Cold Water Therapy For Skin Conditions

  • Ella Brown Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Science, The University of Sheffield


What is cold water therapy?

Cold water therapy is the practice of immersing yourself in cold water. Typically, this means water that is less than 15℃.  Cold water therapy can involve:1

  • Having an ice bath
  • Taking a cold shower
  • Outside cold water swimming: 
  • Outside ice water swimming: swimming in water outside that is below 5℃

Cold water therapy only lasts for a few minutes at a time but is reported to have several benefits for the body. These include being beneficial for your skin and helping ease skin conditions. Cold water therapy can help:2

Reading on 

Cold water therapy has several other benefits related to muscles, exercise, blood pressure, mental health, and immune support.1 This article focuses on the benefits of cold water therapy for skin conditions, specifically psoriasis, eczema, and acne.  Read on to learn more about cold water therapy and how it could provide relief to your skin. 

Understanding cold water therapy

Explanation of cold water therapy

Cold water therapy is quite commonly seen on social media. Often, influencers and athletes post themselves taking ice baths. But what is cold water therapy, and why is it good for you?

Cold water therapy can also be known as cold hydrotherapy. It involves the use of water that is 15℃ or less. Cold water contacts your body to stimulate health benefits or treat a specific health concern such as a skin condition.3

Benefits of cold water therapy for skin conditions

Reduced inflammation

Cold water is a natural remedy to reduce inflammation.4 Cold water can cause our blood vessels to constrict (Vasoconstriction), which means our blood vessels get narrower.5 When blood vessels narrow, less blood flows to your skin,6 which can ease swelling.

Soothes itching 

Cooling your skin is always a good option to combat skin itches. This is because cold water has a numbing effect on the nerves. This, in turn, dulls down the signals to your brain that make you itch. Cold water therapy can, therefore, offer temporary relief to skin itching. 4

Pain relief

Cold water numbs nerve endings at the site of injury. This decreases the ability of nerve endings to send pain signals to the brain. 5

Tightening of pores

Cold water can close your skin pores. This prevents bacteria and dirt from getting into the skin.2

Types of skin conditions suitable for cold water therapy


Psoriasis causes the skin to flake into patches that form scales. Psoriasis patches tend to look red/pink, and the scales can appear white or silver. On black and brown skin, patches may also appear brown or purple, and scales can appear grey.7

Psoriasis typically affects:7

  • Lower back
  • Knees 
  • Elbows 
  • Scalp 

Psoriasis is not, however, restricted to these body parts and can appear anywhere on the body. Psoriasis can be itchy, sore and irritating. For some people, this irritation will be minor, but for others, it can seriously affect their quality of life. It is caused by the overproduction of skin cells, leading to skin cell buildup. It is a chronic disease, which means it is long-lasting.  It tends to involve periods of no or mild symptoms followed by periods of more severe symptoms.7

Cold water therapy offers a natural way to relieve the symptoms of psoriasis. As described before, cold water therapy reduces inflammation and pain and soothes itching symptoms related to the condition. 4


Atopic eczema is the most common type of eczema. It causes your skin to be:8

  • Dry 
  • Cracked 
  • Sore
  • Itchy 
  • Inflamed 

For some people, this will be contained in certain areas, and for others, it will be widespread.  Irritated /inflamed Eczema skin appears red on white skin and grey, purple or brown on black or brown skin. Eczema tends to develop in childhood but can also develop in adulthood. Like psoriasis, it is a chronic condition. The exact cause of atopic eczema is not known. Atopic means it tends to occur in people with allergies.8

Cold water therapy offers a possible relief to the discomfort caused by eczema. As described before, cold water can relieve pain, itching and inflammation. While cold water therapy can offer relief from these things, there is insufficient evidence to show that it can heal eczema skin.9


Acne occurs when tiny holes in your skin become blocked by an oily substance called sebum.9 It is a common skin problem that can cause irritation and issues with self-confidence. 

There is a lot of talk in the skincare and beauty industries over what temperature is best for your face. An important question regards whether cold water therapy is good for acne. Here are some key points to consider regarding washing your face with cold water to help with your acne: 

  • Using cold water to wash your face and taking cold showers does hold the potential to help manage acne because cold water can tighten pores and reduce inflammation.10
  • A good way to incorporate cold water therapy into your face wash routine is first using lukewarm water and then rinse with cold water. This will help prevent your skin from being stripped of natural oils.10
  • Several factors other than water temperature affect your acne. So, cold water therapy alone may not be sufficient for acne management.10

How to implement cold water therapy

Cold water therapy is an ancient medical practice traced back to ancient Greece. There are several ways it can be implemented, from a quick wash of the face to a full-body immersive ice bath: 3

Cold water showers

This involves turning your water temperature down to 15℃ for 2-3 minutes. This is a good introduction to cold water therapy.1

Cold compress

Apply an Ice pack or Ice towel to an irritated skin area.13

Cold water immersion 

This involves submerging your whole body from the neck down into the water that is no warmer than 15℃ for a maximum of 15 minutes.3 Cold water immersion can be experienced via: 

  • Ice bath
  • Cold water swimming: Fresh outdoor swimming in cold water. It is important to stay safe while swimming. Here are 4  tips to remain safe:1
    • Never go alone
    • Join an organised outdoor swimming group 
    • New starters should begin in the summer to build up to colder temperatures 
    • Warm up gradually: It is dangerous to go straight from cold water swimming to a hot shower. Instead, start by changing to warm/dry clothes and having a hot drink or snack. 

