Total Shape is a reader-supported site. Purchases made through links may earn a commission. Learn more.

Do Cold Showers Help With Acne?
Everything You Need to Know

Isaac Robertson
Published by Isaac Robertson
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: May 10, 2021

Anyone that has suffered from acne breakouts at some stage of their life will know that you’d go to all extremes to fix the problem.

But is taking cold showers a bit too extreme or even crazy?

As someone who had acne as a teenager, this was a topic I wanted to know more about. So our team did some research to see whether cold showers help or make things worse and what other benefits you might get from it.

Let’s get right into it.

How Does Your Skin React To Cold Water?

woman showing her back while taking a shower

Now, there was a time when cold showers were pretty much the only type of shower, but there are some good reasons for using cold water as part of your skin care routine today.

And it’s not just for comfort reasons.

We got some input from a dermatologist about what happens to the skin in general, as well as what happens to acne.

General Reaction

The main reason for having hot showers is to open up skin cells all over your body to make it easier for soap to extract dirt, impurities, dead cells, and bacteria.

Cold water, on the other hand, has the exact opposite effect.

Pores close up as your skin tightens, and one advantage of that is that the process locks in water and keeps out dirt.

But what does that mean for pimply skin?

Acne Reaction

woman focusing camera phone on her face acne

One of the misconceptions around acne is that hot water opens the pores, loosens the clogged sebum, and then your skin can repair.

But the problem is that this process can actually stimulate more sebum production and the open pores are vulnerable to fresh dirt entering.

What washing your face with cold water does is tighten the pores to stop germs, oils, and beauty products from getting into the pores and causing infections.

The cold water also acts as an anti-inflammatory, which may ease the pressure during a breakout.

And there’s more to it.

Skin Benefits Of Using Cold Water

woman giving thumbs up while in bath robe

Our research has also pointed us to some interesting advantages of cold showers that extend to your general well-being [1].

But before we get to them, I just want to mention that increased white blood cells for improved immune response hasn’t been scientifically proven despite several websites mentioning it.

1. Improved Moisture Levels

So, I already mentioned above that cold water may calm sebum production and protect your skin from harmful germs.

And with gentle moisturizing soap, cold showers can also help to lock in more moisture making your skin appear healthier and even less wrinkled.

2. Healthy Hair Condition

man brushing his curly hair

What’s even more interesting is that something similar happens to follicles on your scalp.

They close up and tighten, making them stronger and more efficient at growing more hair.

Now, I have to admit that it’s one step I’m still struggling with.

Whatever about counting down from 10 while letting freezing water run down your body, but putting your head under that shower is another thing.

It can feel like quite a shock to the system.

3. Reduce Swelling

With a bad acne breakout, one of the big problems is inflammation and swelling.

People who suffer from bad acne often find that it’s very painful, and they can’t even bear touching the skin.

What cold water can do is reduce the swelling, allowing people to also gain some pain relief without having to reach for medication.

4. Lock In Nutrients

With a well-chosen acne cleanser, you should also be feeding your skin with vitamins and minerals to help it regenerate and recover from the damage.

By rinsing your face off with cold water, you’ll lock more of those nutrients in and give your skin the best chance to repair.

Downsides Of Using Cold Water

woman in a bath robe raising a thumbs down

OK, so there are benefits, but we have to highlight a few downsides before you think you’ve found the ideal skincare solution in a cold shower.

1. Locking In Impurities

I wouldn’t recommend only washing your face with cold water. The whole idea of a cleansing routine is to get rid of excess oil, brown fat, and sebum.

To do that, you need to open the pores enough to release it, so I would suggest washing with lukewarm water first.

Then, rinse off with plenty of cold water so that you don’t lock in the impurities for longer than you have to.

Your routine should be a combination of opening pores, releasing the dirt, and then closing them again.

2. Less Effective Skin Care Products

white putting cream on his acne face

Different products for all types of skin conditions rely on warm or hot water to activate the ingredients.

And many people underestimate how important that is.

You could end up spending a lot of money on specialist acne cleansers, only to wash away most of the content without any benefit.

Ideally, find an acne product that works with lukewarm water to limit how much the skin on your face opens up.

