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Have you ever returned from a bracing walk in the great outdoors and noticed your skin looking firmer, glowier and altogether more healthy? You've got the cold to thank for that as it makes the blood vessels contract, creating a rosy-cheeked look straight out of a fairy tale. But with the weather finally heating up, a brisk outdoor walk isn't an option for a healthy glow.
Thankfully, skin treatment cryotherapy (or cold therapy as it's sometimes known) has the same effect without your fingers going numb. "Cryotherapy incites vasoconstriction, a process where the blood vessels (and to a degree, the facial muscles) contract," explains Dr Yannis Alexandrides, founder of 111Skin, which runs the 111Cryo cryotherapy-chamber in London's Harvey Nichols and also has a range of cryo-inspired skincare and tools (see below). Cryotherapy, he says "activates the production of collagen and elastin in the dermis and increases oxygen delivery, increasing the skin’s capacity to rejuvenate itself and appear more smooth, firm and toned.”
Cold therapy has long been a fixture in red carpet facials thanks to its ability to give instant visible results, lifting and tightening the skin, constricting pores as well as stimulating blood flow to give a visible glow. The cold dials down redness, calms inflammation and brightens a dull complexion. "Cold therapy can reduce swelling and inflammation by stimulating our lymph system and reducing fluid," confirms facialist Pamela Marshall. "Dark circles under the eye can also temporarily be reduced due to the constricting of blood vessels."
Cold therapy also mimics the biological response of an intense workout, according to Emily Buckwell, product expert at CurrentBody.com "It stimulates the cold receptors which stimulate blood flow to the epidermis, resulting in microcirculation in the area."
On top of that, it helps to release muscle tension in the face and jaw (we defy you not to say aaaah when you try one of the tools below) which is good news for expression lines and teeth grinding.
An ice cube to the face is nothing new. Russian Empress Catherine the Great (played on TV by Elle Fanning in The Great), was said to have applied ice cubes to her face, neck, and décolletage every morning to give her skin a radiant appearance. Kate Moss has said she submerges her face in a bowl of ice-cold water to brighten her complexion, a ritual also practised by Hollywood actress Jane Crawford. "While icing the face has many similar benefits to cryotherapy, it is a far weaker form of cryotherapy facials," explains Dr Yannis. "The temperature is weaker, the effects superficial and it can even dehydrate the skin (through transdermal water loss). A smart solution is to use cooling metal cryotherapy tools to massage the face, ones that don’t draw water to the surface like ice does and can be pressed against the face to incite muscular contraction (and hence a sculpted appearance).”
Word of warning, cold therapy can cause broken capillaries which contribute to thread veins so avoid cryotherapy if you’re prone to this.
Here are the cryotherapy tools we’re reaching for right now (save your ice cubes for your drinks).
If you want to dip a toe in the world of cryotherapy without spending too much money, this is the tool to try. It's made of stainless steel to calm and soothe your skin and feels refreshing when rolled over your cheekbones, forehead and neck. Keep it in the freezer prior to use for the full effect.
This reusable silicone mask combines cryotherapy (to tighten the skin and reduce puffiness) and acupressure, to relieve tension and ease puffiness. It has cooling metal beads stored in little gel pockets above the brows, along the cheekbone and the jawline, designed to target acupressure points to relieve tension and flush out fluid retention to make you look more sculpted.
Before use, you put the mask in the freezer for half an hour minimum to activate the cooling powers. It has velcro straps (much like an LED mask ) to put around your head to keep it in place. Once you're strapped in, relax for ten minutes, massaging the metal beads into pressure points to ease headaches and tension.
Designed to sculpt, depuff and rejuvenate your complexion, this double-ended stainless steel roller can be used around the eyes, face and body. The smaller end is for the eye area while the broader roller is great for sculpting cheekbones and releasing shoulder tension. After use, your skin will appear tighter and refreshed, with the ice-cold temperatures naturally extracting impurities and slowing down excess oil production. This should be kept in the fridge before use for the best results. "The sustained coldness is made possible through the density of the rollers – the heads are constructed of solid stainless steel that has been very slightly cored out to provide the optimal weight and pressure needed for maximum skin benefits," explains Jamie O'Banion, founder of BeautyBio.
If you're looking for a really icy blast, this is the roller for you. You keep it in the freezer and it cools to between minus eight and 25C. Roll it over your face for 15 minutes weekly (or whenever you're too hot) to boost circulation and soothe inflammation, or to refresh yourself after time spent basking. This won the best skin tool award in our Get The Gloss Beauty and Wellness Awards 2019.
Nurse Jamie tends to plenty of famous Hollywood faces (the Kardashians are fans), and her ingenious tools are how the A-list keeps up her good work at home. These orbs (they come in a standard and a mini, £14, version), fit neatly into the palm of your hand and roll around in their base as you move them along your face or around your eyes. Refrigerate for 30 to 60 minutes for an energising, inflammation-quelling, flush-giving cryo session, or place them in warm water for a relaxing ‘hot stone’-type massage. Whether you go cold or warm, you will improve lymph flow for more toned, more radiant skin.
These lollipop-looking orbs made of freeze-proof glass are filled with anti-freezing liquid and have been spotted on actress Tracee Ellis Ross' Instagram and mentioned in Cindy Crawford's skincare routine too. We recommend taking these from the freezer first thing to pep up droopy morning skin and wake up your complexion. They also come in pink, gold purple and other rainbow shades.
In the same vein, 001 Skincare 's Eyecicle Duo, £108 are made from seamless artisan glass, designed to soothe the under-eye area.
Loved by MUA Lisa Eldridge, these little "ice cubes" (actually frozen serums) deliver the same effects as sweeping an ice cube over your skin (cooling, refreshing, lessening dark circles), but with the added skincare benefits of hyaluronic acid and soothing gourd extract to hydrate and volumise. They should be kept in the freezer for three hours before use. You remove them from the mould, wrap in a gauze that comes with them and glide over your face.
Facialist Joanna Czech, who has worked with Kim Kardashian and Sting, is a firm believer in facial massage and her signature, if rather comically-shaped massage tool, is especially powerful when kept in the freezer.
The aluminium and zinc balls which are angled to give a gentle pinching action, glide along the contours of your face to simulate the firm, depuffing fingertip action of an aesthetician. It increases circulation and lymphatic drainage, giving you an altogether glowier complexion. Joanna recommends using it after your serum or over a face mask (she favours 111 Skin) to really work it in.