It’s an old trick of makeup artists: sweeping ice cubes over the face to shrink puffy undereyes and leave skin taut as a drum. Suffice to say, this particular technique wasn’t the most high-tech or mess-free of approaches, but “ice-lift facials” are having a revival and, crucially, an upgrade. This sub-zero take on beauty has evolved into ice globes and cryotherapy tools that promise an uncharted glow and ice-skating-rink-smooth skin. Best of all, they’re so low-tech, if you were blindfolded and handed these tools, you’d still be able to use them.
Given the strong interplay between beauty and wellness, it’s no wonder that cryotherapy — subjecting your body to temperatures as low as -220 degrees Fahrenheit – has transcended into the skin-care space. While a professional “skin-icing” facial involves liquid nitrogen (dry ice) being applied to the face, the at-home version deploys a tool that’s primed in the freezer. These come in myriad forms, all in tune with the type of aesthetically-pleasing beauty post Instagram eats up.
As the moniker suggests, ice globes (some of the more popular at-home cryotherapy tools), have a spherical head made of glass or stainless steel, which is filled with a freezable liquid. Perched atop ergonomic handles, they’re shaped like a pair of maracas you sweep over the planes of the face. At the other end of the spectrum are wands that resemble arty soup ladles and futuristic steel versions of your jade roller. Or perhaps you prefer a less labor-intensive option: wearing an icy face mask to counteract morning-after puffiness.
What is cryotherapy?
Cryotherapy originated in Japan in the late ’70s as a remedy for rheumatoid arthritis. Athletes in Europe and the US adopted the technique, stripping and standing in whole-body cryo chambers for up to three minutes to aid muscle recovery. Just like you reach for a bag of frozen peas to take down swelling from an injury, “the idea is to cool and numb areas of inflammation before an arduous game,” says Connecticut-based board-certified dermatologist Mona Gohara, M.D. It can also help “quell aching joints and ease migraines,” she adds.
How does cryotherapy benefit the skin?
A pallid hue and puffy face are no match for the cold. Chief among cryotherapy’s benefits are the immediate sculpting effects, which encourage skin to become a smoother, tighter, perkier version of itself, effectively putting sagging on ice for a few hours. The cold shock “causes blood vessels to constrict, firming and tightening the skin,” says Dr. Gohara. When that subsides, “your blood vessels swell back up with fresh nutrient-rich blood. This temporary increase in localized blood flow enhances the performance of your skin-care products by helping actives to penetrate deeper.”