Skin Icing: How This Chilly Facial Beautifies Skin

Woman with beautiful, clear skin

Rosdiana Ciaravolo/Getty Images


Skin icing has become a popular morning and evening ritual for better-looking skin. Cold therapy has been used in spas and in skin care treatments for several years and for numerous reasons, including cryotherapy (treatments using cold temperatures), to destroy fat cells (CoolSculpting), and to get rid of spider veins (through Cryo 6, a new method of sclerotherapy). It's also long been a regular practice in the skin care routine of Korean women—who are, of course, known for their detailed beauty rituals.

What Is Cryotherapy?

Localized therapy treatment in which the body is exposed to extremely cold temperatures for several minutes. It helps to reduce inflammation and blunt nerve receptors to dull pain.

Proponents of skin icing believe it can be used to:

  • Refresh the face
  • Fight the formation of wrinkles
  • Fight acne and heal blemishes
  • Promote blood circulation, thereby giving skin a healthier appearance

The History

The most basic form of skin icing is when you use an ice cube to reduce under-eye or facial puffiness. It has long been a staple of skincare wisdom (we’ve all used a refrigerated spoon or cucumber slices on our eyes in the past, right?). Far from being an old wives' tale, there’s actually science behind this age-old advice. When actual ice is applied to the skin, it causes blood to rise to the surface (think of that rosy glow you get after a brisk winter walk), which soothes and tightens the skin.

Ice has long been a secret to clear skin and a healthy-looking glow. Russian Empress Catherine the Great was said to have applied ice cubes to her face, neck, and décolletage every morning to give her skin a radiant appearance. Whilst expensive facials and complicated skincare tools have their place, sometimes the simplest tricks are classics for a reason.

Iconic Hollywood actress Joan Crawford was another high-profile fan of skin icing. She is said to have regularly submerged her face in a sink of ice water to brighten her complexion and counteract puffiness. Today, celebrity fans include Mandy Moore, who Instagrammed her Super Nova Facial with specialist Joanna Vargas. The Super Nova includes cryotherapy—to help increase circulation, oxygenation and lymphatic drainage, and also provides anti-inflammatory benefits. Vargas’s other clients include Elizabeth Moss and Dakota Johnson, who also enjoy her unique cryotherapy facials.

Kate Moss has also been vocal about her favorite beauty secret—the exact same practice of submerging the skin in ice water that Joan Crawford championed years before. If this trick keeps our favorite ’90s supermodel's skin looking radiant, we want in.

Plenty of Benefits

Skin icing helps tighten and shrink enlarged pores by helping to unclog pores that can appear larger due to debris and excess sebum. Icing tones the face, making it look smoother. It's also an inexpensive toner, and great to do before applying makeup. It minimizes the appearance of enlarged pores underneath the makeup, helping foundation look smoother and flawless. Ice the face and then apply primer.

You can use it to de-puff your eyes too. Cold constricts the blood vessels so that less blood goes to the surface of the skin (which reduces any inflammation or swelling). The body responds by gradually sending an increased flow of warm blood to the area, which is what that rosy glow comes from.

Even better, using a cooling skincare product on the face will help the actives absorb better. This is due to the cold temperature making the capillaries in the skin restrict, creating a “pulling” effect. Fatigued faces can look forward to a firming effect and stimulating feeling from the ice that helps eliminate toxins. It can also help ease the signs of wrinkles and slow the appearance of new wrinkles, too.

Rub an ice cube in a circular motion around the face and under the eyes after cleansing to help stimulate circulation, as well as give the skin a revitalizing pick-me-up.

Blemish Control

Ice can help reduce swelling and the redness of pimples. It also soothes irritated skin. Use ice cubes on blemishes at the first sign of a pimple to slow inflammation. It can help reduce the size and number of blemishes. Hold the ice on acne for a few seconds or until the area feels a little numb, and ice the blemishes every other night.

Swollen skin makes it difficult for topical creams to reach the bacteria inside the pores, and by reducing the inflammation the pores will open (i.e. they will be unclogged). So icing actually helps antibacterial agents and topical antibiotics get into the pores. The topical medications are more able to penetrate the skin because icing makes the skin surface more permeable. The cold helps reduce inflammation that has clogged the pores with swelling and helps keep the other pores from getting clogged, thereby reducing the appearance of new blemishes.

If you want to "freeze" pimples, gently rub the ice cube over the affected area where the acne treatment will be applied to cool the skin. Rub the ice over the area for about two to three minutes, or until the skin is wet and feels cold to the touch. Be careful to not hold the ice cube on the skin too long, though, because it can freeze the skin.

