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Let's ice and chill.

By Amy Lawrenson
April 01, 2021
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Beauty industry experts have, for a long time, used ice cubes to improve the texture and appearance of the skin. Dua Lipa's makeup artist, Lisa Eldridge, relies on them to ease jet lag-induced puffiness, Kate Hudson is known to submerge her face into an ice bath (simply filling a sink with water and lots of ice cubes), and celebrity facialist Ole Henriksen incorporates them into his Hollywood facials.

But first, some background: Skin icing is a cryotherapy (also known as cold therapy) treatment in which the skin is exposed to extremely cold temperatures for several minutes. Gadgets like facial globes and ice rollers that you store in your skincare fridge are now trending, with experts like facialist Melanie Grant (who counts Victoria Beckham amongst her A-list clientele) sharing her icy skincare tools and routine. But the most basic form of cryotherapy is smearing ice cubes on the face, an easy and practically free treatment that you can do right at home.

But what are the benefits of enveloping your face in sub-zero temperatures—and does it really work? I decided that, rather than spending money on expensive gadgets, I'd try good ol' H2O (frozen that is) and some affordable ice trays. Keep reading to discover the benefits of chilling your face—and what went down when I tried it at home.

The Benefits of Icy Skincare

It turns out that, yes, there really is some merit to cold beauty, and we're not just talking about the sensorial. "You can use ice to reduce puffiness around the eyes, decrease oil production and inflamed spots, constrict pores, soothe sunburn, and give the skin a healthy glow by boosting micro-circulation," says Sophie Shotter, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at the Cosmetic Skin Clinic. "It is also said to increase absorption of active ingredients by causing capillary constriction and creating a 'pulling' effect into the skin."

You don't need to go to a professional esthetician to reap its benefits, either. Using ice on the skin is an easily accessible form of cold therapy, according to Dr. Shotter. "As ice cubes are applied to the skin, blood vessels will constrict. This reduces blood flow to the area, which is how swelling and inflammation improve. As the ice is removed, the capillaries will open up again, giving the skin a rosy glow."

While skin icing is relatively safe, it's worth noting that sensitive skin types should tread carefully. Dr. Shotter advises never to apply the ice directly to the skin; instead, "wrap it in a piece of soft gauze. And don't aim to ice your skin for too long if you struggle with sensitivity. It should feel a little tingly, but not painful to avoid burning."

How to Do an at-Home Ice Facial

What You Need

•   One large ice cube (optional: one smaller ice cube for around the eyes  

•   A muslin cloth or flannel.

I'm not new to using cold tools on my face—they're my go-tos for combating puffiness—but I'd never gone DIY and used ice cubes. After my normal morning skincare routine (cleanser + exfoliating toner), I loaded my complexion with a hyaluronic acid serum. My thinking behind this was that if I cleared away the dead skin and applied a serum, the ice would close my pores and help the actives drive deeper into my skin.

Now for the materials: I luckily already had an ice cube tray that makes big ice cubes for whiskey glasses. I decanted one of those and immediately realized I wouldn't be able to hold it for long (ice is really cold, FYI), so I wrapped it in a muslin cloth, leaving just one side open. 

Holding the cloth-enrobed ice cube, I massaged it onto my skin in upward movements, just like you would with gua sha or facial rolling. I started with my décolletage and up my neck in long sweeping movements. Next, I worked the ice cube along the underside of my jawline from chin to ear, then on the jawline (repeating on both sides). The ice cube I chose for the job was pretty big, so when it came to tackling the puffiness under my eyes, I used the corner of the cube to trace my orbital bone. Lastly, I worked the ice up my cheeks on either side and swept it over my forehead to finish.

The Results

The whole routine took around five minutes in total, including the generous dose of moisturizer I applied afterwards. Immediate observations: My skin felt cold and looked slightly flushed as if I had been out walking outside on a cold, windy day. But it wasn't an unpleasant feeling; in fact, it was actually pretty invigorating. The awakening sensation is reason alone for doing it in the morning, but you may want to do it with some time to spare if you're going out to wait for the redness to subside.  

TBH, the results were better than I anticipated. I could see a drastic difference in puffiness, and the more I swept the ice cube over my face, the smoother my skin appeared. Another instant benefit was that my pores—which are fairly large around my nose and on my chin—had vanished. As for the redness, that quickly faded and my skin returned to its normal hue in just a few minutes. 

In order to truly test the effectiveness of an ice facial, I decided to follow up with some makeup. It passed with flying colors—whereas I normally have to wait for my makeup to settle into my skin, the same foundation glided on like a dream and had an almost airbrushed finish.

The only advice I would give is to get some trays that make smaller ice cubes since they are more agile to use around the eye area, and bigger ice cubes (these round ones are particularly great for massage) to sweep across the rest of your face, neck, and declotteage. 

If you have an ice cube and five minutes to spare, I would recommend doing this every morning. If you love your skincare rollers and professional treatments, then by all means indulge yourself, but I can confirm that a simple ice cube and cloth at home works just as well.