We’re used to seeing celebrities doing weird and wonderful things on Instagram. Britney’s daily outfit dances (ticking both the weird and wonderful boxes), Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively’s constant trolling of each other, and Lady Gaga’s ice bath rituals. The latter, however might not be so weird after all.
A form of cryotherapy, exposing your body to extreme cold can hold numerous benefits for your body and skin, if you’re brave enough to give it a go. But rather than lugging a trolley full of ice back from the supermarket and filling up your tub, there are treatments and at-home tools that can give you the results without the drama (and risk of chilblains).
What Is Cryotherapy?
Cryotherapy literally means ‘cold therapy’, which can mean using cold temperatures, ice, or cold tools (ice packs, sprays, probes…) to help the body. However, in recent years it is most commonly associated with immersing the whole body in the extreme cold for a specific time duration, specifically in ‘cryo-chambers’.
The chambers, not unlike a glass-doored shower usually sized to fit one person, are set at around an icy -90 degrees celsius, and you’ll be there for around 3 minutes (less for beginners, slightly more for the hardcore and experienced).
What Are The Benefits of Cryotherapy For My Body?
The proven benefits are plentiful, but varied. Dr Yannis Alexandrides, a plastic surgeon who founded 111Cryo and has since rolled his icy chambers out across the UK, tells us the main ones are ‘clarity of mind, an endorphin rush, muscle recovery and a visible tightening of the skin in the most immediate term’.
Long term, and with multiple use, you can see even more results. ‘This can include a stimulation of the body’s metabolic rate – with between 500 – 800 calories burnt per session’ Dr Yannis explains, ‘plus the treatment also helps with anti-inflammation so it’s great to include as part of a healthy lifestyle which includes regular exercise.’
For Artur Zolkiewicz, Manager at Workshop Gymnasium in Knightsbridge (favoured by TV celebrities and catwalk models) cryotherapy has become an integral part of his body-enhancing regime. ‘It’s my go to recovery practice’ says the trainer, who jumps in the chamber at least twice a week after intense Jiu-Jitsu and weightlifting sessions, ‘it decreases inflammation – which I’ve noticed in particular, surprisingly, in my finger joints. There’s a lot of ‘grabbing’ in martial arts.’
He’s also seen it improve his focus and sleep quality, something Dr Yannis says is backed up by research that shows regular cryotherapy sessions can assist in regulating sleep patterns.
Is Cryotherapy Good For My Skin?
Yes, explains Dr Yannis, as the extreme cold can help with collagen stimulation, one of the most important aspects to your skin staying plump and line free. If you can’t get to/afford/bear the thought of a cryotherapy chamber, there are other ways of reaping the benefits of cryo on your skin, such as in a facial.
‘I have been using cryotherapy, use of extreme cold, as part of my salon treatments for years now’ says celebrity facialist Teresa Tarmey. ‘It creates an ‘Ice Lift’ effect, that instantly and dramatically lifts saggy and puffy skin, rejuvenates a dull complexion and sculpts the face. Perfect for those that want really obvious results from their treatments and ideal for busy women.’
What Does Cryotherapy Actually Feel Like?
Cold! Bracing, hairs-on-end cold! BUT, honestly, not horrifically so – you’re simply not in there long enough to turn blue or even feel your teeth chattering. Your extremities are covered by booties, gloves and a little face mask (for safety and comfort), and you’re encouraged – to make the time go faster and optimise the use of the chamber – to move: dance, stretch or even get those squats in. Most places will let you choose your own music to be blared through the speakers (Artur’s top choice is ‘Can’t Stop’ by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, mine is anything Lizzo), basically you want anything you can’t HELP but shimmy too.
Artur also suggests to help with nerves, and to keep your breathing steady, to practice some breathe techniques in there. ‘I’d suggest breathing in 1:2 (inhale to exhale) ratio’ he says, ‘for instance you breath in for four seconds and exhale for eight seconds to induce the function of the parasympathetic nervous system. This will help you to remain calmer and enjoy the experience more!’ It also helpfully distracts you from worrying that you might be turning into a living statue.
How Often Should I Do Cryotherapy, And When?
Dr Yannis suggests to ‘start with 2-3 sessions per week, then either maintain or build up from there depending on what results you’re trying to achieve’. For Artur, he likes to use the chamber post-exercise to help with rehabilitation, but also before a big day to boost energy and motivation, explaining ‘your body’s ‘fight-or-flight’ response releases a bunch of hormones like endorphins and adrenaline which make you happier, more energised and give you increased focus.’
For those/most of us who can’t afford around £90 a session 3 times a week, using it before a big event to perk you up, or after something like a marathon could be a wise investment to give your body and mind a helping hand.
Can I Get Similar Results At Home?
In a word, no. The chambers are specifically and scientifically made to deliver safe and effective results by regulating the temperature without lowering the body’s core temperature. However you could mimic some of the results (such as muscle recovery) by taking a leaf out of Lady Gaga’s book by taking a short ice bath. But Dr Yannis doesn’t advise this, and bear in mind Gaga likely has a doctor monitoring her every bathing-move. And there’s at least one person there (taking the picture) in case anything does go wrong.
For the face, there are icy-cold methods that can be safely used at home. Bella Hadid reaches straight for the ice cube to help de-puff her face, and one widely-used DIY recommendation is cold spoons from the fridge (held over the eye sockets to help bring those bags down). However there are much more sophisticated methods.
Facialist Teresa has a Cryo-Ball, made from surgical-grade steel, that she created so her clients can get at-home results. ‘After being in the freezer for at least 12 hours, the freezing temperatures combined with the rolling and stretching technique mapped out in the information creates a unique, cry-microcirculation effect on the skin, which prompts tighter skin and an instant glow’ says Tarmey.
‘I first intended for it to be used before big events or to save stressed or problematic skin, but it’s so effective, I actually use it every morning, to de-puff and de-stress skin and even for a quick lift on long-haul flights.’
Still on the pricey end of the scale, another much cheaper option, loved by beauty editors, is a good old fashioned gel-pack eye mask. Yes, like the one your mum used to use.
Sometimes, the old way is the best way….
This article first appeared on ELLE UK.