3. Far Less Enjoyable

Yes, I can’t leave this section without mentioning this.

While I appreciate the benefits of a cold shower, I look forward to it about as much as standing in the rain after missing a commuter train.

Just make sure you get your head around the fact that the advantages for your skin could be significant, and you’ll build up the courage.

How To Get The Most Out Of Cold Showers

hands checking water from shower head, man after his shower

That almost sounds like a crazy section heading, but there are ways to make it all a better experience.

Especially if you approach it in a way that your skin gets used to cooler water without causing that sudden shock.

1. Time It

What I do is set myself a time on my fitness tracker (make sure it’s water resistant).

At the start, it was just 5 seconds, but I’ve managed to increase it to over 30 seconds. And keep in mind that you don't have to be a superhero like crazy Ken at my gym who will sing away for 3 minutes under a cold shower.

2. Aim For Certain Times

woman in a bath robe while holding a bed side clock

I would generally suggest doing this in the morning. It’s great for waking you up and kick-starting your day, even if it makes getting out of a cozy bed a bit tougher.

The reason I wouldn’t do it at nighttime is that warm showers tend to help with relaxing your body for sleep, and a cold one might make it more difficult to get to sleep.

3. Gradually Lower The Temperature

Don’t change the temperature to the lowest setting and then stand under it. That can be quite unpleasant and a shock to your heart rate and blood flow.

Instead, over a few days and weeks, gradually reduce the temperature further after washing your body so that you get a bit more used to the experience.

Other Health Benefits Of Having A Cold Shower

As a personal trainer, I’ve also been interested in what other benefits we can get from having cold showers. It turns out that your overall body can benefit just as much as your face by cooling down your showers.

1. Boosted Immunity

Even if you only expose your body to cold water for a few seconds towards the end of your shower, you’ll get some benefits for your cardiac health and blood circulation.

And that combination may prove helpful for your immune system to function more effectively.

2. Faster Muscle Recovery

Now, if you’re an athlete and suffer from acne, then you’ll be interested to know that cold showers might help with your workout recovery.

Hot showers might feel great after a tough gym session to relax your body, but the cold may stimulate your muscles to speed up the repair and recovery process.

3. Reduced Inflammation

Now, you don’t have to be crazy like James Bond and jump into ice baths with a smile on your face. But a quick blast of cold might help with any inflammation in muscles, tendons, and joints, and professional athletes often use it for that reason.

Eliminating Other Factors That Could Impact Your Acne

woman chugging water, woman cleaning her face with water

Here are three tips we got from dermatologists that athletes should definitely keep in mind.

1. Stay Away From Oily Face Cream

Many athletes think that oily skincare products help after a workout to maximize moisturization. But the oil might cause all sorts of problems for acne-prone areas.

2. Avoid Dehydration

One common cause of acne flare-ups is dehydration, where the skin doesn’t get enough water to repair and clean out pores. This is especially a problem after sweating a lot at the gym, so be extra vigilant when it comes to drinking water [2].

3. Cleanse After Workouts

The sweat from your workout could also cause your pores to further clog up. That’s why a facial cleanse and cold shower after a training session is a good idea to remove some of the dirt content from your skin cells.

“Working out can cause excessive sweating, as well as a buildup of oil, dirt, and bacteria on your skin — all of which can lead to acne.” - American Academy of Dermatology Association.

FAQs

Does Acne Look Worse After a Shower?

Yes, sometimes acne looks worse after a shower. This is mainly due to exposing the skin to a lot of hot water for a longer time. As a result, pores open up for too long, allowing impurities to enter and producing more sebum.

Do Cold Showers Clear Skin on Your Face?

Cold showers don’t directly clear the skin on your face, but they may help to protect the skin from germs and reduce inflammation. Ideally, you should be washing your face with warm water and then rinsing off with cold.

Are You Going to Switch to Cold Showers?

I know how relaxing and comforting hot water is running down your body.

But switching to cold showers for the last 10 to 30 seconds might make a significant difference for your acne and overall health as well.

It reduces how much fat, oil, and germs might build up in pores. And the additional benefits of cold showers might help with your athletic performance and recovery times.


References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5025014/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2836431/

About the author

You may also like

Write a Reply or Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *