The Surprising Dangers of Ice Facials and Other Beauty Trends
An “ice facial” is a new cooling skin care trend that is all over the internet and social media right now. And while you can find great tips on the internet, not all tips are created equal and some you should avoid at all costs. Ice facials fall squarely in the avoid category.
There are 2 Different Methods to an ice Facial:
“The Bare Cube” Method: This technique consists of using a plain ice cube and rubbing it all over your face for as long as your skin can handle it.
“The Ice Bath” Method: This technique involves filling a bowl with cold water and ice cubes and dunking your head, submerging your face in the water over and over for 20 minutes.
Either method introduces extreme cold to your sensitive skin and any sliver of benefit an ice facial may give you is heavily outweighed by the risks and damage it can cause.
Do People Really Give Themselves Ice Facials?
DIY skin care is all the rage. And it’s easy to see why. Who wouldn’t want to grab something you already have in your cupboard and use it to make your skin glow?
Most of these DIYs are touted as affordable and “natural,” to make you believe that they are harmless and couldn’t possibly damage your skin. But that’s not always the case. On the other hand, formulated skin care is just that, carefully formulated. It is specifically designed and rigorously tested to be sure that it is safe to apply on your skin. The same isn’t true for everything you have lingering in your cupboards.
Ice is Just Water, Right? Isn’t Water Good for Your Skin?
Water is good for your skin, but ice is not “just water,” it’s frozen water. And it’s important to know extreme temperatures are not good for your skin.
False Benefits of an Ice Facial
People promoting the ice facial claim it will:
• Shrink your pores
• Tighten and smooth out your skin
• Vanish wrinkles.
• Give you a radiant complexion
• Reduce puffiness
Here’s why 4 out of 5 of These “Benefits” are False:
An Ice Facial Will Shrink Your Pores
The truth is, nothing can shrink your pores. Pores don’t physically change in size. The appearance of pores can shrink, but ice cubes aren’t going to do it.
An Ice Facial Will Tighten and Smooth out Your Skin
Any tightening you may feel after an ice facial is irritation. It is not a long-term benefit, it is your skin reacting to trauma from the extreme cold. And ice facials will not smooth out your skin, the severe cold actually strips away moisture, leaving your skin prone to patchy, uneven texture
An Ice Facial Will Vanish Wrinkles
The key to vanishing the appearance of wrinkles is moisture. So it seems like the moisture from the ice cube would help, right? WRONG. As stated above, ice cubes strip your skin of moisture and that will leave your face more susceptible to developing wrinkles.
An Ice Facial Will Give You a Radiant Complexion
This is the wildest ice facial claim of them all. It is said the ice gives you a radiant complexion by constricting blood vessels and increasing blood flow. Ice will constrict your blood vessels, but that does not increase blood flow. In fact, it does the exact opposite. When blood vessels are constricted, blood flow is decreased, restricting essential nutrients from reaching your skin. Leaving you with the opposite of a radiant complexion.
TRUE (but Skin Damaging): An Ice Facial Will Reduce Puffiness
Ice cubes can reduce puffiness. That is the one claim that is accurate, but it is still so severe. There are many less damaging ways to reduce puffiness that are just as effective as an ice cube and 10 times more safe.
Dangers of an Ice Facial
An ice cube may seem harmless, but it can do a lot of damage to your skin. It can:
• Irritate — leaving you red and itchy
• Constrict blood vessels — reducing blood flow and those nutrients your skin craves
• Burst a capillary — leaving a mark on your face that can only be treated with expensive lasers
• Even freeze the water in your cells — damaging the molecular structures permanently!
Think of the chapped skin that comes with winter. Extreme cold leaves your skin dry, itchy, and flaky. An ice cube is not too different. Cutting off blood flow can cause lasting damage and rapidly increase the visual signs of aging. That is not the result most people are looking for with facials.
