Not long ago, I interviewed Victoria Beckham about her glowing-skin routine. Her top tip for reducing puffiness came from renowned facialist Melanie Grant, who told her to dunk her face into a bowl of ice water or take some ice cubes and roll them around on her face. Beckham told me that she swears by the surprising quick fix after traveling or having a glass of wine. While it sounded a little unusual at the time (though certainly budget-conscious), it looks like it might have caught on.
The "skin icing" trend is huge on TikTok, with beauty lovers filming themselves grappling with slippery ice cubes in a bid to make skin glow, or storing their trusty jade roller and gua sha tools at sub-zero temperatures to bring down redness. The Nicole Caroline Luxury Ice Facial Set is particularly buzzy; supermodel Irina Shayk gushed over the ice spheres in a recent video for Vogue.
With celebrities like Beckham and Shayk on board and videos racking up thousands of likes on TikTok, the craze has real legs. But is skin icing an additional step really worth including in your a.m.-to-p.m. skin-care routine?
What is skin icing, and how do you do it?
"A professional skin icing treatment involves liquid nitrogen, or dry ice, being applied to the skin," says facialist and skin expert Nicola Russell, also known as The Skin Geek. "An at-home treatment involves the use of a tool that's kept in the freezer beforehand."
Mariam Adegoke, aesthetics doctor and founder of Adegoke Wellness Clinic, says that cryo-sticks, ice globes, and even ice cubes can be used to similar effect on areas of skin. "In the same way ice is used for injuries to help reduce the body's natural response to inflammation (redness, swelling, pain, and heat), icing can be used to improve the appearance of inflammatory conditions such as acne," Dr. Adegoke says.
What are the benefits of skin icing?
Dr. Adegoke says that there is no hard scientific evidence behind the benefits of skin icing, and most testaments to its results are anecdotal, so the effects will be variable and temporary. The idea is that the cold temperature causes blood vessels to constrict, reducing redness, pain, and swelling and improving the appearance of breakouts. "Blood vessel constriction also means a reduction in the amount of fluid, which is particularly useful in under-eye puffiness," Dr. Adegoke adds. "The gentle massaging action helps to increase lymphatic drainage, further removing excess fluid that causes puffiness. Skin icing is also thought to reduce excess oil production and increase absorption of other skin-care products."
There's more: "Ice stimulates circulation and will add a flush to the face," says Eva Nydal Abildgaard, technical product researcher at health and beauty brand New Nordic. Think of how you look fresh-faced and rosy after a cold winter walk — skin icing has a similar effect. Desi Valentine, aesthetician and founder of Skinned App, says, "I always tell my clients that cold in treatment is your friend, as it will give you a bit of a glow."
While pores can't open or close, Nydal Abildgaard says that skin icing can temporarily minimize the appearance of enlarged pores, much like if you were to splash your face with cold water after cleansing.
Does skin icing actually work?
On an instant-gratification level, it does. Every morning, I wake up with a puffy face from sleeping either on my side or my front. My cheeks, nose, and lips are often pretty swollen; add bad hay fever into the mix, and my face takes a good while to go down. I've tried cooling gel moisturizers and invigorating cleansers with ingredients like mint and arnica (often said to aid bruising and swelling) to no avail. Instead, I decided to try the 001 Skincare CRYOpress. At $105 USD, it's one of the more expensive skin-icing tools on the market, but it did give me the effect I was after.
The tool is essentially an ice massage roller: Tiny little spheres are suspended in the roller itself and freeze when placed in a chiller. 001 Skincare advises using the Alpha Glow Flash Facial alongside the roller, but my skin doesn't get on too well with exfoliating alpha-hydroxy acids so I used The Inkey List Symbright Moisturizer to provide enough slip. It took a few moments to adjust to the freezing cold sensation, which I have to admit took my breath away at first, but it actually felt relaxing as my skin got used to the cold and the pressure. I started on my cheeks and moved to the sides of my nose and lips, which are the puffiest parts of my face in the morning. According to the instructions, rolling upwards helps lift and contour, and pressing in a certain area de-puffs.
After a couple of minutes, my skin looked facial-fresh — ever-so-slightly flushed and glowy, like I'd just used a hydrating face mask. I was impressed. I didn't notice much difference in my large pores, but it did help with my tight jaw, which is always exacerbated by stress and teeth grinding. Aside from the price, my one gripe is time: When I'm not working from home, I'll have to factor the technique into my speedy morning routine, and as a lazy person, I'm doubtful I'll keep it up. Still, it really does work to dissipate puffiness, and it's great if you're headed to a special occasion.
The Skin Geek Cryo Roller is a great affordable alternative to improve skin firmness, help fade inflammation or redness, and relieve muscle tension when rolled along the jawline. "I call this the sub-zero hero," says Russell. "It's a handy gadget that applies freezing cold temperatures to the skin and triggers vasoconstriction," which she explains can make skin look paler at first. "This is just temporary, and oxygenated blood will flow back to the area soon after, leaving your skin brighter and fresher-looking, exactly what you want from a facial."
While there's nothing stopping you from using actual ice cubes, or even a jade roller if you already own one, brands have jumped on board the skin-icing trend to produce handy tools that aren't as slippery or messy and can be used over and over again. Dr. Adegoke recommends Fraîcheur Ice Globes — just be sure not to press too hard, as many ice globes are made from glass containing cold liquid. They also work better when used alongside products such as serums and moisturizers so that they glide easier over the skin.
If you'd rather not spend any money at all, celebrity skin-care and beauty expert Nichola Joss — known for her game-changing facials — recommends using two teaspoons and dessert spoons, one in each hand. When kept in the freezer overnight, the backs of the spoons can be passed over your skin for a cooling, de-puffing effect. The smaller spoons can help de-puff under-eye bags.
Are there any side effects of skin icing?
Skin doesn't mind a little cold, says Valentine, so it would be difficult to over-ice. It's likely that after around 10 minutes, your tool will adapt to your body temperature anyway. "The only caution is to not leave the roller on the same area for too long," says Joss. "Skin can appear pink and flushed temporarily but this will diminish. Out of all the lockdown facials that people are doing at home, I'd rank this as one of the easiest and safest." Dr. Adegoke emphasizes the importance of not holding extremely cold tools in one spot. "Rather, gently massage, and most importantly, don't use them for too long," she says. "Each area only requires a few minutes and as a general rule of thumb, you shouldn’t be icing for any longer than 10 minutes."
Another thing to remember is that if you're using a tool, whichever one you choose, be sure to combine it with your favourite skin-care product. This will make it a lot easier to sweep the tool across your delicate skin, without pulling or dragging.
Some priced in USD.
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