It takes a lot for us to describe something Lindsay Lohan does these days as unusual, but when the 28-year-old star recently posted a video on her Instagram showing her at a place called KryoLife, entering a chamber set at -256 degrees Fahrenheit, where she would spend three minutes freezing her nearly naked tush off, we thought: well, what the heck is this all about?
Ladies, we give you cryotheraphy, a fairly unknown beauty and health treatment that has ancient roots and whose practitioners say it can help heal the body, increase energy, ward off aging, and, yes, make you look more beautiful… by making you really cold.
Here’s how it works: you book an appointment at a location like KryoLife in New York City, which is the only center on the East Coast (and one of few in the nation) that offers the treatment. A cryosauna operator instructs you to wear protection on your hands, feet, and private areas and then leads you to a cryosauna chamber, where you’ll spend between one and three minutes hanging out in temperatures that range between -184 degrees F and -292 degrees F. The treatment is not painful, according to Joanna Fryben, CEO and co-founder of KryoLife, and clients quickly warm up afterwards, and are sometimes asked to perform a short cardiovascular exercise to help their bodies recover.
The intense, but brief, burst of extreme cold is said to have health and beauty benefits galore. Some health experts say it can reduce inflammation, increase collagen production, which can help reduce cellulite and signs of aging, relieve joint and muscle pain, increase energy and improved mood, and even boost metabolism, though I should note none of these claims have been evaluated by the FDA.
“Everything improves,” Fryben said, adding that the treatments are particularly effective for women 35 and older, because they help balance hormone levels and reduce stress. “It’s not only physical, but psychological–that’s how it helps with overall appearance. You feel mentally and physically stronger over time.”
Athletes have long been privy to the benefits of cryotherapy, which they say help lessen recovery time between injuries and increase their overall stamina and well-being. And folks over in Europe, particularly in Switzerland and Fryben’s native Poland, have been reaping what they say are the positive effects of cryotherapy for decades. But in recent years, American women and men who are not paid for their soccer skills, but are concerned about their appearances and aging (and, in the case of Lohan and other celebs and models, make a living off of their appearances) have turned to the therapy to see what all the hype is about. Fryben offers a cryotherapy facial–$45 per single three-minute treatment–which is different than the overall body treatment because it focuses on applying cold air to the face. In addition to producing collagen, the facial can help with certain skin conditions, including acne and psoriasis, Fryben said.
One of Fryben’s clients, who is a model, describes her skin after the facial treatment, saying it “looked like she slept all night and had a rejuvenating sleep,” Fryben said.
But, at the end of the day, is it all hot (or, rather, cold) air? A passing fad? That depends on who you ask.
Some medical doctors who are unable to diagnose their client’s mysterious aches and pains actually recommend cryotherapy, Fryben said, because it offers a safe, alternative way to possibly reduce pain and inflammation. “We are not doctors here,” Fryben stressed. “Cryotherapy enhances what doctors are doing.” She also noted that the treatment is not recommended for pregnant women or people who suffer from certain health issues, including untreated hypertension, recent cardiac surgery, and cold allergies.
As far as beauty benefits go, some are critical of cryotherapy.
Atelier Esthetique–trained Kim Laudati, who is famous for her anti-aging facials at Kim Laudati Skin Care, says she performs a lot of Coolsculpt by Zeltiq treatments, and that Coolsculpt is the only FDA approved permanent fat reduction method besides liposuction. “It’s that effective when performed properly,” Laudati said. “The science is exact. The fat cells are first to die and they die at 12 degrees Celsius. Any cooler and you do kill skin and muscle, which you definitely do not want to have happen! Coolsculpt is a body therapy specific for freezing fat cells in specific areas that have stubborn fat, such as a muffin top.”
Laudati argues that whatever skin tightening is occurring with cryotherapy is taking place because of the cellular death of tissues that you want to keep. “I just don’t get it. Icing your face can leave a ‘burn.’ Skin can be irritated and you can actually kill healthy cells. That’s why your doctor and physical therapists always tell you to wrap ice, never apply directly to skin! If you’re lucky and nothing untoward happens, if the ‘freeze’ isn’t created through machine technology, then your ‘anti-aging’ will only be very temporary. If it is machine applied, fat cells will die.”
Whether cryotherapy proves to have lasting anti-aging effects is up in the air. I’ve certainly heard of more unusual beauty treatments in my time. But the mere fact that Fryben has big plans to expand her business–she says she is slated to open at least three additional treatment centers on the East Coast–is proof that women and men are intrigued and keeping an open mind. And that they’re more than willing to shiver a little for the sake of beauty.
For more beauty tips, check out the best and worst ways to get rid of facial hair and 7 beauty habits every woman should master in her twenties.