Most people get or give themselves facials to nourish their skin, prolong youthfulness, and treat dark spots or blemishes. The ice cube facial can easily cause a blemish. A burst capillary does not go away on its own and is difficult to cover up. Your only option is to book an appointment with a dermatologist and pay for an expensive laser treatment, and even then, it is not guaranteed the mark from a burst capillary will completely disappear.
Prolonged exposure to ice and cold can lead to frostbite. Frostbite freezes the water in your cells, causing irreparable damage and potentially killing skin tissue forever. While it is unlikely that the average ice facial will cause frostbite, there is no need to risk it. The numbness that you feel during an ice facial is the first warning sign of frostbite.
Did Joan Crawford Swear by Ice Facials?
Joan Crawford was the movie star of the 1920s. She was determined to keep her good looks and youth. It is reported that she dunked her face in icy water 25 times every night, which is very possibly where this ice facial craze started.
Knowing everything we now know about skin care and all the research and technological advancements that have been made, no one needs to be taking tips from the 1920s.
In fact, in the 1920s, people thought radiation was the secret to the fountain of youth. Companies put Radium in everything from toothpaste to lotion. Women who used these products had health complications for years to come. So you can leave ice facials and radiated night cream in the 1920s where they belong.
What are the Alternatives to Ice Facials?
There are so many tools and products on the market that can give you the cooling effect you crave without the danger and risks that come with an ice cube facial.
You can use a facial roller to soothe inflammation and reduce puffiness. Even stick the roller in the fridge for added chill (cold is ok, frozen is not). Pop your favorite sheet mask in the fridge before putting it on. Choose a gel based cooling moisturizer for a refreshing, hydrating step in your at-home routine. You can even grab a tried-and-true cucumber slice to give your eyes a soothing rest. And if you really want to attack undereye puffiness, get an under eye cream that works with your body’s natural regeneration process.
What About Cryofacials?
When you first hear the word “ice facial,” you might remember another beauty trend that’s also had a resurgence on the internet: “cryofacials.” Cryofacials have also been around since the early 1900s, but again, it might be best to avoid taking skin care tips from so long ago.
In order to completely understand the craze behind cryofacials, you must first learn about something called “cryotherapy.” Cryotherapy — which literally means “cold therapy” — is a technique that uses cold temperatures which, some sources claim, can improve your overall health. The most everyday method of cryotherapy is using ice packs and other cold compresses to relieve pain in certain areas of your body and soothe any inflamed areas on your skin. However, the most common form of the treatment — whole-body cryotherapy — is where things get a little more intense. Whole body cryotherapy is when you immerse your entire body (except for your head) into an enclosed chamber of extremely cold air (AKA liquid nitrogen that can be as low as -300 degrees Fahrenheit!). The claims say: after you spend 2-4 minutes in the cold chamber, you should be left with less soreness, less inflammation, and an overall boost in health (athletes swear by this technique!). Other whole-body cryotherapy benefits may include migraine prevention, anxiety relief, and a reduction in arthritic pain.
Now, cryofacials use a similar method to whole body cryotherapy — which might make you think “if cryotherapy is so good for your body, cryofacials must be good for your face, too.” And you wouldn’t be totally wrong. When used correctly, cryrofacials are said to help you maintain a clearer complexion, reduce puffiness in your skin, and promote an overall more youthful look. In fact, according to the Director of Dermatology at BowTied Life Dr. Cheryl Rosen, cryofacials can also help improve skin tone and texture, circulation, and lymphatic drainage, which can lead to an overall younger appearance.
Now, these benefits may be everything you’re looking for in a skin care treatment (who doesn’t want to see brighter, healthy-looking skin every time you look in the mirror?). But similar to ice facials, there are some cryofacial side effects you should know about.
If you want to give cryotherapy a try, make sure to discuss your health background with the professional administering the treatment. And as always, we also recommend consulting with your doctor beforehand.
What Are the Downsides to Cryofacials?
