Dr. Andrea Middleton - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Andrea Middleton

Are Hot Tubs Bad For You?

Also Known As: Jacuzzi, Spa tubs



Short answer

Hot tubs can lead to skin and hair dryness, irritation, and potential infection risks without proper upkeep. Overheating and heat-related illnesses are also concerns if not used responsibly. Regular use can temporarily affect blood pressure and circulation, so people with heart conditions or hypertension must be cautious. Despite these risks, hot tubs offer benefits such as stress and pain relief if safely enjoyed with awareness and moderation.



Long answer

Hot Tub Effects on Skin and Hair Health

Indulging in a hot tub session can be a double-edged sword for your skin and hair health. While it's a go-to for relaxation, understanding how it affects your body's largest organ and your tresses is crucial. Let's dive into the impact hot tubs can have on your skin and hair, and how to mitigate any negative effects.

Chlorine Exposure and Skin

Most hot tubs utilize chlorine or bromine to keep the water free from bacteria and other pathogens. Although effective as disinfectants, these chemicals can strip the skin of its natural oils, leading to dryness and irritation. This is particularly true for individuals with sensitive skin or conditions like eczema, where prolonged exposure to chlorinated water might exacerbate symptoms. According to a study published in the Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, individuals with atopic dermatitis experienced increased skin dryness and irritation after swimming in chlorinated pools, which could be similar with hot tub use.

Hot Water and Skin Elasticity

The high temperatures in hot tubs can also wreak havoc on your skin's elasticity. Hot water can cause the skin to become flushed as it tries to cool down the body, leading to temporary redness and potentially exacerbating conditions like rosacea. Over time, the heat may break down the elastic and collagen fibers in the skin, leading to premature aging. A clinical overview from The American Academy of Dermatology Association underscores the effect of heat as a trigger for rosacea flare-ups, suggesting moderation in hot tub usage for those affected by the condition.

Effects on Hair Health

Immersing your hair in hot tub water may lead to similar issues of dryness and brittleness. Chlorine can strip hair of its natural oils, and repeated exposure could even lighten color-treated hair or give a greenish tint due to chlorine binding to the hair shaft. The high water temperatures exacerbate this effect by opening up the hair cuticles, making them more susceptible to damage. According to research in the International Journal of Dermatology, swimmer's hair associated with pool water could apply to frequent hot tub users, highlighting the potential for hair damage with consistent exposure to chlorinated water.

Preventive Measures and Hair Protection

  • Shower before and after hot tub use to rinse off excess chemicals.
  • Apply a pre-swim lotion or oil designed to form a protective barrier on the skin.
  • Wear a swim cap or apply leave-in conditioner to protect hair before getting into a hot tub.
  • Limit time spent in hot tubs, especially for those with pre-existing skin and hair issues.
  • Moisturize skin immediately after hot tub use to replenish lost moisture.
  • Use a swimmer's shampoo and deep conditioner after hot tub use to mitigate chlorination effects on hair.

Taking these steps can help minimize the negative effects of hot tubs on your skin and hair health. It's important to balance the enjoyment of hot tubs with the potential for harm to your body's outer layer and the crowning glory that is your hair.

As with any self-care practice, moderation is key; if you notice your skin or hair reacting poorly to regular hot tub use, it may be time to reevaluate your routine. Always consult with a dermatologist or healthcare provider if you have concerns or experience significant changes in your skin or hair health related to hot tub use.

Risk of Overheating and Heat-Related Illnesses

As inviting as a dip in the hot tub may sound, there's a delicate balance between relaxation and the risk of overheating. Our bodies are well-equipped to regulate our core temperature, but in certain situations—like soaking in a hot tub—the systems responsible for temperature control can become overwhelmed.

Overheating can occur when your body's internal temperature rises to a level that causes harm. It happens when your body absorbs more heat than it can dissipate. When you're in a hot tub, the heat prevents your body from cooling itself through sweating by increasing the surrounding humidity. Your core temperature can rise unchecked if you stay in too long or if the water is too hot.

Understanding Heat-Related Illnesses:

  • Heat Exhaustion: A precursor to more serious heat-related illnesses, heat exhaustion occurs when your body overheats. Symptoms include dizziness, headache, and fainting.
  • Heat Stroke: This is a medical emergency that can quickly escalate from mild symptoms such as nausea and confusion to serious ones like seizures and loss of consciousness. Heat stroke happens when your body's temperature regulation system fails and internal temperature rises above 104°F (40°C).

