Dehydrated skin is one of the inevitable consequences of ageing, but the habits that fill our daily lives have a lot to answer for too. There is mounting evidence that the temperature of shower water has different benefits for health. But as the temptation to prolong hot showers grows during the winter months, one expert outlines the detrimental effects this may have on the epidermis.
Hot showers have a variety of therapeutic qualities that include enhancing blood flow, soothing stiff joints and relaxing muscles.
Some evidence also advocates hot showers as a sleep aid, since hot water may naturally prepare the body’s circadian rhythm for sleep.
From a dermatological standpoint, however, hot showers could lead to a plethora of skin woes.
According to Martin Kinsella, this could speed up the appearance of aged skin, as the heat breaks down the moisture stored in the epidermis.
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This is because hot water quickly removes natural oils, resulting in dry and irritated skin.
Doctor Kinsella said: “When you reach a certain age, your body naturally stops producing as much oestrogen and therefore your collagen levels decline.
“When this happens, your skin may become more dry than usual and perhaps even itchy.
“Unfortunately, this leads to more irritation and more pronounced signs of ageing.”
Individuals with sensitive and dry skin are often told to avoid hot temperatures when showering.
But simply lowering the heat of water could help restore the moisture and delay signs of ageing.
“You should try opting for cooler showers, which are actually very beneficial to your overall health,” added Dr Kinsella.
Lou Sommereux, Clinical Director at Cosmex Clinic, a leading skin rejuvenation clinic in Cambridge added: “If your skin is dry or irritated, you should try not to scratch it and avoid using skincare, soaps and detergents with strong perfumes.
“Both of these things will only cause further irritation to the skin and make it feel worse.
“Cold showers increase circulation, calm itchy skin and have also been proven to help wake you up more than a hot shower.
“In addition, the cold water tightens and constricts the blood flow which gives the skin a healthy glow.“
In fact, one 2018 meta-analysis found that exposure to cold water could help reduce inflammation and muscle fatigue.
What’s more, participants’ perception of pain and fatigue was reduced up to 96 hours after exercise following cold water immersion.
A separate line of evidence shows that cold water could provoke a low-level stress response from the immune system.
This was illustrated within one 2016 study, which asked participants to shower in warm water, then switch to cold water for 30 to 90 seconds.
At the end of the study, results showed that those who ended their shower with cold water saw their sick absence reduce by 29 percent, compared to those who took warm showers.