What the Heck Is Cryotherapy (and Why Are Celebrities Obsessed with It)?

freezing cold cryotherapy temperatures

The coolest wellness trend taking celebrities and workout junkies by storm? Whole body cryotherapy, aka standing naked in a tube of icy cold air. Here’s why being cold is so hot right now. 

Wait, so what is it? The term “cryotherapy” refers to any kind of cold therapy, meaning that if you’ve ever used an ice pack to soothe a sore muscle, you’ve technically experienced it. But what we’re talking about is whole body cryotherapy (WBC)—a cold treatment (as low as -270 degrees Fahrenheit) that originated in Japan in the 1970s to treat patients with arthritis. Proponents say that WBC can speed up recovery, reduce inflammation, boost circulation, increase energy and help you lose weight. 

And does it work? The likes of Jennifer Aniston, Daniel Craig and Jessica Alba seem to think so. And a small German study found that athletes recovered faster (and performed better) with WBC, while other research suggests that the treatment offers pain relief from osteoarthritis. But a review looking at the results of four previous studies concluded that there was insufficient evidence to support using WBC to relieve muscle soreness. And as for claims that it will make you lose weight—research says no (sorry). It's also worth noting that the procedure is not FDA-sanctioned. 

I’m intrigued. Same here, which is why we tried it.

What happens in a session? WBC takes place in a walk-in chamber (that kind of looks like a spaceship), with sessions typically lasting just three minutes. You’ll wear socks, gloves and bikini-type attire, but that’s it (your head is above the cold zone, however). And yes, it will feel very, very cold.

That sounds terrible. Hey, it’s not for everyone. But if you’d like to dip your toes into the cryotherapy trend instead of taking the full-on ice plunge, give the more localized—and much less chilly—cryofacial a go.

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Executive Editor

Alexia Dellner is an executive editor at PureWow who has over ten years of experience covering a broad range of topics including health, wellness, travel, family, culture and...