Studies and experts have weighed in on how to best enjoy hot tubs while mitigating the risk of overheating:

  1. Limit your time: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends not spending more than 10-15 minutes at a time in a hot tub (especially at temperatures above 100°F).
  2. Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of cool fluids before and after using the hot tub. This helps your body sweat and maintain a normal temperature.
  3. Pay attention to your body: If you start to feel dizzy, nauseous, or you have a headache—get out immediately.
  4. Adjust temperature settings: The National Swimming Pool Foundation suggests setting hot tub temperatures to 102°F (39°C) or lower to reduce overheating risks.
  5. Consider individual risk factors: Pregnant women, children, older adults, and those with pre-existing conditions such as heart disease should be particularly careful, as these groups are at higher risk for heat-related illnesses.

It's important to make the distinction that while the hot tub itself is not inherently bad for you, improper use can lead to overheating and subsequent heat-related illnesses. Ensuring that you and your loved ones follow safety guidelines can prevent these health risks and allow for a safe, relaxing experience in the hot tub.

Finally, it's always prudent to consult with your doctor if you have any concerns about using a hot tub, especially if you belong to any of the higher-risk groups or have underlying health conditions.

The Threat of Bacterial Infections and Proper Sanitation

Engaging in relaxation activities such as soaking in a hot tub can be incredibly soothing for both the mind and the body. However, the warmth and moisture that make hot tubs so alluring also create ideal conditions for bacteria to thrive. To ensure that these calming retreats don’t turn into sources of infection, it's critical to understand the potential risks and the importance of proper sanitation.

One of the primary concerns with hot tubs is the risk of dermatitis, commonly known as hot tub rash, caused by the bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa. A study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health emphasizes that this opportunistic pathogen can survive under a wide range of conditions and is frequently found in inadequately disinfected water, including hot tubs. When this bacterium comes into contact with skin, it may cause itchy spots and a bumpy rash, potentially with pus-filled blisters around hair follicles.

Another significant threat posed by improperly maintained hot tubs is Legionnaires’ disease, a severe form of pneumonia. Legionella, the bacteria responsible for this condition, flourishes in warm, stagnant water and can become a health hazard when inhaled through steam or mist. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report instances where individuals have contracted the disease from a hot tub that was not properly disinfected.

When considering hot tub safety and hygiene, several factors should be carefully managed:

  • Chemical Levels: Regular monitoring and adjusting of chlorine or bromine levels are essential to ensure they remain at concentrations effective for sanitizing the water without causing skin irritation.
  • pH Balance: Maintaining the appropriate pH level (typically between 7.2 and 7.8) is crucial. Water that's too acidic or too alkaline can reduce the disinfectant's efficacy and potentially harm the skin and eyes.
  • Regular Maintenance: Routine cleaning of the filters and the surrounding area of the hot tub is necessary to prevent biofilm formation, a layer where bacteria can grow protected from disinfectants.
  • Water Replacement: It’s recommended to completely replace the water in the hot tub every 3 to 4 months to reduce the risk of accumulated contaminants that can elude routine treatment.
  • Shower Before Use: To reduce the introduction of sweat, cosmetics, or natural body oils into the hot tub water, which can provide food for bacteria, users should shower before entering the tub.
  • Health Status Consideration: Individuals with open wounds or compromised immune systems should avoid using hot tubs, as their risk of infection is significantly higher.

It's worth noting that proper hygiene and sanitation are not only responsibilities of public hot tub facilities but also of private owners. While we gravitate towards hot tubs for their therapeutic properties, the existence of such health concerns underscores the importance of education and responsible maintenance practices for anyone looking to indulge in their benefits.

To minimize the risks associated with hot tub use, users should stay informed about proper hot tub maintenance and heed recommendations from relevant health departments and agencies. By doing so, we can all continue to enjoy the restorative benefits of hot tubs without compromising our health.

Blood Pressure and Circulatory Changes in Hot Tubs

The soothing experience of sinking into a hot tub can feel like the ultimate relaxation for both the body and mind. But what's really happening within your circulatory system when you're enveloped in those warm waters? Understanding the effects on blood pressure and circulation is key to enjoying hot tubs safely.