How to Do an Ice Facial at Home

If you're trying to do an ice facial on your own, start by thoroughly cleansing your face. Wrap one or two ice cubes in a soft washcloth, gauze, or other soft cloth; when the ice begins to melt and the cloth is damp, apply it to your face. Hold it on different areas of your face for about one to two minutes, moving the ice cubes gently with circular movements up along the chin and jawline, up the cheeks and along the forehead and along the nose. Take special care underneath your eyes. Complete the facial, of course, with toner, acne treatment, or moisturizer. For additional skin benefits, you can infuse the water for the ice cubes with lemon, rosewater, green tea, cucumber, chamomile tea, and other skin-loving ingredients depending on your skin care needs.

If You'd Rather Not DIY It

Teresa Tarmey Cryo-Ball Cryotherapy Kit
Teresa Tarmey Cryo-Ball Cryotherapy Kit $290

Key Ingredients

Hyaluronic acid is a naturally occurring polysaccharide found in the human body. It acts as a cushioning and lubrication agent for our joints, nerves, hair, skin, and eyes. When used in skincare, it acts as a moisture binder, which means that it will attach itself to the water in the cells (while also attracting and holding water from the air) making them plump.

If you’re looking for all-out luxury, skincare expert Teresa Tarmey offers a Cryo-Ball that’ll allow you to experience her sought-after Ice-Lift Facial at home. The Cryo-Ball instantly lifts saggy skin and sculpts the face. Made with surgical-grade steel and freeze-retaining fluids, this kit is all-out skincare innovation in your hands. The ball is kept in the freezer for 12 hours prior to use. When applied, the freezing temperatures will prompt tighter skin and give an instant glow. The genius gadget stays ice cold for ages so you can take your time massaging it across your skin. The reusable silicone mask is layered over an application of the pure hyaluronic acid to aid the ingredient's delivery into the skin. There’s also a lactic acid toner to gently exfoliate the skin.

Jalue Ice Therapy Mini Facials Set
Jalue Ice Therapy $53

Jalue is the brainchild of Jale Demirchi, who, after being immersed in Russian skincare history and herbalism from birth, was inspired by Catherine the Great’s penchant for ice-cold skincare. Demirchi developed Jalue Ice Therapy so customers could easily reap the benefits of ice facials at home. The packaging feels luxe like it'd be triple its affordable price tag. The “wake up your skin” pack contains an ergonomic, reusable ice cone applicator that’s filled with water and mixed herbal sachets meant to fight the formation of wrinkles, lessen the appearance of pores and give the skin a glowing appearance. The hand-sewn muslin cotton sachets contain dried herbs and petals of chamomile, sage, nettle, rose and oak bark—all proven to sooth and boost the skin’s natural glow.

Anne Semonin Express Radiance Ice Cubes (Set of 8)
Anne Semonin Express Radiance Ice Cubes (Set of 8) $65

We told you Anne Semonin was the go-to brand for ice therapy at home. The innovative range has been described as “haute couture for the skin,” with MUA Lisa Eldridge professing her love for Semonin’s radiance-boosting ice cubes. We’re not entirely surprised the brand is ahead of this trend, as it’s been pioneering skincare for decades. (As a legendary French facialist, Anne even counted Grace Kelly as a client.)

These will give you more skin-friendly benefits than an ice cube alone ever could. They contain marine spring water, which is rich in trace elements and mineral salts. There are also extracts of evening primrose oil and red micro-algae to add radiance and moisture. Store these little miracles in your freezer, and when you’re ready to use them, the neuro-cosmetics (which are meant to calm the skin’s nerve endings and restore the skin’s natural balance) will work their magic. To use, turn the cubes out of the molds and wrap them in the gauze provided. Smooth them over the face, neck, and décolletage.

Anne Semonin Eye Express Radiance Ice Cubes (Set of 6)
Anne Semonin Eye Express Radiance Ice Cubes (Set of 6) $62

Key Ingredients

Lysine is a particular type of amino acid called an essential amino acid, which means that you need to eat it in your diet because your body does not make it. For the skin, lysine is essential for proper skin function as well as the synthesis of collagen.

Semonin followed the success of her radiance-boosting ice cubes by creating specialist eye cubes made especially for the delicate area of the skin. Think of these cooling cubes as an instant soother for tired, stressed eyes. Gourd extract plumps up fine lines and wrinkles whilst bioflavonoids visibly improve dark circles. Simply dab over the eyelids; then sweep them under the eyes. The cubes contain hyaluronic acid and lysine, which help to combat aging. These little cubes are the definition of small but mighty.

Article Sources
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1. Papakonstantinou E, Roth M, Karakiulakis G. Hyaluronic acid: a key molecule in skin agingDermatoendocrinol. 2012;4(3):253-258. doi:10.4161/derm.21923

Related Stories