Over the years, we've seen a lot of celebrities freezing their butts off in the name of health; everyone from Teen Wolf's Cody Christian to Mandy Moore has been turning to this latest craze in the fitness world that was once reserved for athletes.
This growing trend is called extreme freeze therapy, better known as cryotherapy. Basically, people go into subzero chambers for two to three minutes and freeze. Proponents say that cryotherapy can help with everything from cell rejuvenation to decreased inflammation, an improvement in collagen production and energy, and a faster recovery time from exercise. As of now, cryotherapy is not FDA-approved, and there's little science backing up its claims. Like most early health trends, the glowing reviews are anecdotal and subjective. But the people who swear by cryotherapy are obsessed.
Curious, I called a local cryotherapy clinic, booked an appointment, and vowed to freeze my ass off — literally. (It's also supposed to help with fat burning and metabolism boosting.) Could going into an ice-cold chamber for two minutes really have an improvement on your heath? I was about to find out.
Upon arriving at the clinic, I was given a tour of my cryo options: the CryoSauna, the CryoChamber, and the CryoFacial. "Why make another trip back?" I thought.
"Can I try all three today?" I asked. Commending me on my brazenness, they told me I could, as long as I defrosted between sessions in their "toaster." It's exactly as you might imagine: a giant heater that warms you up between each round. I was up for the challenge. I got dressed in their uniform — my underwear, a white robe, long tube socks, some clogs, gloves, and a face mask — and went straight for the CryoSauna.
The first thing I noticed was how much the sauna looked like a giant freezer. Like the freezers that they keep frozen meat in at the butcher. It's a large box with two tiny closet-size rooms in it. The first closet is where you change. Next to this room is a door leading to the actual freeze "sauna." But this isn't your average sauna. This sauna is set to -200 degrees, and you stay in there for about two minutes. They let me choose a song while I froze like a cutlet, so I picked "Work" by Rihanna because it felt jazzy enough to make me dance (which I hoped would help ease the experience).
The sauna was SO COLD. It started off slow and not too terrible, until my whole body was overtaken by the icy air. I felt like I was in the Ice Age — and that's an understatement. Why anyone would do this was beyond me. I kept booty-popping and jumping all around to try to warm up my body, but it didn't seem to help. Eventually my time was up and I couldn't wait to get out. I was freezing. I definitely had a boost of energy, but it was only because I felt alive from being frozen. After that, I popped into the heater, which felt like heaven! Once warm, I was ready for the CryoChamber.
The difference between the sauna and the chamber is that your whole body isn't in it, so this time I didn't need to keep the face mask on. With the chamber (the one people most commonly see on Instagram), your head is out. You're only freezing from the chest down, which was nice. It was still really cold, but it was a lot more bearable for a newbie like me. I also felt my blood start to really flow as I jumped up, down, and all around until my two minutes were done. They give you an option to stay for three minutes, but no, thank you!
After that, I was able to get dressed again and head to another room for my CryoFacial. This one was dedicated solely to freezing my face to help shrink my pores and boost collagen. There was a large, thick wand that my facialist held over me as I lay back in the seat. This session was 10 minutes.
"It might sting a little," she told me. But I was OK with that. Anything in the name of vanity!
She was right; there were slight moments where there was a light pinch, but for the most part, it was very tolerable. She kept the wand moving all around my face, which helped. My hair got a little frosty, but overall, it wasn't bad. Of all three treatments, this was my favorite because it was the least invasive.
Did It Work?
Upon leaving the clinic, I definitely felt energized. I looked in the mirror and my face did look a lot smoother, instantly, with a healthy glow. My body felt tight, and my blood was pumping. For a first-time experience, it wasn't all that bad. It was very cold, yes, but for only two minutes, it wasn't unbearable. I would recommend starting with just one treatment, preferably the chamber, and working yourself up to the sauna. For a nice little pick-me-up, do the facial.
The average cost of cryo for a first-timer can range between $45 and $65, with the average facial costing about $45. As I mentioned, it wasn't terrible, and most athletes who do it swear by it. I don't work out as intensely as often, but I definitely noticed that evening and the following day that my body did feel a lot more mobile and more pumped and my skin and midsection much tighter.
I've also been back since my first experience, mostly to make other people try it or just as a fun social outing. It's definitely a bonding experience. I think to truly see benefits, you have to do it often (at least weekly). For me, I'll visit occasionally, stick mostly with a facial, and enjoy watching my friends freeze for two minutes.