As temperatures plummet, beauty enthusiasts are embracing the freezing cold and taking it one step further – with ice-cold facials, ice baths and sea swimming in the midst of winter.
Otherwise known as cold water therapy, the concept has been around for centuries and often favoured by athletes to recover aching muscles.
Yet since the hashtag #coldwatertherapy attracted over 220 million views on Tiktok, the beauty community has adopted the theory for skincare with #icefacials gaining over 300 million views.
Even celebrities, from Jennifer Aniston to Bella Hadid and Kate Moss, are dunking their faces in ice-cubed water.
WHAT IS COLD WATER THERAPY?
Cold water therapy is simply immersing your body – or face – in cold water that’s less than 15 degrees, usually for only a few minutes at a time.
This can be achieved by having a cold shower, ice bath or facial, or going swimming in the British Isles during winter, with sea temperatures roughly around 6 – 10 degrees.
It’s a method that is said to benefit the body in numerous ways, from reducing muscle pain and stiffness, improving blood pressure and cholesterol levels, to boosting the immune system.
When paired with breathing methods, it can have a positive effect on inflammation, too.
HOW DOES IT BENEFIT THE SKIN?
Its popularity on social media has been fuelled by its immediate, visible results. Many have turned to cold-water-facials to wake-up their skin first thing in the morning and reduce puffiness.
Inflammation busting is one of its main benefits on the skin, as the burst of cold water causes our pores to constrict tighter. This not only reduces swelling, but also makes the skin feel tighter and firmer.
This boosts blood flow and circulation, which in turn helps to remove toxins. Increased blood flow results in a healthy glow and smoother texture.
But you may also notice redness – a pop of colour that leaves skin looking more plump and youthful. This is from the initial shock of cold water causing a rush of blood to the skin’s surface.
While this leaves skin looking radiant, this can amplify redness and symptoms for those with rosacea. Sensitive skin types should be more wary of extreme temperatures at either end of the spectrum, as if used too frequently, it can become an irritant.
DOES COLD WATER IMPACT THE SKIN MICROBIOME?
Water may seem like a neutral contender in your skincare regime, but just a splash of it in the morning can alter your skin microbiome.
Hot water in particular has more power when it comes to disrupting microbe communities, particularly as boiling temperatures can strip the skin of natural oils and blast bacteria in the process. As a result, this can lead to inflammation and sensitive skin.
Cold-water on the other hand, poses less risk. The temperature tends to be gentler on the microbiome and actually encourages muscle tightening and blood-flow.
However, that’s if the cold water comes from a tap. As sea water tends to wash off your resident bacteria and invade the microbiome with ocean bacteria instead. These new microbes then remain on the skin for up to 24 hours post-swim. (Nielsen and Jiang; 2019)
The majority of the time, this is beneficial to your microbiome – as it increases bacterial diversity and abundance. However, as pathogenic bacteria exists in the ocean too, it can create a risk of infection and could be more disruptive for unbalanced microbes or sensitive skin.
WHAT CAN I DO INSTEAD OF ICE-WATER FACIALS?
If face-planting a bowl of iced water does not sound appealing, there are multiple alternatives to reap the rewards of cold water therapy.
At-home, it’s worth utilising Cryo devices. You can try ice globes that you store in the fridge or tools with cooling plates that reach icy temperatures and smooth over skin. Both options will de-puff and boost blood flow.
Though there are countless cryotherapy facials you can splurge on, there are also a number of cooling gels you use to ease puffiness and irritation. Check out our go-to, cold-boosting products below.
For a money-saving hack, simply store your go-to moisturiser in the fridge. That way, when it comes to applying, it will give a cooling effect on the skin.
Learn more about your skin microbiome and meet the bacteria living in yours with our skin test. Order here.
Enter your email below to receive updates from the Skin Trust Club HQ including latest offers and recommendations on new microbiome-friendly products.