Cold water face wash

A cold water face rinse can help reduce facial puffiness and inflammation.14

Precautions and considerations

Experts recommended speaking to your doctor before pursuing cold water therapy. Moreover, some groups of people should not pursue it at all:15

  • Elderly 
  • People who suffer from heart disease: This is because entering ice-cold water can put stress on the heart, putting these people at risk of heart attacks. 

Some common dangers to immersive cold water therapy include:15 

  • Hypothermia:  Prolonged contact with cold water can lead to hypothermia. This is where the body loses heat faster than it can be produced.
  • Cold Shock response:  Sudden contact with cold water can send your body into shock. This can cause shortness of breath and accelerated heart rate. As described before, this is a particular concern for people with pre-existing heart conditions.
  • Frostbite: In extreme situations, cold water can cause frostbite. This is where your skin freezes, causing tissue damage. Frostbite is caused by prolonged exposure to freezing temperatures, typically below -0.55℃. 

Keeping safe

Here are some tips to keep safe whilst using cold water therapy to tackle your skin conditions: 

  • Keep cold water exposure brief: The general rule is not to exceed 15 minutes but new starters should keep it even briefer.15
  • Stop when you feel extreme numbness or pain15
  • Have dry clothes, a towel, and a warm drink ready for after your ice bath or outdoor swim15
  • Avoid driving right after15
  • Avoid a hot shower right after1


Cold water therapy provides a potential method to ease pain, inflammation, and itchiness related to skin conditions such as acne, psoriasis, and eczema. Cold water therapy can vary from a cold shower, washing your face with cold water, using cold compression, and immersing your whole body from the neck down in cold water.

Cold water can help skin conditions by causing blood vessels to narrow, reducing inflammation in affected areas. Moreover, cold can numb our nerves, slowing down pain and itching sensation signals to the brain.5

Care should be taken with cold water therapy, with doctors' advice being important. Extra precautions should be considered for immersive cold water therapy to avoid dangerous outcomes such as hypothermia. Immersive cold water therapy shouldn't be prolonged, and certain steps should be followed afterwards. It should be avoided completely by the elderly and people with heart conditions; other means of treating skin conditions are safer for these groups of people. 15


  1. Is cold water therapy good for you? [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 8]. Available from:
  2. Benefits of cold showers: from beautiful skin to improved mental health [Internet]. MYSA. 2023 [cited 2024 Feb 8]. Available from:
  3. Forbes Health [Internet]. 2023 [cited 2024 Feb 8]. Cold water therapy: how it works, types and benefits. Available from:
  4. Sanford L. Ice Barrel. 2023 [cited 2024 Feb 8]. Psoriasis relief with cold water immersion. Available from:
  5. Monk [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 8]. Pain management benefits of cold water. Available from:
  6. Cleveland Clinic [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 8]. Vasoconstriction: what is it, symptoms, causes & treatment. Available from:
  7. [Internet]. 2017 [cited 2024 Feb 9]. Psoriasis. Available from:
  8. [Internet]. 2017 [cited 2024 Feb 9]. Atopic eczema. Available from:
  9. Cold showers for eczema: why you should consider them | my eczema team [Internet].          [cited 2024 Feb 9]. Available from:,shower%2C%20the%20concept%20is%20similar.
  10. [Internet]. 2017 [cited 2024 Feb 9]. Acne - causes. Available from:
  11. EXPOSED SC. EXPOSED Skin Care. Is cold Water Good for Acne? (What You Need to Know). Available from:
  12. 6 cold shower benefits to consider [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 9]. Available from:
  13. Ice packs vs. Warm compresses for pain [Internet]. 2021 [cited 2024 Feb 9]. Available from:
  14. Skincare DDG. Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare. [cited 2024 Feb 9]. Washing face with cold water vs warm water | dr. Dennis gross. Available from:
  15. Pan American Life Insurance Group. Pan American Life Insurance Group. Cold Water Therapy: Benefits and Risks of Ice Baths. Available from:
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Ella Brown

Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Science, The University of Sheffield

Biomedical Science Graduate with extensive knowledge of human health and disease. Experienced in explaining complex scientific concepts to the lay audience in clear and engaging ways. presents all health information in line with our terms and conditions. It is essential to understand that the medical information available on our platform is not intended to substitute the relationship between a patient and their physician or doctor, as well as any medical guidance they offer. Always consult with a healthcare professional before making any decisions based on the information found on our website.
Klarity is a citizen-centric health data management platform that enables citizens to securely access, control and share their own health data. Klarity Health Library aims to provide clear and evidence-based health and wellness related informative articles. 
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