By Malcolm Pascotti
Ahh, the cold shower. We’re not talking about when your brother dumped a cup of ice water over the curtain, or that moment when you’re standing under the warm water contemplating the meaning of life and somebody flushes the toilet, transporting you on a three-second journey to a glacier runoff. The cold shower we’re talking about is the deliberate kind. The kind that leaves you feeling ready to wrestle a grizzly, tell the bossman you’re taking a “me” day, or put a racing stripe on your modest but comfortably equipped sedan. In fact, a hot shower capped off with a cold rinse, often called a Scottish Shower, was a favorite of James Bond in Ian Fleming’s novels. Aside from making you feel like an unstoppable badass, taking a cold shower has legitimate health benefits you can experience immediately.
Better Hair and Skin
Hot water dries out your skin by stripping it of beneficial natural oils. It can even cause your skin to produce additional unwanted oil to compensate for the sudden dryness. Cold water tightens your skin and constricts blood vessels. This reduces the appearance of pores and reduces swelling and dark circles under your eyes. With cold water, your hair appears healthier and shinier because it flattens your hair follicles and allows them to better grip your scalp.
Stronger Immune System
After a cold shower, your body reacts to the temperature change by trying to warm itself. Your metabolic rates increase and the body kick-starts its natural bug-fighting defense system with a rapid release of white blood cells. Studies by Professor Vijay Kakkar, the founder of the Thrombosis Research Institute in London, show that circulation is increased and the body ramps up immune cell production when exposed to cold water for short periods of time.
Myles customer Ryan Clark (@rdclarkey) demonstrates the cold shower au natural on Instagram
Higher Testosterone Levels
No, taking a cold shower will not have you knocking dingers out of the park like Mark McGwire. And, thankfully, it won’t make you grow a bad goatee like the aforementioned slugger. It can, however, increase natural levels of testosterone by up to 17%. Research shows that hot water exposure puts your reproductive system into cooling mode, dropping the testicles in an attempt to keep them away from heat. Cold water allows your boys to stay at a temperature more conducive to proper testosterone production.
According to a 2009 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, brown fat cells in study participants were increased up to 15 times after frequently taking cold showers. Wait a minute—fat cells were increased? I know what you’re thinking, but this increase in fat is actually a good thing. The body has two types of fat tissue—white and brown cells. White cells are the type responsible for love handles and the buildup of fat on the stomach and neck. Brown cells are packed with mitochondria, the energy center of cells, and can be burned for energy to keep us warm. When the body is producing brown cells at an increased level, we more easily reduce the build up of white cells that occur during a caloric surplus. In fact, that same 2009 study found that participant had the potential to lose up to nine additional pounds of fat per year by simply taking cold showers.
Not shown: Bond following this hot tub soak with a dip in the ice bath
The Scottish Shower
A Scottish Shower can be a permanent routine or a way to ease into the full cold shower. A good way to try this out is by starting out with an extremely brief cold shower to cap off your normal process.
Try a simple 30-second rinse at a temperature cooler than normal at the end of your shower. Increase the duration by 30 seconds and decrease the temperature slightly every shower following. Once you reach several minutes of completely cold water, you will have yourself a proper Scottish Shower and will be ready to start taking cold showers fully, if you so choose.
Besides making you a badass and (possibly) a secret agent, a cold shower will make you a healthier man.
Malcolm Pascotti is a writer and photographer. Follow him on Instagram: @sweetteapapi.