Like ice facials, cryofacials claim to shrink the appearance of your pores, increase skin radiance, and help diminish wrinkles. They’re also believed to help increase blood flow in your skin, reduce inflammation, and boost your skin’s production of collagen (an essential protein that keeps your skin young and healthy-looking). But like any skin care remedy that uses ice-cold temperatures, cryofacials may cause more damage than you realize.
While both ice facials and cryofacials use cold temperatures to treat your skin for an overall more youthful look, cryofacials are much more intense than using a simple ice cube (they use liquid nitrogen instead!). Published doctor and internal medicine expert Dr. Gracen Lake explains, “A cryofacial is a non-invasive procedure that employs moderate bursts of compressed, super-cooled air (-240F) to quickly reduce the surface temperatures of your skin and scalp on both the neck and face.” Meant to “force the skin to tighten immediately,” this technique is supposed to refresh your skin for a tighter, more youthful appearance.
Unlike ice facials, cryofacials aren’t a DIY treatment you can try in the comfort of your own home. Because of the extreme temperatures required, cryofacials (and any treatment that uses such intense measures) should be done with the help of a professional. The process is explained best by Dr. Rosen: “a technician will apply a thin layer of liquid nitrogen to the face, and then use a metal wand to massage it into the skin. The treatment is said to be very painful, so most people choose to numb their skin with a local anesthetic cream before undergoing the procedure.”
Because of its use of such extreme temperatures, cryotherapy, in general, has several side effects. While it can help reduce soreness and inflammation in your body, it may cause numbness and tingling along with pain during and after the treatment. And in extreme cases, cryotherapy side effects may also include an increase in blood pressure, a reduced respiratory rate, and frostbite. As for cryofacials, side effects may also include numbness and tingling on your face as well as irritation, infection, damaged capillaries, and even blisters. While most of these side effects are temporary, the overall discomfort and possibility of lasting skin damage aren’t quite worth the supposed benefits. Not to mention, if you have a darker skin tone, or even a slight tan, cryofacials can even cause temporary (or sometimes permanent) skin discoloration.
So, not only are cryrofacials a painful procedure that must be done with a professional, they may even leave you with other visible signs of skin damage — and nobody wants that. So, it’s best to avoid such intense facial treatments and instead opt for safer options you can do in the comfort of your own home.
Each person’s experience with cryotherapy is different. Before participating in any new treatment, it’s essential to consult with your primary care provider to find out what will work best for you and your skin.
What Else You Can Do
As you know, water is a great source of hydration and refreshment for your skin, but these ice-cold (or below-freezing) treatments aren’t exactly helpful. However, there are some ways you can use the idea of these techniques to achieve some of their de-puffing and radiance-boosting benefits at home. Along with using facial rollers and the soothing skin care products recommended above, you can also try switching up your shower routine to include a minute or two of cold water under 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Cold exposure (that isn’t too cold) in small increments like this can help lock in moisture in your skin — actually leaving you with a more hydrated, radiant, and healthy look.
Whether you go with using a cooled facial tool, adding an extra step to your shower routine, or opt to use targeted skin care products to give you similar results to these facial techniques, it’s important to always do what works best for you and your own skin. Dr. Rosen insists, “Whatever alternative you choose, it’s important to make sure that the product is appropriate for your skin type. For example, people with oily skin should avoid using products that contain alcohol, as this can dry out the skin and make it look even more oily. People with dry skin should avoid products that contain menthol or camphor, as these ingredients can be irritating and drying.” Needless to say, before you turn to ice facials or cryofacials, it’s essential to take the time to research and decide if the side effects of these cold treatments are worth it (spoiler alert: they probably aren’t!).
Beauty trends come and go, some good some bad. Ice cube facials make a lot of promises and sound like a miracle cure, but they cause a lot more harm than they will ever cure. Stick to products that have been proven to work and have been specifically formulated to treat your skin, and leave the ice cubes to chill your drink.
Do you know any other wacky skin care tips? Comment the wildest you’ve heard below.