases circulation, improves your skin, and reduces stress. A medical study from a few years back even suggested cold showers could make you less depressed. Family lore has it that my own grandfather was a fan of cold showers, and avoided all seasonal illnesses thanks to this icy armour. So, fine, I thought, I’ll try this for a week and see what happens.
Important to note: I went all in. Unlike some prior experiments, I didn’t ease into my cold showers with a 30 second warm version. Unlike the New York Times, I didn’t end warm showers with a cold burst. I just fully turned on the cold water, took a deep breath, and got in. Every day. For seven days. And here’s what happened.
ONCE YOU’RE IN, IT GETS EASIER.
Stepping under the cold water was the hardest part. But, before you know it, it doesn’t feel so cold.
You know how after a while in a hot shower, you have to turn it up even hotter to feel the same level of steamy goodness? The same is true of cold ones. Sometimes I’d gasp when I got in, but after 30 seconds it would feel downright lukewarm, even tolerable. I’d turn it colder to make sure I wasn’t cheating. I’d get used to that too.
By day three, even getting in wasn’t that hard. This was still a shower, still pleasant, still relaxing—even cold.
IT HELPED MY SKIN, BUT NOT WHERE I EXPECTED.
I trusted cold showers would help my skin. Because everyone says so.
“Extended exposure to water, especially hot water from your shower, can strip the skin of essential oils,” says Joshua Zeichner, Director of Cosmetic and Clinical Research in Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in NYC, “ultimately causing irritation and dryness.”
When I took a really hot shower, I’d feel a bit itchy, especially on my back where the water hits me. What I didn’t expect, though, was that cold showers would help… my hands.
After all, we wash our hands multiple times a day, and expose them to sun, work, and whatever harsh chemicals we use around the house. Giving them a break from hot water that made my fingers go prune-y made my hands visibly less dry.
THERE WAS ONLY MILD SHRINKAGE.
I GOT MY MORNING BACK.
Fact: cold showers are shorter. They’re not torture, but you don’t feel the need to hang out in there.
I’d heard cold showers can make you more focused or productive. But maybe it’s fairer to say that you no longer have a hot shower to blur the lines of your morning. Instead of dreamy steam time that put my mind on “snooze” and made me late, I had a quick rinse that did the job.
Sometimes I didn’t realize how efficient the whole thing was until I was dressed and sipping coffee only 20 minutes after getting out of bed. The things I did with my new time included eating a proper breakfast, reading intelligent news, and, okay, sleeping later (twice).
IT WAS GREAT AFTER A WORKOUT.
After a sweaty run, I found myself craving the cold. It was a way to feel refreshed, faster. And it stopped the post-run sweats that usually trickle on and on. You know, the ones that make putting on a fresh shirt a tricky game.
In fact, I hypothesized that my hot showers after workouts had only prolonged my sweating. Which kind of undoes the point of cleaning up.
I DIDN’T MISS MY “SHOWER THOUGHTS.”
I worried I’d miss out on those “great ideas” that everyone says come to you in the shower. But, to be honest, my shower thoughts are mostly half-awake musings about things I should remember to do. Which I forget because I have nowhere to write them down.
My coffee thoughts were far more productive. And the thoughts I had while shaving at the sink. Or commuting. Or any other moments of reflection.
It was worth it. Unless you have a cold, or you’re showering with someone who considers this torment (which they will), consider cooling off by a couple degrees. The dermatologist-recommended temperature is “heated pool,” meaning around 29 degrees celsius.
After the week I’ve had, that’s not even cold.
This article originally appeared on Men’s Health