When you enter a hot tub, your body temperature rises. In response, your blood vessels dilate, a process known as vasodilation. This leads to an initial decrease in blood pressure as the resistance to blood flow decreases. For many, this can contribute to the sense of relaxation. However, it's a temporary effect and can be followed by a slight increase in blood pressure as the heart works harder to pump blood through the expanded vessels.

For those with normal blood pressure, these fluctuations are typically well-tolerated. But for individuals with hypertension or heart disease, it's a different story. The American Heart Association suggests that those with these conditions should exercise caution with hot tub use or avoid it altogether. A point of note, particularly for hypertensive individuals, is that the combination of high temperature and their condition could lead to unpredictable and potentially dangerous changes in blood pressure.

  • Consultation with Healthcare Providers: If you have pre-existing heart conditions or high blood pressure, it's critical to talk with your healthcare provider before diving into hot tub use. They can help assess your personal risk and provide guidelines tailored to your health.
  • Monitor Time Spent: Limiting the amount of time spent in a hot tub is also recommended. Mayo Clinic advises not exceeding 15-20 minutes at one time in the hot tub to minimize circulatory system stress.
  • Hydration: Ensure adequate hydration before and after hot tub use. Dehydration can exacerbate the effects of heat on blood pressure and circulation.
  • Gradual Entry: Slowly entering the hot tub can help your body adjust to the temperature change and may reduce the risk of a rapid drop in blood pressure.

There's promising research, too, that hints at potential benefits for certain people. A study published in the Journal of Physiology reported that regular hot tub therapy improved aspects of cardiovascular health in individuals with compromised circulation. It highlighted improvements in blood pressure and heart rate variability, one of the markers of a healthy heart.

Yet, positive findings in clinical settings don't dismiss the need for caution. Like all practices related to health, hot tub use is best personalized. It's important to consider your own medical history and consult with a health professional, who can provide advice based on up-to-date research and guidelines.

In short, listening to your body is key when enjoying the warmth of a hot tub. By being informed about the potential changes to your blood pressure and circulatory system, and taking appropriate precautions, you can help ensure that your leisure time doesn't become a health hazard. This balanced approach to well-being allows you to savor the benefits of relaxation while staying safe and heart-smart.

Hot Tubs: Safe Practices for Prolonged Use

Maintaining both health and pleasure when using a hot tub involves understanding the balance between soaking time and safety. While hot tubs can offer relaxation and contain therapeutic qualities, there are some precautions to consider to avoid potential health risks, particularly with extended use. Here’s how you can safely enjoy your hot tub without compromising your well-being.

  • Limit Soak Time: Health experts recommend limiting individual hot tub sessions to 15-30 minutes at a time. Staying in a hot tub longer can raise the body's core temperature too much, leading to overheating and dehydration.
  • Stay Hydrated: Always keep a bottle of water at hand to replenish fluids lost through sweating. Avoid alcohol and caffeine before or during use, as these substances can exacerbate dehydration and have adverse effects when combined with high temperatures.
  • Cool Down Periods: After soaking, allow your body to cool down gradually. Take a tepid shower or sit in a cooler environment to help your body adjust to normal temperatures.
  • Monitor Temperature Settings: The Consumer Product Safety Commission suggests a safe water temperature of 104°F (40°C) or lower. At higher temperatures, the risk of heat-related health issues increases.
  • Watch for Warning Signs: If you feel lightheaded, dizzy, nauseous, or overly tired, exit the hot tub immediately. These symptoms can signal that your body is struggling to cope with the heat and needs a break.
  • Keep Your Head Above Water: To reduce the risk of overheating, ensure your head and neck remain above water. This helps your body regulate temperature by allowing heat to dissipate from your head.
  • Skin Considerations: Prolonged exposure to hot water can strip oils from your skin, leading to dryness or irritation. Minimize soak times if you have sensitive skin and consider using mild moisturizers after hot tub use to restore hydration to your skin.
  • Consult with Health Professional: If you have pre-existing health conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, pregnancy, or skin issues, it's wise to consult with a healthcare professional before using a hot tub regularly.

By integrating these safety practices into your hot tub routine, you can enjoy the benefits of relaxation and hydrotherapy without exposing yourself to unwanted health risks. Remember, moderation and awareness are key factors in prolonging safe use of any facility that subjects the body to extreme environments.

