W -poor water is for wimps? Taking a cold shower hardens and strengthens the immune system? There are many myths around showering. Our experts clarify what effects different water temperatures have when showering.
How often and for how long should you shower?
“2 to 3 times a week are sufficient from a medical point of view. Because too much showering damages the protective layer of fat on the skin,” says dermatologist Dr. Athanasios Theodoridis from the Center for Corrective Medicine in Freiburg.
However, it also depends on your activities: an office job doesn’t require you to take a shower as often as a job that gets you dirty. By the way, it is not the shower temperature, but above all the soap that is decisive for hygiene: “Germs stick to the soap, so to speak, so that they are removed when you rinse,” says Dr. Ernst Tabori from the German Advice Center for Hygiene in Freiburg.
How long you should spend in the shower depends on the temperature: To protect the skin, warm showerers should shower shorter, a maximum of 7 minutes. Cold showerers can let themselves be sprinkled a little longer, up to 10 minutes is optimal.
Why do men shower so often?
Personal hygiene is not the main reason many men take a shower very often. “People shower mainly to feel more comfortable,” says dermatologist Dr. Hartmann from the Vein Center in Freiburg. Showering is part of everyday life for many people, although there is no need for hygiene at all. This is made clear by a study by the opinion research institute Kantar Emnid from 2017: half of all Germans even shower daily. “Unpleasant body odors also mean that many people shower more often,” explains Dr. Theodoridis. But it doesn’t have to be. A good alternative would be to wash the genital area and armpits with a washcloth, as unpleasant body odors usually only emanate from these areas.
How warm / cold can the shower be?
Basically: shower only as warm or cold as you can take it. Lovers of particularly hot showers should make sure that the temperature does not exceed 43 degrees. Excessively hot showers will dry out the skin too much. For cold showers, the following also applies: You should never suddenly shower yourself with cold water, otherwise you will give your body a cold shock. It’s best to start with lukewarm water and slowly reduce the temperature.
What are the advantages of which shower temperature?
If you are a shower fanatic, you should definitely worry about the warmth or coldness of the water. Because you can use the shower temperature specifically for your health:
1. What are the benefits of alternating showers?
When alternating showers, you always start with warm water to initially widen the blood vessels. Start with no more than 39 degrees for the first warm pass and do not increase the temperature above 42 degrees later. After about 30 seconds you switch to the cold water, i.e. about 14 to 18 degrees, depending on your individual pain sensation. Always start the casts on the legs, then the arms, then the upper body and finally the head. How often you change, for example 4 or 8 times, is up to you, the only important thing is that you finish the alternating shower with cold water.
Alternating showers strengthens the immune system: not cold, but alternating showers strengthens your immune system: “The blood vessels are trained by the cold-warm alternating shower, so to speak, which hardens”, says Dr. Hartmann. In a 2016 study at the Jena University Hospital, researchers tested the alternation of warm and cold showers in people with chronic bronchitis. After 10 weeks they had 13 percent fewer respiratory infections because their blood contained more lymphocytes, which are responsible for defense against disease. So if you are particularly sensitive to the weather, alternate showers are ideal for you.
- Alternating showers make you happy: Do you know the relief when you come into the warm apartment in winter, frozen through? Exchange showerers feel similarly. Dr. Hartmann: “The greater the temperature differences when showering, the more intense the feelings of happiness are perceived.” It is therefore worthwhile to start the day with a change shower. One possible explanation for the feeling of happiness: “Because the lymphatic system can work better, more toxins are transported out of the body,” says the shower expert.
- Alternating showers helps against sore muscles: Relieve your muscles after the workout: “Similar to compression stockings, the narrowing of the blood vessels during alternating showers can reduce the pain caused by sore muscles,” says Dr. Hartmann. A study, which was published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology 2011, supports the thesis: The sore muscles complaints in cyclists were less if they had showered alternately with cold and warm water after training.
- High blood pressure is lowered by alternating showers: Alternating showers also pay off for your circulation. Because: “By exercising the blood vessels, the blood pressure lowers a little”, explains Dr. Hartmann. So ideal for people with circulatory problems.
2. What are the advantages of cold showers?
Cold water in the morning? A nightmare for many! But these arguments speak for it:
- Cold showers are good for your skin and hair: dry skin? Straw hair? The cause could not (only) be the shampoo, but also water that is too hot. When the water is warm, the protective layer of fat on the skin comes off, causing it to dry out faster. Here, too, cold shower pays off: “Especially people who are prone to neurodermatitis or dry skin should take a cold shower,” advises Dr. Theodoridis. The hair also benefits: cold water deepens the hair follicles, making the hair look stronger and healthier.
- Taking a cold shower boosts fat burning : the shower temperature also has an impact on your weight loss success: cold water activates the brown fat cells, which, in contrast to fat-making white fat, do not store calories but burn them. However, brown fat is not particularly active in our body – however, these fat cells can be activated with cold water.
- Cold showers are less likely to be on sick leave: the belief that cold showers strengthen the immune system is widespread. Dr. Theodoridis: “But there are no studies that prove this”. But what researchers found out in a study by the Academic Medical Center in Amsterdam in 2016: Among the almost 3,000 participants, cold showerers were 29 percent less likely to be on sick leave than warm showerers.
- Taking a cold shower can help with depression : You are also doing something good for your mental health, because cold showering has an antidepressant effect. In the North American Journal of Medical SciencesIn 2014, the effectiveness against depression is explained by the increased release of beta-endorphins and norepinephrine during cold showers. The neurotransmitter norepinephrine, for example, regulates our attention, concentration and motivation – things that depressed people often lack. Therefore, a lack of the messenger substance is also associated with depression. So: If you have depressive moods often, daily cold showers can alleviate your symptoms. However, you have to do this consistently for several weeks, because overnight there will be no improvement.
- Cold showering protects you from germs: If the temperature is too warm, at most the germs will thank you. “Hot water dries out the skin – that’s how bacteria can eat you,” says hygiene expert Tabori. Especially if you already tend to have dry skin, you should rather take a cold shower – and not too often.
3. When is a warm shower healthy?
About 45 percent of all Germans take a warm shower, according to a survey by the opinion research institute Kantar Emnid. The term “warm shower” does not have a good image. But a warm shower is better than its reputation – if you don’t turn the temperature up too high.
- Taking a warm shower is the perfect stress reliever : Had another hard day at work? Then off to the shower! In the evening the water can also be hotter. “The higher water temperatures cause the vessels to widen – this relaxes the muscles,” says Hartmann. However, if you are under constant stress, a warm shower in the evening is not a long-term solution, otherwise your skin will suffer.
- Taking a warm shower fights colds: The water vapors that are created during a warm shower help to loosen the mucus in your nose. “In addition, if you have a cold, you should take a warmer shower for your physical well-being,” advises Dr. Hartmann. Because when you are sick, the cold puts a strain on your immune system. Tip: Shower oils with eucalyptus and thyme loosen the mucus in the airways even better.
- Taking a warm shower helps you fall asleep: once again not turning a blind eye? If you just can’t find peace in the evening, it’s best to sprinkle yourself with warm water. After a warm shower, the body temperature drops and the sleep messenger melatonin is released.
Conclusion: there is the right shower temperature for every situation
Whether warm, cold or alternating: all water temperatures when showering have various health benefits. If you want to strengthen your immune system, you should prefer alternating showers. After a stressful day, a warm shower is a great way to unwind. For dry skin, we recommend cold water to protect your skin.