Whether it’s in the form of frozen globes or cryo masks, the latest skincare trend rising through the ranks is something called cryotherapy.
Derived from the Greek ‘cryo’, meaning cold, and ‘therapia’ (therapy or cure), the treatment involves the use of extremely cold temperatures. It can help remove and destroy abnormal tissue, or bring on what’s known as vasoconstriction – a fancy name for the narrowing of blood vessels under the skin.
The reason cryotherapy has become popular in the beauty world is that it has been linked with boosting metabolic rates and helping with weight loss. It’s also said to be great for treating the signs of ageing, inflammation, boosting energy, and immunity, helping you get better sleep, and can even have an impact on your mood.
Below we explain where the cryotherapy trend originated and the best ways to get all the benefits of the treatment either at home, or via a professional.
Whilst WBC (Whole Body Cryotherapy) as we know it was first put to use in 1978 by Dr Yamaguchi in Japan, the ancient Egyptians reportedly used cold therapy to treat injuries and inflammation as early as 2500 BC.
It wasn’t until 1845 however that Dr. James Arnott discovered that it was an effective treatment for migraines. It was even found that tumors can shrink when in contact with the cold. Since then, cryotherapy has been commercialised to help with a wide variety of aesthetic and physical ailments.
When our skin is exposed to extreme cold, the sub-zero temperatures ‘shock’ our muscles into vasoconstriction.
During this process, the muscles surrounding our blood vessels contract. This tightens the space within our blood vessels and means less blood can flow through towards our skin. This, in turn, causes us to lose heat.
As the body works to conserve heat around our vital organs, the blood vessels in our extremities get cooler. This causes the white blood cells in our body to work faster in an attempt to protect us.
As the muscles in our extremities then open again – a process known as vasodilation – blood starts flowing towards them, causing a rise in temperature in our fingers and toes. This then prompts a new wave of vasoconstriction and the process continues. This is known as The Lewis Hunting Reaction, or hunting response.
During this process, Ada Ooi, facialist and founder of 001 Skincare, notes that the cold shock sends “fresher blood to the targeted area… (and) more blood means more oxygen, and a richer nutrient delivery, which flushes away toxins and reduces water retention.” The result? A fresher, plumper, more rejuvenated complexion.
The physical reaction triggered by extreme cold can additionally prompt an increase in our collagen and elastin levels, two proteins that are essential for helping maintain skin’s structure and elasticity, and help reduce signs of aging.
As a result, cryotherapy can improve epidermal (the surface of the skin’s) firmness whilst the increased nutrient circulation within the blood helps enhance the complexion.
What’s more, the increased oxygen uptake, coupled with the surge of adrenaline and endorphins that come from the ‘cold shock’, can also help reduce fatigue and muscular pain. Many also find that the extreme cold helps clear the mind, jolting away ‘brain fog’, whilst their improved melatonin and serotonin hormone balance leads to better sleep quality after a session as well.
All while boosting the conversion of white fat cells into brown fat cells. Brown fat cells can be more easily broken down and so cryotherapy has been linked with weight loss, too!
In short, a cryotherapy facial involves freezing the skin by using a machine-operated device to spread liquid nitrogen over the face. While different clinics may adopt varying procedures, the treatment generally follows the following pattern:
The treatment typically lasts for 2-3 minutes and is often followed by further facial treatments.
Without professional equipment and experts on-hand to oversee the use of liquid nitrogen, you’re unlikely to achieve quite the same results from an at-home cryotherapy facial.
That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy an at-home session though.
There are a variety of at-home cryotherapy kits available that tend to involve small, cooled objects. You typically have to roll or wrap these items over and around your skin yourself, but on the plus side, you can do this from the comfort of your own home, in a controlled environment, and whenever you see fit.
Such at-home kits have been shown to “reduce inflammation, tighten pores, and remove the stagnant lymphatic fluid that can cause puffiness, a fuller face, and bags under the eyes,” according to Rachael Lee Lozina, licensed esthetician and founder of Blue Water Spa & Boutique in Oyster Bay.
With a plethora of gizmos and gadgets available, we thought we’d help narrow down your cryotherapy selections with these top at-home facial suggestions.
£89 | Buy now
Why we love it: Marketed as ‘ice-gym for the skin’, Charlotte Tilbury’s at-home cryo-therapy facial kit involves all of the results with none of the effort, making it just the kind of workout everyone dreams of.
The kit contains a flexible, reusable silicone Cryo-Recovery Face Mask that combines a cooling sensation with acupressure beads to prompt a more sculpted, firmer, and brighter complexion. It also contains a Cryo-Recovery Eye Serum that works to brighten and energise the eyes.
Simply pop the mask on for 10 minutes and let it work its magic before removing and applying the Cryo-Recovery Eye Serum to enjoy visibly reduced puffiness, dark circles, and a major boost in hydration. Combining all of the high-performance technology of traditional cryotherapy methods with the ancient skill of acupressure, this is an at-home facial we can get behind.
Both of these products can be bought separately if you’re not interested in the kit.
£10 | Buy now
Why we love it: Hyaluronic acid is the master hydrator, and this is what Dr Jart+’s Cryo Rubber Face Mask offers in abundance. Particularly suitable for those with dry skin, the moisture-locking, cooling Cryo Rubber Mask secures the product’s serum, helping improve absorption for a radiantly hydrated complexion.
While this product is single-use, at £10 a pop we think it’s a pretty great buy for what makes for an efficient, deeply hydrating, soothing at-home cryo-facial.
£59.99 | Buy now
Why we love it: Designed for freshness and built for luxury, Fraîcheur’s Ice Globes do not disappoint.
The solid glass structures come filled with anti-freeze liquid to deliver cold, soothing temperatures when rolled across skin.
Not only effective at improving blood circulation to tighten the complexion, but they also stay cooler much longer than your average ice cubes wrapped in a towel, remain drip-free, and look delightfully elegant to boot.
Simply store in the freezer for 20 minutes before use for optimal, chilling, complexion-boosting results – yes please!
£148 | Buy now
Why we love it: Inspired by clinical cryo-therapy, Amara’s Cryo Press kit contains a 001 Skincare CRYOpress and Alpha Glow Flash facial serum.
Simply massage the sleek ice-roller over skin to improve blood circulation and encourage lymphatic drainage before coating in the ultra-hydrating serum to combat pigmentation, wrinkles, and dehydration.
After earning a 2.1 in BA English and Classical Literature from the University of Bristol, Lara went onto online proofreading and SEO courses. Over the past five years, she has worked in PR (creating newsletters, press releases, and articles for media distribution), while moonlighting as a Social Media Specialist and Lead Content Writer where she has respectively written articles and guides, and created and scheduled various social media calendars. She is now a Content Writer for a sustainable beauty brand, working alongside PR and Marketing team to strategise and create content. You can find more of her work here.