Waking up out of bed in the morning, as your feet quickly scurry across the floor to reach the bathroom, turn on the shower to 75 percent hot/25 percent cold, and swiftly dip your body under the warm water droplets that caress your skin, is one of the many luxuries you probably take for granted, including myself. Although we have all been caught in those skin-cringing moments without hot water, and have no choice but to quickly dance our way through a cold shower roaming around the tub in circles, it is mostly undesired. To practice what I preach, I recently took on the two-week cold shower challenge to immerse myself in some of the touted health benefits of the “James Bond Shower” or often referred to as a “Scottish Shower,” for my body, and these are the bone-chilling details of what happened.
Week 1: Cold Feet
My Morning Shower
Like any regular Monday morning, I groggily got out of bed after moving past layer after layer of blankets and quilts that keep me warm and snug throughout the night. With my eyes half open, I turned on the shower to my usual warm temperature and started to pivot my body into the tub, until my toes touched the floor. Soon I realized it was day one of my 14-day cold water challenge. Reluctantly, as I turned the knob from left to right (hot to cold), I stared up at the shower head for what seemed to me like a good hour before I took the plunge, my heart beating fast and my palms starting to sweat.
Initially, I wanted to scream some NSFW words, but I kept my screams silent in fear of waking up someone from a good night’s sleep. I tip-toed my way around the tub to lessen the impact of the cold water droplets hitting against my body like snowflakes on a cold January day. This was when I decided to take a dive into this pool of cold water that had begun to surround me. After five minutes of playing hot-and-cold with my showerhead, I placed my body underneath the running water with my heart racing, as I lathered up and rinsed my body.
My 5-foot-9 frame found solace in my microfiber towel and warm furry slippers as I swiftly made my way across the hall, and back to my room where I shivered up until I put all my clothes on. Although I had my first cold shower down, I dreaded coming back home that day for round two: the evening shower. I shower twice a day because I like to feel refreshed and invigorated in the morning, while at night, I shower not only because I commute in and out of New York City, but because I also exercise regularly and produce sweat.
My Evening Shower
After a long day’s work and exercising, my evening showers are a way for me to unwind by relieving stress, tension, and muscle soreness post-workout. Prior to the challenge, I’ve found on days I do exercise, I tend to take cold showers to cool off after an intense workout involving stair climbing and/or yoga. A quick cold shower helps me deal with delayed-onset muscle soreness. A 2009 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found 24-minute cold water baths were effective in relieving sore muscles one to four days after exercises with a water temperature of 50 to 59 degrees Fahrenheit, or 10 to 15 degrees Celsius.
Moreover, when I take cold showers after my workout, I feel more relaxed, and alert. This coincides with a 1994 study published in the journal Free Radical Biology and Medicine, which found there was a drastic decrease in uric acid levels during and following exposure to a cold stimulus. There was also an increase in gluthathione, an antioxidant that keeps all other antioxidants performing at their optimal levels.
On this Monday night, I got my evening workout in to lessen the anxiety of the dreaded cold shower. Still hesitant, but with more confidence, I turned the water knob all the way to the right, and got in the shower as the sound of the first water droplet hit the tub. In less than a minute, I was lathering my body, and washing the soap off my skin with ease, and no awkward circle dancing.
Week 1 Changes:
After completing my first week of cold showers, I started to see a difference in my skin’s texture. Although I do not suffer from dry skin, I noticed my skin was gentler, and softer to the touch, especially my face. Previously, I’ve written about my life long-battle with acne, and how using home remedies like Pepto Bismol has helped minimize my pores and reduce inflammation. As part of my everyday skincare regimen, I wash my face with ice cold water to help shrink my pores and keep the tissues on my face firm.
Dr. Kristel Polder, a dermatologist and skin care expert in Dallas, Texas, told Medical Daily in an email: “Hot showers pull the moisture from the skin. In cold winter months, this predisposes people to dry, itchy, scaly skin. Cold or lukewarm showers, while not as soothing as a hot shower, are much gentler on skin, even skin with diseases such as eczema and psoriasis.”
I not only wash my face with cold water on a regular basis, but also my hair. This helps keep it shinier, stronger, and healthier. Moreover, cold water flattens hair follicles, and increases their ability to grip the scalp. When I wash my hair (every two to three days), I find it easier to take cold showers, as my body quickly adapts to the bone-chilling temperatures.
Week 2: Feeling Blue
While it seemed I crushed week one of the cold water challenge, I hit an iceberg on week two. After the first two days of this new week, I began to develop a persistent cough and a runny nose due to the temperature fluctuations caused by the seasonal changes. After Tuesday night’s cold shower, I felt fatigued and unable to endure the ice cold showers I happily danced my way through all of last week.
Splashing my body with cold water no longer felt refreshing or invigorating. I felt physically and mentally drained, and relied on a heating pad to alleviate my swollen muscles — the contours of my body were covered in layers and layers of blankets and quilts. I was unable to complete what I thought was a possible feat because of my health, but I was able to reap the benefits of cold showers for a week and three days.
2-Week Challenge Over: Will I Do It Again?
Although I have not taken a bone-chilling shower for almost a week, as I recover from my cold, I would not dismiss doing cold showers in the future — willingly. Dipping my toes into a pool of cold water gave me an immediate adrenaline rush and encouraged my body and mind to adapt to the new setting. The two-week cold water challenge is not just about how long you’re able to take cold showers, but about being able to take on any challenge by training your mind to get stronger.
Cold showers have been therapeutic for me, and leads me to believe hydrotherapy could be a “water cure” for many skin conditions like eczema and mental health conditions like anxiety and depression. One day I will be able to jump into the shower without hesitation and turn the knob zero percent hot/100 percent cold. The freezing water will surround my body and I will feel that surge of energy overcome every fiber of my being without screaming or panicking.