Cryotherapy is essentially cold therapy. Cold therapy has been around for decades, possibly even centuries, although only recently the true science around its benefits are being realised. In fact, the benefits of being submerged into an extreme temperature -110° Celsius (166°F) is a lot more recent, with the first whole body cryotherapy chamber being invested in the late 1970s in Japan.
Whole body cryotherapy (WBC) is just that. You get yourself in a chamber, where around -110°C cold air is blown on you for around 2 to 4 minutes. It is either refrigerated cold air or liquid nitrogen that is used. It is necessary to wear few clothing, only gloves, socks, a mouth, ear and nose mask that are usually wear for protection.Whilst cryotherapy doesn’t have many serious risks, precautions should be taken to avoid side effects (such as starting off easy i.e. 2 minutes maximum for the first session.) So, why do it? Here are some of the main benefits that have been studied and discovered.
Most of us are aware of the benefits of old school cold therapy such as ice baths. WBC shares some of these benefits but given its more extreme nature, it has some unique ones too.
Pain relief – muscle pain is a nightmare for those who do lots of sports or exercise. Cryotherapy can increase the blood flow and relieve the pain as well as accelerate the healing process. It’s not just for athletes though. People with arthritis and general muscle pains have found great relief from using WBCs.
Inflammation – Inflammation can be reduced through the use of cryotherapy. Chronic inflammation is linked to problems like dementia, diabetes and cancer.
Weight loss – Cryotherapy has a lot of evidence for directly aiding weight loss. The therapy can increase metabolism, expend more energy (calories) to stay warm and finally it allows those with muscle injuries/pain to recover faster, thus increasing their potential for exercise. The increase in basal metabolic rate means we burn fat that’s stored.
Skin – Some eczema sufferers have seen improvements from the use of cryotherapy. It is also shown to rejuvenate skin and make it softer. The cold should also close skin pores.
Back in the early 1900s, it was common to treat mental illness patients, for example those with psychosis, by putting them in an ice bath. This may be as futile as it was barbaric, but it doesn’t mean there are no benefits for our mental health by cold treatment.
Plucking up the courage voluntarily put yourself through the adversity of an uncomfortable and freezing cold experience is character building in itself. If you can do that, even if it’s as benign as a cold shower, then you’re less likely to spend the rest of the day following the path of least resistance (being a couch potato).
Whilst you wouldn’t regularly do whole body cryotherapy like you do cold showers, they are an uncomfortable experience for many. Submerging into minus -110°C temperatures (authentic cryotherapy) is thought to help reduce the risk of developing dementia (due to the reduced inflammation), as well as reduce anxiety and depression.
New treatments that use extremely cold temperatures are the hottest beauty trend.
From reducing wrinkles and boosting radiance to firming the skin, exposing the body to plummeting temperatures can have multiple benefits, say the experts behind these procedures.
“Therapies that use cold temperature can stimulate circulation,” says Dr. Preema Vig, medical director of Beyond MediSpa at Harvey Nichols, UK.
“When used in the right way through the correct technology and methods, it’s possible to see benefits in fat reduction and skin toning.”
We’ve all heard of Botox, but a new technique set to become widely available this summer has earned the nickname “Frotox”.
Iovera – a toxin-free alternative to Botox – uses a technique called cryoneuromodulation to banish fine lines.
The 20-minute procedure involves placing a device filled with liquid nitrogen next to the nerves that control the muscles that cause wrinkles.
“The liquid nitrogen freezes the targeted nerves on the forehead and between the brows,” says Harley Street plastic surgeon Dr. Yannis Alexandrides, who has been trialing and refining the procedure developed by California-based lab Myoscience Inc. for more than a year.
“This puts the nerves into temporary hibernation, so muscles relax and wrinkles disappear.
“Unlike Botox, which takes four days to work, the effects can be seen immediately and last for up to four months. And as nitrogen occurs naturally in the body – unlike Botox – you aren’t putting a foreign substance in to your system.”
From reducing wrinkles and boosting radiance to firming the skin, exposing the body to plummeting temperatures can have multiple benefits
Cold therapy is also being used in a new generation of super-powered facials. The Cryoderm facial costs about $800, but practitioners say the price tag reflects the cutting-edge technologies used in the treatment.
The 75-minute session combines cold therapy with exfoliating microdermabrasion, lymphatic-drainage massage and collagen-boosting radio frequency.
“The cold causes the blood vessels to contract and then dilate, which improves the oxygen and nutrient supply to the skin’s surface, making it appear more radiant,” says facialist Rani Mirza, who has performed the treatment on celebrities including Anna Friel, Natalie Imbruglia and Erin O’Connor.
“My clients like it because it gives their skin a taut and more defined look,” she adds.
A more affordable option comes from Parisian brand Anne Semonin. Cheryl Cole is said to be keen on the “Ice” Cryotherapy Super Facial, which includes a cleanse and exfoliation followed by a puff-reducing massage using ice cubes made with marine spring water, moisturizing red algae and evening primrose oil.
Cold therapy is also being used to shift fat and cellulite. Jennifer Aniston and Jessica Alba are said to be fans of the Bioslimming Body Wrap.
Despite the trend, not everyone is warming to the idea of cold therapy.
“Some of these treatments can break down fat and tighten skin, but results are unpredictable,” says cosmetic doctor Mervyn Patterson.
“Treatments such as Frotox are at very early stages and we know little about its long-term safety and effectiveness.
“Low temperatures can be soothing after surgical procedures and temporarily rejuvenating, but there is no evidence to support claims that this type of therapy has lasting anti-ageing benefits.”