We’ve long been warned about using heated styling tools on our hair. All the curling irons, straightening tools, and hair dryers help to style however we like, but they definitely have a negative effect on the health of our hair—that's been proven. So when we discovered the newest gadget: a cold version of styling tools, we were skeptical (and intrigued).
Cryotherapy has already been used for the body to alleviate arthritis aches and post-workout pain, and more recently, introduced into skincare and facials meant for acne and eczema symptoms, as well as potential brightening, energizing, and lifting benefits. So, I suppose it's no surprise cold therapy has extended to our strands. In fact, the practice is not entirely new. Cryotherapy caps have been approved by the FDA to prevent hair loss in chemotherapy patients since 2015. Below, expert advice about why cryotherapy may be a helpful new way to style and care for your hair.
Cold Versus Hot
"Cold brushes are finishing tools that smooth hair," says Ghanima Abdullah, a cosmetologist and hair expert at The Right Hairstyles. "They are not meant to straighten the hair like heat brushes, and can even be used on curls,” Abdullah explains. These tools are meant to work by adding moisture and flattening the hair cuticle. The idea is that when the cold flattens it, the cuticle is sealed, which is how the cryotherapy is meant to reduce frizz, increase shine, and encourage hair growth.
"Cryotherapy is great for all types of hair," Adbullah says, "particularly color-treated or over-processed hair—anything that's prone to splitting." It’s also great for those with curly and natural hair, says Sally-Kate Duboux of Hair by Duboux in Hockley, Essex. "Working oils and creams through your hair helps the cryotherapy [do its job], and can work wonders on locking in moisture and adding shine,” Duboux adds. "The cold treatment locks in the moisture lost through the over-use of heated tools, and cryotherapy brushes add a natural healthy shine to your hair while smoothing any natural or humidity-induced frizz," she explains.
If you have been experiencing any kind of hair loss, this could be a game changer. A 2017 study found cryotherapy is an effective treatment for alopecia patches—and it’s a simple and non-invasive option. "It can be considered as a meaningful therapeutic modality for alopecia areata, especially when the disease status is mild, or the conventional AA treatment is not applicable,” the study concludes.
Cryotherapy is meant to be hydrating, promising to grab moisture from your environment and seal it into your air. That said, if you hair in prone to oiliness, don't use it every day, or try balancing your moisture levels with weekly protein treatments. That’s not to say that cryotherapy shouldn’t be used daily. In order to see results, you’ll most likely need to do it for a few weeks before you really notice a difference.
Babyliss' Pro CryoCare The Cold Brush is a popular option, as well as products from smaller companies like the Perfect Finish Ice Cold Treatment and the Frozen Flat Iron from CIC Beauty. The Cold Brush promises to cool, moisturize, and untangle while it brushes your hair. It goes down to 32 degrees, so while it won’t freeze your hair, you’ll notice the chill.
Malkani RH, Shirolikar SM, Karmakar S, Setia MS. Hair styling procedures and hair morphology: a clinico-microscopic comparison study. Indian Dermatol Online J. 2020;11(4):551-558. doi:10.4103/idoj.IDOJ_452_19
Lombardi G, Ziemann E, Banfi G. Whole-body cryotherapy in athletes: from therapy to stimulation. An updated review of the literature. Front Physiol. 2017;8:258. doi:10.3389/fphys.2017.00258
National Cancer Institute. FDA clears wider use of cooling cap to reduce hair loss during chemotherapy. Updated July 21, 2017.
Jun M, Lee WS. Therapeutic effect of superficial cryotherapy on alopecia areata: a prospective, split-scalp study in patients with multiple alopecia patches. Ann Dermatol. 2017;29(6):722-727. doi:10.5021/ad.2017.29.6.722