Potential Benefits of Hydrotherapy and Relaxation

When discussing whether hot tubs are bad for you, a crucial factor to consider is the unique advantages that hydrotherapy and relaxation can offer. Engaging in a warm soak can produce several beneficial effects on both the body and the mind. These effects are not just subjectively pleasant; they have been confirmed by numerous studies to improve various aspects of health and well-being. Let's dive into some of the potential benefits you might experience from spending time in a hot tub:

  • Improved Circulation: The heat from hot tub water helps to dilate blood vessels, which can improve circulation throughout the body. Enhanced blood flow can facilitate the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to your tissues, aiding in recovery and overall cardiovascular health.
  • Reduction in Muscle Tension: The combination of warm water and massage jets offers a therapeutic effect on tense muscles. This can help alleviate pain, reduce stiffness, and enhance flexibility, particularly beneficial for individuals with chronic pain conditions or those recovering from muscle injuries.
  • Stress Relief: Hot tubs can offer a tranquil environment that aids in reducing mental stress. The soothing effect of warm water and targeted jet streams can stimulate the production of endorphins, the body’s natural stress-fighters, promoting relaxation and enhancing mood.
  • Better Sleep Patterns: Spending time in a hot tub before bedtime can help in inducing sleep. The drop in body temperature after getting out of the hot water can signal the body that it's time for sleep, making it easier to fall asleep and improving sleep quality.
  • Joint Pain Relief: For those with arthritis or other joint issues, the buoyancy provided by hot water can lessen the pressure on joints, offering relief and promoting ease of movement.
  • Detoxification: The sweating induced by the warm environment of a hot tub may help the body in its natural detoxification process, removing toxins through the skin.

In addition to these physical health benefits, don't overlook the value of taking time for yourself. Self-care practices, such as spending time in a hot tub, can play a key role in your mental and emotional health, contributing to a more balanced and fulfilling lifestyle. While it's essential to enjoy hot tubs in moderation and be mindful of any personal health conditions that may warrant caution, incorporating the practice into a well-rounded routine of self-care can offer a host of rewards.

It's worth mentioning, however, that those who are pregnant, have heart conditions, or suffer from issues such as low blood pressure should consult with a healthcare professional before using a hot tub due to the increased risk that comes with elevated temperatures. As with any wellness practice, personal circumstances and health considerations should be taken into account to maximize the benefits while minimizing any potential risks.

Frequently asked questions

Yes, individuals with cardiovascular concerns should consult with their healthcare provider before using a hot tub, limit their soak time, stay hydrated, enter and exit the tub slowly to allow their body to adjust, and monitor their body’s response to the heat to prevent complications.

Excessive use of hot tubs can indeed strip away natural oils that keep your skin moisturized, leading to chronic dryness. Moderation, along with proper pre- and post-hot tub skin care, such as moisturizing with lotions or creams, can help prevent the development of persistently dry skin.

To protect your hair from chlorine and heat damage, it's recommended to rinse your hair with fresh water before entering the hot tub, apply a leave-in conditioner or oil as a protective barrier, and use a swim cap. Afterward, wash your hair with a swimmer's shampoo and use a deep conditioner to replenish moisture.

Children can be more sensitive to high temperatures, so it's crucial to limit their time in hot tubs to short intervals (e.g., 5-10 minutes), ensure the water temperature is not too hot (preferably lower than 100°F), and always supervise them closely to prevent overheating or drowning risks.

Ask a question about Hot Tubs and our team will publish the answer as soon as possible.

Possible short-term side effects

  • dryness
  • irritation
  • redness
  • brittleness of hair
  • lightened color-treated hair
  • greenish tint in hair
  • dizziness
  • headache
  • fainting
  • nausea
  • confusion
  • rash
  • itchiness
  • pus-filled blisters

Possible long-term side effects

  • premature aging
  • breakdown of collagen and elastic fibers
  • hair damage
  • heat stroke
  • increased risk of legionnaires’ disease

Ingredients to be aware of


  • improved circulation
  • reduced muscle tension
  • stress relief
  • better sleep patterns
  • joint pain relief
  • detoxification

Healthier alternatives

  • showering pre/post hot tub use
  • application of protective skin lotion/oils
  • wearing swim cap
  • limiting hot tub time
  • moisturizing after use
  • using swimmer's shampoo/deep conditioner
  • monitoring hot tub chemical and ph levels
  • regular hot tub maintenance
  • water replacement every 3-4 months
  • ensuring body hydration

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Desmond Richard
Published on: 02-03-2024

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Desmond Richard
Published on: 02-03-2024

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