When going to an onsen you might wonder if you should also shower after your hot spring bath. Even if you observe and try to copy what the Japanese guests are doing you will notice that some take a shower while others don’t. So should you shower after bathing in an onsen or not?
Most onsen experts don’t recommend showering after a hot spring bath because it reduces the effects of the nutrients and minerals in the water. However, when you have sensitive skin or visit an onsen with strong sulfur or acidic springs you should take a shower to prevent possible irritations.
During my research, it was really tough to find any useful information in English that explains why you shouldn’t shower after an onsen. But luckily after some digging, I found this useful Japanese resource written by an onsen sommelier. I had no idea about the existence of onsen sommeliers, but thanks to the article I can explain to you in detail why you shouldn’t shower, and when you should shower. And! I can also share the ultimate tip from hot spring experts.
Why You Shouldn’t Shower After Onsen
Since ancient times, the Japanese have been aware of the health and beauty benefits of hot spring water. Bathing in the hot water relieves stress and helps to maintain beautiful skin. It is also widely believed that acidic onsen water helps to ease neuralgia, muscle pain, and chronic skin diseases.
Just a quick soak of about 10-30 minutes is enough to take advantage of the hot spring’s healing powers and beauty benefits. But if you do it right you can multiply and prolong its effects for several more hours.
During the time you are in the hot water, your pores open up and your skin starts absorbing the nutrients and minerals. However, even after leaving the hot spring water, the organic elements will adhere to your skin and build a protective film on top of it.
This protective membrane can stay for up to 2 to 3 hours and so your skin will continue absorbing the nutrients and minerals that were in the water. However, that’s only the case if you don’t rinse them off. If you take another shower after the onsen it washes away the membrane and all of the spring’s benefits and beauty effects will be diminished by half. Even just a quick rinse with normal water will wash them off.
That’s the reason why onsen experts and onsen guides tell you not to take a shower after you have finished bathing.
But is it Hygienic if I don’t Shower After an Onsen?
This is the most common reason why foreign onsen visitors want to take a shower after an onsen. They are afraid that the water isn’t truly clean and that it is not hygienic since you are sharing your bathwater with several other people.
Well, here are the facts. When visiting an onsen you are supposed to cleanse your body and wash your hair before entering the hot spring water, and most visitors do this very, very thoroughly. Besides that the hot water in an onsen isn’t still. There is a constant flow of water and fresh, new hot spring water streams into the bathtubs. That’s why onsen water is usually not dangerous.
Nevertheless, you are sharing your bathwater with other guests and yes, there might be someone who didn’t wash as thoroughly as he or she should have. So you might feel that it is not truly clean and hygienic. Personally, I have never been worried about that, but if you are, don’t stress about the effects and just take another shower after the onsen.
In general, there is nothing wrong with taking another shower after your onsen bath. My personal opinion is that it is more important to feel fresh and clean than to extend the health and beauty effects of hot spring water.
However, if you are planning to take a shower after the onsen I recommend you to keep reading. I will explain to you why you should use “Agari Yu” for rinsing your body. It’s the ultimate tip from onsen experts.
Tip: Use Agari Yu For Rinsing After Onsen
Instead of showering, onsen sommeliers recommend rinsing your body with Agari Yu after a hot spring bath. Agari Yu translates as “rising water” or less literal “water after getting out”. Don’t worry if you have never heard it before, because neither have I prior to writing this article. It is clean hot spring water that you first collect in a bucket and then use for rinsing your body.
When you get out of the bath get one of those wooden Japanese bath buckets. Hold it under the tap from where the fresh hot spring water streams into the bathtub and collect some water. Then use this clean hot spring water to rinse your body. Please take care when you do this because the water might be even hotter than the bathwater. Also, be careful not to splash the other guests.
You can just use the water and pour it over your body, but onsen sommeliers do it a little bit differently. They use their towel and soak them in the fresh hot spring water in the bucket. Then they use the towel to wipe their body. You don’t have to worry that this will wash off or destroy the membrane with nutrients and minerals because you use hot spring water.
So if you want to reap all the benefits of the health and beauty effects of your onsen visit I recommend you to use Agari Yu and just rinse your body. You won’t see many Japanese doing it, though. In fact, I have probably never seen anyone doing this. This still seems to be some kind of new way of doing it. So you might feel a bit awkward if you are the only one, but it is the professional way of the onsen ninja – eh onsen sommeliers. So why don’t give it a try?
When You Should Shower After Onsen
Even though in general it is better not to shower after an onsen, sometimes you actually should or have to do it. This depends on the type of hot spring you are visiting and the sensitivity of your skin.
If you are visiting an onsen with acidic hot spring water or strong sulfur hot spring water, it is better to take a shower after bathing. If you don’t have sensitive skin you can also just rinse yourself after your bath. However, in that case, please don’t use Agari Yu but normal water.
When you have sensitive skin you should wash your body very thoroughly after bathing in these types of onsen. Or otherwise, it could lead to skin irritations and ruin the memories of your onsen experience.
In case you have very sensitive skin you might want to shower after all of your onsen visits. Just listen to your body and you will know what to do. If your skin feels nice after the bath in a weak sulfur hot spring or non-acidic hot spring, don’t take a shower. If it doesn’t feel good, better take a shower.
Personally, I never had any problems with my skin after visiting an onsen. Quite the opposite, my skin always feels so nice and smooth! But I don’t have sensitive skin so…
Dos and Don’ts After Taking an Onsen Bath
Here is a summary of what you should keep in mind if you want to take a shower or rinse your body after your onsen visit. Same as in my post “Can you eat before onsen?“, this is not supposed to be a complete list. So don’t forget the other things you should do after an onsen visit like drinking water to rehydrate yourself, for example.
- Instead of showering use Agari Yu to rinse your body after an onsen
- After visiting an onsen with acidic or sulfur hot spring water you should take a shower
- If your skin feels nice and smooth after bathing just a quick rinse is fine
- Never put your towel in the bathwater. Just soak it in the water in your bucket
- Be careful not to splash the other guests when you use Agari Yu
- Don’t skip the shower when your skin doesn’t feel nice after your onsen bath