I Got a Cryotherapy Facial — Here's Why It's Cool AF…Literally

When you think of a traditional facial, cleansers, face oils, and exfoliators likely come to mind. You may even add a jade roller or gua sha tool in to the mix. That's because facials have typically been characterized by a variety of products grazing over and sinking into skin. But one of the most requested facials of 2018 involves none of those things. Allow me to introduce you to the cryotherapy facial.

While cryotherapy has been a (controversial) source of physical and mental stress relief for decades — first popular in Europe and more recently in the United States — it's only been within the last year or so that the ultra-cold treatment has made its way into the facial space. Which is why I just had to try it.

How does cryotherapy work?

Before booking an appointment, I did some research on the treatment. I learned that full-body cryotherapy is often used to rehab muscles and increase circulation in athletes. It does this by exposing the body to vapors that reach ultra-low temperatures between minus 200 and minus 300 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

The thing is, though, there's not much evidence to back up claims that cryotherapy soothes sore muscles, burns calories, reduces inflammation, or even helps with anxiety and depression, says the FDA. "At this time, there's insufficient publicly available information to help us answer these questions," FDA scientific reviewer Anna Ghambaryan said in a 2016 report. No cryotherapy device has yet been FDA-cleared or approved as a safe and effective way to treat medical conditions.

Experts also caution that there may be risks associated with the treatment. "Unmonitored exposure to extremely cold temperatures can lead to damage to the skin, which, in some cases, could result in permanent scars," Joshua Zeichner, director of clinical and cosmetic research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, previously told Allure. "We still need studies to fully evaluate its true benefit."

The benefits of a cryotherapy facial

Given all of this, I still couldn't help but wonder how this cooling treatment could be tailored for my face. According to Zeichner, the extremely cold temperatures in cryotherapy "enhance exfoliation of dead cells on the surface of the skin and strengthen the skin as a whole." High concentrations of cryotherapy are used in-office to treat skin conditions (like warts).

"At low levels, the same concept is being applied to aging skin," says Zeichner. "The low temperatures enhance shedding of dead cells on the top skin layer to expose healthy, more radiant skin beneath."

Experiencing the facial first-hand

On the day of my appointment, I arrived at the New York City office of NKD NYC with a better grasp of cryotherapy. NKD recommends combining treatments with the cryo facial, so I opted to do infrared LED light therapy, which is said to reduce inflammation and stimulate collagen.

Minutes before the treatment, I was handed an NKD-emblazoned robe and slippers and asked to take every last piece of jewelry off, as it can cause discomfort with extreme temperatures. I was escorted to a room with a machine that resembled a tanning bed, which was lit up like a Christmas tree.

I was nervous to hop in, but my fears were quickly put to rest as I learned that this was just the LED light bed — no UV-induced skin damage to be had here. The technicians told me that I could change the music and hop in the bed where I would be illuminated with complexion- and mood-boosting LED lights for the next 20 minutes.

Laying in the LED light bed.

So, like any millennial would do, I shamelessly cranked up some Post Malone while I shimmied down into the bed. There, much like when I've spent time in the infrared saunas at HigherDose, I immediately felt calmer and more grounded. It was the same feeling I experience when I'm around the ocean and large bodies of water — something just aligned in such a way that transformed my mood into a feeling of rightness.

After 20 minutes of lying in the bed, I went across the hall to a dimly lit room, where I sat on a fur-covered lounge awaiting my cryo treatment. Unlike other facials, this one was performed upright and didn't involve anything — meaning, not a single product was used — but below-freezing air. And it was cold. Imagine sticking your face in a freezer for a few minutes — that's how cold it was. Luckily, the entire treatment was super quick (about two to three minutes), so it was over before I began to feel too uncomfortable.

The results

Once my cryotherapy session was complete, I went to the bathroom to take a look in the mirror. The technicians at NKD told me the infrared light and cryotherapy together would result in instantly tighter, firmer, and glowing skin, and, sure enough, they were right. (See the selfie at the beginning of the story for proof.)

Immediately, I noticed my skin was glowing, redness (something I've come to accept after struggling with it my entire life) was visibly reduced, and pores appeared noticeably tighter. It wasn't until the days that followed, though, that I realized just how powerful these cryotherapy sessions can be. My skin was still glowing.

Bottom line: Yes, cryotherapy is basically a quick (albeit controversial), in-and-out treatment that blows below-freezing air onto your face, but, in my opinion, it's worth a try. Before you book an appointment, do your research and chat with your dermatologist to find out if cryotherapy is right for you.

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