- Ice facials are performed by massaging facial skin with ice cubes or submerging the face in ice water
- Ice facials are believed to offer a range of benefits including radiant skin tone, reduced acne and anti-aging effects
- There is no scientific research to support these benefits, and ice facials can cause side effects such as redness, irritation and broken capillaries
Ice facials (also known as facial icing or cryo facials) are a popular beauty trend that refers to applying ice to facial skin. They are believed to offer a number of benefits, including tighter, smoother skin, reduced inflammation, improved blood circulation and brighter skin tone.
As no scientific research has been carried out on the efficacy of ice facials, their use is supported almost entirely by anecdotal evidence. However, a handful of studies do indicate that exposure to cold – as well as specific ingredients included in ice facials – can improve the skin’s appearance in a number of ways.
What Is an Ice Facial?
An ice facial is typically performed using either one of two methods. The first involves gently gliding ice cubes over various areas of the face; the second, dipping the face into a bowl of ice water repeatedly, for several seconds at a time.
The ice cubes used in either method may be made with water, or a variety of liquids that can provide additional benefits.
Purported Ice Facial Benefits
Claimed benefits of cryo facials include the following:
- Brightens skin tone
- Calms acne blemishes
- Firms areas of loose, aging skin
- Lessens the appearance of under-eye bags
- Reduces acne breakouts
- Smooths fine lines and wrinkles
- Stimulates increased blood flow
Although facial icing has not been formally studied, some of these purported benefits are partially substantiated by research on the skin’s physiological response to low temperatures.
Exposure to cold temperatures is known to constrict subcutaneous blood vessels, which then dilate as they warm, leading to a gradual increase in blood flow. Improved circulation is associated with brighter skin tone. Coldness is also known to reduce inflammation, swelling and pain.
Focused cold therapy, which involves exposing skin to cold nitrous oxide, has furthermore been proven to tighten skin and reduce the appearance of wrinkles. However, there is no evidence that applying ice cubes to the skin produces any kind of anti-aging effect.
Ingredients for added benefits
The ice cubes used in an ice facial procedure can be made with a number of different liquids that have skin-enriching benefits. Some popular options include the following:
- Aloe vera gel promotes wound healing and can help soothe flare-ups triggered by inflammatory skin conditions
- Cucumber water is nourishing, rich in antioxidants and can help soothe puffiness and inflammation when applied topically
- Green tea has potent antioxidant effects, and can protect skin from UV-induced sun erythema which induces an inflammatory response; it can also help treat acne breakouts
- Rose hydrosol boosts skin hydration, has antimicrobial activity and provides potent anti-inflammatory effects
Side effects of facial icing
A number of side effects are possible following a facial icing treatment. These are more likely to occur if a facial is performed too often, or if the skin remains in direct contact with ice for an extended period of time.
Possible side effects include the following:
- Damage to capillaries beneath the skin’s surface, especially in areas with very thin skin such as the jawline and around the eyes
- Red, swollen and irritated skin in a reaction known as contact urticaria
- Frostbite when skin’s temperature falls below 32º
- Decrease in heart rate known as bradycardia caused by bending over and holding one’s breath, which can lead to dizziness and fainting
How to Do an Ice Facial at Home
If you are looking to perform ice facials at home, limit them to once per day to avoid irritating your skin. Cleanse and exfoliate any dead skin cells beforehand to allow for any added ingredients to absorb better.
If you have dry skin, be sure to also apply any moisturizers, creams and serums before your facial. These products will bolster your skin’s barrier function and reduce any irritation caused by the ice. If you have oily skin, you can apply these products afterward.
Ice massage method
Perform an ice facial by massaging ice cubes against your skin as follows:
- Use a small hand towel to pick up a single ice cube
- If your skin is particularly sensitive, wrap the ice cube in the cloth before use; otherwise, apply the ice directly to your skin
- Place the ice cube against your jawline, chin, cheeks, lips, nose and forehead area, and gently glide it against your skin in small circular motions
- Every 10–15 seconds, switch to a different area
- Repeat this process for 20–30 minutes; if your ice cube melts, replace with a new one
- Allow skin to air dry or pat dry with a towel
Ice water method
Perform an ice facial by using the ice water method as follows:
- Empty a full tray of ice cubes into a wide bowl
- Fill the bowl about halfway with cold water
- Hold your breath and immerse your face in the bowl; hold for 10–15 seconds
- Lift your face and rest for 10–15 seconds
- Repeat this process 5–10 times
- Allow skin to air dry or pat dry with a towel
DIY vs. Professional
Whether you choose to undergo an ice facial at home or have one carried out by a facialist or makeup artist, the process will essentially be the same. The key differences between a DIY and in-office procedure are cost, expertise and preparation time.
A professional will be responsible for preparing their own ice and adding any enriching ingredients. They should also have the experience to ensure your skin is not overexposed to ice to reduce the risk of irritation. However, a professional treatment will also be more expensive.
Performing an ice facial at home requires you to prepare your own ice. However, the procedure will be much cheaper. You will also have the freedom to add any ingredients you desire to your ice, allowing for more personalized benefits.
Who Should Avoid Ice Facials?
Some people should not undergo ice facials, as they are at risk of developing side effects. Be sure to avoid facial icing if you have:
Cryo facials may be performed by either applying ice cubes to the face or immersing it in ice water. They are purported to offer a variety of benefits, such as reducing acne formation, brightening skin tone and reducing the visibility of fine lines and wrinkles. However, these claims lack scientific backing.
Ice facials can be had with just water or by adding aloe vera gel, cucumber water and rose water. They can be performed in a professional setting or at home.
Cryo facials carry a risk of side effects such as redness, swelling, irritation, damaged blood vessels, frostbite and bradycardia. As such, they should be performed no more than once daily. Those with broken capillaries, rosacea or thin, sensitive skin should avoid ice facials altogether.
- Vuksanović V et al. Nonlinear relationship between level of blood flow and skin temperature for different dynamics of temperature change. Biophys J. 2008;94(10):L78-L80. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2367193/
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