Vitamin C-Infused Showers: Do They Work?

Photograph by Walter Zerla/Corbis

With cold and flu season upon us, many people are upping their vitamin intake. Some fancy people are even bathing in vitamin C.

Leonardo DiCaprio is reportedly moving into a Greenwich Village building that, among other wellness-centric amenities, features vitamin C-infused showers. The MGM Grand in Las Vegas has also installed the special showers in its Stay Well rooms.

The purpose of these showers is not, as one might guess, to ward off sniffles. Instead, they deploy a vitamin C filter to neutralize chlorine in the water, thereby “promoting healthy hair/skin,” claims the MGM Grand.

Does it work? From a chemistry standpoint, vitamin C does react with chlorine and consume it, says Neal Langerman, an officer of the American Chemical Society’s Division of Chemical Health and Safety. The concept has even been proven by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. But, Langerman says, the filters are all hype. “First off, chlorine and chloramines do not cross the skin barrier, nor does vitamin C. … [Also] I don’t think the reaction would be complete—the neutralization, if you will—by the time the water hits your head or flows down the drain.”

Either way, says Langerman, levels of chlorine in municipal water aren’t harmful. “It’s the dose that makes the poison,” he says. “There are much, much better ways to spend your money, more healthy ways to spend your money.”

Whatever the effectiveness, the filters make for decent business, sometimes retailing for as much as $100. Pasadena (Calif.)-based Vitashower, which began manufacturing patented vitamin C filters about 10 years ago, claims to sell hundreds of thousands to distributors each year. “If something is good, it has to be selling well,” says Desheng Wang, Vitashower’s founder and owner. Each filter cartridge contains 250 grams of 100 percent pharmaceutical-grade vitamin C, good for filtering up to 15,000 gallons of water. Vitashower also sells vitamin C tablets to be used for the dechlorination of bath water, laundry water, or even fish tanks.

Experts at the National Kitchen & Bath Association didn’t know enough about the vitamin C shower trend to comment. But Wang points out that vitamin C has long been used for dechlorination in many industries. “If you eat at a fast-food restaurant and they give you a glass of water, they give you a piece of lemon,” he says. “They use the vitamin C in the lemon … so you don’t taste the chlorine anymore.”

Langerman of the ACS is skeptical: “I can’t speak for restaurants, I can only speak for myself, but when I put a slice of lime or lemon in my water, it’s just because I like the taste.”