The jury is still out on cryotherapy facials, also known as frotox, which involve freezing the face and neck to make the skin look tighter and smoother. But while the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has yet to give the procedure the green light, a growing number of beauty-seekers are touting its effectiveness.
Cryotherapy is attributed to a Japanese doctor named Toshima, who first used extreme cold to treat rheumatoid arthritis in the 1970s. He discovered treating patients in a tube of freezing vapor reduced inflammation and pain in their bodies.
Since then cryotherapy -- the application of liquid nitrogen, which produces vapors that reach temperatures between -200 and -300 degrees -- has been used by professional and serious athletes around the world. It’s the same concept as an ice bath, but exaggerated to a large degree.
The idea is that when it’s freezing, your body sends blood to your internal organs as a way of regulating your temperature, triggering a natural healing process.
Recently, beauty treatment centers have begun using the method for facials. The procedure, which involves blasting the face and neck with extra-cold liquid nitrogen for several minutes, is said to increase the flow of blood to your skin and redistribute vitamins and nutrients, therefore increasing the production of collagen -- the protein that makes your skin look elastic.
The physiological impact of the treatment has not been thoroughly studied. One study on mice found that cold actually reduced the number of oil-producing cells. Other studies vouch too, but a 2016 FDA report said the effects of cryotherapy were largely unknown.
“We simply don’t know,” FDA reviewer Dr. Anna Ghambarayan said. “At this time, there’s insufficient publicly available information to help us answer these questions.”
The FDA has also warned of possible risks, including frostbite, burns, and eye injuries.
Still, testimonies continue to grow. A lot of people swear by frotox, saying there’s little to no recovery, it doesn’t hurt as much as they expected it to, and the results speak for themselves.
A Vogue reviewer wrote in 2018: “It feels weird, a bit extraterrestrial, but kind of great, too--like I just woke up from a deep sleep in some kind of faraway glacial land. I touch my face and sure enough, everything feels tighter.”
And a reviewer for Allure Magazine wrote in the same year: “Immediately, I noticed my skin was glowing, redness (something I’ve come to accept after struggling with it my entire life) was visibly reduced, and pores appeared noticeably tighter. It wasn’t until the days that followed, though, that I realized just how powerful these cryotherapy sessions can be. My skin was still glowing.”
If you have rosacea or another skin condition, or if you’re pregnant, talk to your doctor about frotox and possible alternatives.