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Cryotherapy 101: Can You Really Freeze Your Way to Better Skin?

If you’re like most women, chances are you’ve tried a number of products to deal with pesky skin issues like cellulite and breakouts. We feel you: The struggle for perfect skin is real.

But what if we told you that there was a treatment that could possibly — drastically — improve the appearance of your skin… in a matter of minutes?  We’re talking about cryotherapy, one of the biggest health and beauty trends of the moment.

While cryotherapy has actually been used by dermatologists for years to freeze off skin cancer and other abnormal growths, it’s slowly made its way to spas across the country. There’s just one teeny-tiny fact you need to know: It involves spending time in sub-zero temps. Yep. People are literally freezing their booties off in an attempt to get better-looking skin, boost their metabolism, zap their joint pain, and more.

Before you take the artic plunge, find out exactly how cryotherapy works — and whether the benefits are actually legit.

Freezing my body doesn’t exactly sound like fun… Why do people opt for cryotherapy?

Proponents of cryotherapy claim that exposing your body to super-low temps has a whole host of health benefits.

When it comes to your skin, those benefits include reducing the appearance of cellulite, increasing collagen production, boosting circulation to promote younger-looking skin, and alleviating conditions like acne and psoriasis.

Other purported wellness benefits include pain relief from conditions like arthritis, increased energy and release of endorphins (the happiness hormone), faster post-workout recovery time, lower stress, and major calorie burn.

Hmm…this all sounds too good to be true. What’s the catch?

Well, there’s not a ton of research supporting cryotherapy’s claims — so it’s not guaranteed you’ll experience any of the potential results. What’s more, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) actually issued a warning that cryotherapy devices aren’t FDA-approved. That said, a 2007 study did purport that ice baths markedly improved post-workout soreness in athletes, so there is research out there proving that freezing your body has some positive effects.

If I decided to have cryotherapy session, what would it really be like?

If you’re thinking about trying cryotherapy yourself, prepare yourself for a seriously frigid experience.

First things first, before you even step foot into the cryosauna chamber, you’ll need to make sure you’re dressed properly—either in your bra and skivvies or a swimsuit. (And remember to take off your jewelry!) Most spas will provide you with mittens and socks to wear, too.

Other tips to keep in mind: You should avoid heavy exercise or showering immediately beforehand and skip applying lotion, oil, perfume, or any other alcohol-based product. It’s OK to have on makeup or deodorant.

Whew, got all that? Now it’s time to embrace your inner polar bear. Once you’re ready, you’ll enter a chamber that pumps out liquid nitrogen ranging in temperature from -184° F to -280° F and you’ll stay there for the next two and a half to three and a half minutes.

Yes, that’s negative 280 degrees! You can expect your skin temperature to drop anywhere from 30 to 45 degrees during this time.

While you’re in the chamber, it’s a good idea to move around to try to keep yourself warm — well as warm as possible in this situation! You may experience some pain or numbness in areas during the treatment, and afterwards, you might notice temporary redness.

Post-cryotherapy sesh, you’ll be asked to do five to 10 minutes of moderate cardio activity to warm up your body and promote circulation. Congrats: you survived!

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