Wait, Why Is Everyone Freezing Their Face? (and Other Cryofacial Questions, Answered)

ny cryofacial hero

People do some pretty crazy things in the quest for an eternally youthful visage. Like ten-step skin-care routines, vampire facelifts or—gasp—giving up coffee. The new treatment that’s taking the city by (ice) storm? Cryofacials: a more targeted version of cryotherapy (aka that thing where you stand naked in a tube of freezing cold air—yep, we tried it). That said, it’s totally understandable to be wary of a blast of nitrogen vapor to the face. We break down what you need to know.

What is cryotherapy, anyway? At its most basic, cryotherapy is a treatment where you expose the body to extremely low temperatures, says Ben Feinson, owner of Cryofuel. We’re talking as low as negative 250 degrees Fahrenheit, in some cases. The practice originated in Japan in the 1970s and was intended to treat patients with multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis. (FYI: It's worth noting that the procedure is not FDA-sanctioned.)

Uh, so why would I want that on my face? Well, just as the full-body immersion purports to reduce inflammation and speed muscle recovery, a localized blast of icy air claims to boost circulation (by causing blood vessels to constrict during treatment and then dilate afterward), depuff under-eye bags and even tighten pores.

OK, I’m intrigued—walk me through a session. First, a technician will prep your skin by gently cleansing it (and, depending on the spa, additional exfoliation may be an option). Then, using a small nozzle, he or she will guide a stream of sub-zero nitrogen vapor over your forehead, nose, cheeks and chin. The whole session lasts no more than eight minutes. Afterward, your technician will finish off by applying a moisturizer.

Does it hurt? Surprisingly, compared with the full-body immersion, the localized cryotherapy facial actually felt more intense (but still bearable).

What about the results? Immediately after my cryofacial sesh at Advanced Cryotherapy, I walked out with a nice wintery glow (as if, say, I’d just gone for a brisk snowshoeing sesh in the Alps), less visible pores and—in regards to a breakout I’d been battling (thanks, adult acne)—reduced redness and inflammation. It wasn't a cure-all, by any means, but it was a great temporary complexion-booster; think of it as a supplement to your normal skin-care routine or a regular facial.

OK, fine—but how much is it? Depending on the spa and the add-ons, a facial starts at around $45. If you’re curious to try it, there are certainly pricier fixes out there, along with more painful ones—as anyone who’s attempted to give up caffeine can attest.

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