Taking a shower is the best $0 self-care method that there is. Think about it: A few minutes under the jet stream gives you an excuse to slather your body in fancy products while simultaneously washing away dirt/grime/stress/sins, and you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who didn’t feel better when they stepped out of a shower than they did when they stepped in. But one way to up your shower self-care game even more, aside from investing in a $22 body wash, is to turn it into a hydrotherapy session.
Hydrotherapy—which is a fancy word for “hot/cold therapy”—does a whole slew of good things for your body, and has become a spa-scene fixture over the past few years. But according to board-certified dermatologic surgeon and Lipedema specialist David Amron, MD, you actually don’t have to leave your bathroom (or even your shower) in order to experience it for yourself. He cites switching the water in your shower from hot to cold as one of the easiest (and free!) ways to activate your lymphatic system.
“Hydrotherapy has many healing health benefits such as relieving sore achy muscles, relaxing for stress relief, and its overall cleansing ability to detoxify,” confirms Tina Tsan, a licensed acupuncturist, adding that it also helps reduce swelling by improving your lymphatic function.
When you alternate between hot and cold water in the shower, it helps get the fluid in your lymphatic system moving, otherwise known as lymphangiomotorcity (… try saying that three times fast). The hot water causes your vessels to expand and get bigger (vasodilation), while cold water causes them to constrict and get smaller (vasoconstriction). “Alternating between hot and cold creates a pumping effect of the vessels, stimulating fluid metabolism,” explains Tsan. To do this on your own, stand under hot water for one to two minutes, then switch the stream to cold for another one to two minutes. Repeat for a total of 20 minutes, or until your skin is sufficiently prune-y—and you’re going to feel like you’ve just walked out of a spa.
A derm clears up once and for all whether you should be showering in the morning or at night (for the sake of your health). And during your non-hydrotherapy showers, be sure you’re not staying in there more than this many minutes at a time.
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