Blame it on Wim “The Iceman” Hof.
Ever since the Dutch extreme athlete’s profile started to rise two years ago, via his own YouTube channel and the fierce championing of crystal ball-wielding Gwyneth Paltrow, more and more people have plunged themselves into arctic bodies of water in the name of wellness.
According to the core tenets of the Wim Hof Method, exposure to extreme cold ignites a “cascade of health benefits” that include a reduction in fat and inflammation, balanced hormones, great sleep and the release of endorphins, aka the “happy chemicals” associated with runner’s high.
As it turns out, subzero temperatures are great for treating superficial stuff, too, namely the facial puffiness that can follow a night of overdoing it with cocktails, or the confidence-zapping brown spots that can pop up after decades in the sun.
Thus, the uptick in DIY ice rollers and cryotherapy-based skin crèmes, alongside a promising new in-office aesthetic procedure dubbed Glacial Rx.
According to New York cosmetic dermatologist Paul Jarrod Frank, several factors, including pandemic mask use, our collective obsession with strong skin care and too much boozing, are causing a spike in interest for all things cryo.
“Masks, excessive use of acids and retinols, excessive alcohol and sodium consumption have resulted in patients who are more inflamed and puffier,” Frank notes. “Cryotherapy is a great no-downtime procedure that immediately reduces puffiness and tightens pores.”
While Frank’s Signature Cryo Facial promises, per his popular Instagram feed, “to contract muscle fibers to shrink pores, while diminishing puffiness, inflammation, acne and redness,” Glacial Rx, offered by fellow New York skin docs Bruce Katz and Dendy Engelman, can toggle between temporary de-puffing and more lasting skin changes, namely the removal of age spots and larger pockets of hyperpigmentation.
An FDA-cleared, Class II medical device, Glacial Rx is the first of its kind to use controlled contact cooling to treat not only puffiness and dark spots, but the redness generated by rosacea and eczema.
“This is brand new technology,” says Katz. “It was developed by doctors at Harvard, and uses what’s known as ‘cryomodulation.’ Basically, it’s a probe that’s cooled to a certain temperature, depending on the condition we’re treating. Or we can change the settings to use it as a facial, to remove dead skin cells. It has a lot of applications and has worked really well.”
Although cryo facials deliver instant, if short-lived, freshening and brightening, brown spots take longer to dissipate but the results are permanent.
“The skin crusts a bit after treatment,” says Katz. “It destroys the hyperactive pigment cells, so it turns into a little scab. But then that goes away. Sure, you can use liquid nitrogen to freeze a brown spot, but then you’re left with a white spot in its place. That doesn’t happen with Glacial Rx.”
But you don’t necessarily need to head to the dermatologist to partake in the cryo craze.
CurrentBody, purveyor of all manner of high-tech beauty gadgets, recently unveiled its stainless steel Skin Cryo Roller; superstar facialists Georgia Louise and Angela Caglia both offer gorgeous, almost MoMA-worthy DIY freeze tools; celebrity makeup artist Charlotte Tilbury sells two Cryo Recovery products, a mask and a serum; and Sio Beauty offers an entire range of cryo-based products for face and body, including its own sleek-looking tool, the Cryodrop.
Sio Beauty founder Gigi Howard credits Engelman, her dermatologist turned brand medical advisor, for introducing her to the skin-beautifying benefits of cold therapy.
“Cryotherapy boosts microcirculation, which can improve cell turnover, creating a smoother, glowy surface,” says Howard, a former model who also did fashion and beauty p.r. prior to launching her skin-care range. “I was so impressed by the rejuvenating results and what the cooling actives did for my skin, I wanted to explore it further.” And the rest, as they say, is ice-story.