Cryotherapy skincare is one of the coolest trends stirring up buzz in the beauty and skincare spaces.
Originally invented in 1978 as a remedy for arthritis pain, cryotherapy has become a wellness mainstay for the past decade thanks to Hollywood A-listers, supermodels and professional athletes who swear by its healing benefits.
And now, the holistic technique is being harnessed by the cosmetic and skincare industries that claim it can do wonders for your complexion, from brightening and depuffing to toning and tightening.
With more and more cryotherapy-inspired beauty products and tools popping up on shelves, three skincare experts weigh in on whether these cold therapy offerings are actually worth the hype:
First Off, What Exactly Is Cryotherapy Skincare?
Cryotherapy is basically any form of treatment that involves exposing your body to freezing or near-freezing temperatures for a short time for therapeutic benefits.
It’s well established that cryotherapy or cold therapy is an effective way to reduce tissue inflammation, decrease pro-inflammatory cytokines (small proteins that help regulate your immune response) and increase anti-inflammatory cytokines, says Dr. Dendy Engelman, NYC-based board-certified dermatologist and Mohs surgeon. This is why it feels good when you put an ice pack on a strained muscle or when you dip your face in a bowl of ice when you wake up puffy after a late night.
By downregulating the inflammatory processes in the skin, cryotherapy provides a means to reduce inflammation which, in turn, helps combat skin concerns such as premature aging, Dr. Engelman explains.
The two most common types of cryotherapy techniques used in skincare are cryo facials and skin icing. The former is a non-invasive, in-office treatment while the latter can be easily done at home.
Cryofacial Vs Skin Icing
A cryotherapy facial aka frotox works by pumping a controlled stream of pressurized liquid nitrogen vapor all over your face for a few minutes to rapidly cool the skin.
“The intense cold temperatures constrict blood flow to the face and help tighten the skin and pores,” says Dr. DiAnne Davis, a board-certified cosmetic dermatologist
affiliated with Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas. Once the vessels dilate again, the blood restores to the face, imparting a smooth, glowy and rosy complexion, she explains.
The increase in blood flow can also enhance the performance of skincare products by allowing them to penetrate deeper into the skin, adds Dr. Davis.
Moreover, cryofacial promotes the production of collagen which strengthens the skin and improves elasticity, making your skin plumper and more supple, notes Dr. P. Daniel Ward, a double board-certified facial plastic surgeon and founder of FormRx Skincare.
In addition, the treatment may also help lighten hyperpigmentation, says Dr. Ward.
However, the delicate procedure does come with a slight risk of permanent scarring or discoloration.
Meanwhile, skin icing is done by applying ice or ice-cold cryo facial tools (like ice globes, cooling gel masks, facial rollers, etc.) on the skin to jolt dull, tired skin awake.
Facial icing can temporarily calm inflammation, reduce oiliness, minimize the appearance of pores and soothe puffiness by
stimulating lymphatic drainage.
Is At-Home Cryotherapy Skincare As Effective As A Cryofacial?
“At-home cooling tools like masks or ice rollers feel good and can help with swelling.
[However], know that there is a limit to what they can accomplish,” says Dr. Engelman. If you’re using it a few times a month and like the outcome, that’s great—but if you have any concerns or you aren’t seeing the results you want, consider reaching out to a dermatologist, suggests the skin specialist.
“These at-home treatments are definitely not as effective as a professional treatment, especially if your goal is to improve skin texture and tone,” says Dr. Ward. “An in-office treatment takes the cooling treatment further than just an overall chill, resulting in a calm, clear skin,” agrees Dr. Engelman.
The Flip Side Of Cryotherapy Skincare
“Using cryotherapy is great, but it’s not without side effects, if not done properly,” says Dr. Ward. There have been reports of pigment problems and even cases of frostbite as a result, he adds.
In addition, “those with darker skin types should proceed with caution because of the risk of discoloration,” Dr. Davis advises.
“Also, anyone with an active infection or open breaks or cuts in the skin should avoid this treatment until healed,” suggests Dr. Davis.
The best and safest route is to have a chat with your dermatologist prior to trying out the treatment to determine if it’s the right fit for you and how to incorporate it into your skincare routine.
Cryotherapy Cannot Replace Your Skincare Routine
Just like any other supplemental skin treatment (think chemical peels, microneedling, blue light therapy, etc.), cryotherapy is not a “magic bullet” substitute for a good skincare routine.
It’s imperative to pair your cryotherapy skin sesh with a well-rounded skincare regimen for optimal results, notes Dr. Engelman. For example, if you are using cryotherapy for fine lines and wrinkles, consider also using an anti-aging, peptide-rich moisturizer like ISDIN’s Age Contour once a day to help promote those results, suggests the skincare expert. Or, if your primary concern is an uneven skin tone, consider using an antioxidant-rich serum like Skinbetter Science’s Even Tone Correcting Serum along with cryotherapy, she says.
Last, but far from least, wear sunscreen every single day—regardless of the weather. Dr. Engelman recommends ISDIN’s Eryfotona Ageless Tinted Mineral Sunscreen which not only protects your skin from UV rays but also repairs existing sun damage and reduces the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines.