In the opening scene of the 1981 film “Mommie Dearest,” the title character, based on Hollywood legend Joan Crawford, undergoes an extensive skin care routine. In the final move of the iconic scene, he buries his face in a bowl of ice.
Crawford, who was at the height of her fame in the 1930s and ’40s, was reportedly a fan of ice facials to keep her skin looking young and fresh. And somehow, this technique remains trendy today — supermodel Kate Moss is also a fan of this method. On TikTok, videos tagged #icefacial have been viewed more than 600 million times, showing people dunking their faces in sinks filled with ice water or applying ice cubes to their faces.
Dermatologists and skin care experts say ice facials can provide several benefits, including reducing redness and eliminating swelling.
However, these effects are usually “modest,” says Dr. Dustin Portela, an osteopathic doctor specializing in dermatology based in Boise, Idaho. “For this reason, I and most dermatologists do not recommend it widely.”
However, ice facials remain popular because they are easy and cheap to do and are generally harmless, says Natalie Aguilar, esthetician and dermatology nurse at Kami Parsa Oculoplastic Surgery in Beverly Hills.
Along with the purported skin benefits, she says, “A cooling sensation on the skin can provide a refreshing feeling, contributing to attractiveness, especially on hot summer days, or for women experiencing pre- or postmenopausal symptoms or hormonal fluctuations.”
Here’s a rundown of some of the benefits of ice facials, some of the downsides, and what you should know about getting one, according to experts.
What is an ice facial?
Simply put, an ice facial refers to applying ice to your face, whether that’s immersing your face in ice water, or using an ice ball massager, ice face mask, or ice roller.
“The key is a cold application to the skin and using a tool that you like and is easy to use so that it produces consistency,” says Aguilar.
Benefits of facial ice.
Icing facials can make your skin look firmer and hydrated, reducing redness and temporarily shrinking pores, says Chris Bustamante, an aesthetic nurse practitioner and founder of Lushful Aesthetics in New York.
The cold causes vasoconstriction, or narrowing of the blood vessels, Bustamante said. “By reducing superficial blood flow to the face, redness is reduced and pores appear smaller.”
But in many cases, skin improvements from an ice facial only last for a few hours, says Bustamante, who recommends seeing a dermatologist or esthetician for a longer-lasting treatment to treat your skin concerns.
Here’s what happens over a short period of time: Constricting blood vessels can reduce inflammation and make your skin appear “overall brighter and more radiant,” according to the Cleveland Clinic. The cold feeling also helps drain extra fluid that has accumulated in the lymphatic system, thereby reducing swelling in the face and under the eyes. Ice can also help reduce inflammation, Aguilar says.
But there is little scientific research to show that ice facials provide long-term benefits, Portela says. “Any perceived benefits are likely to be individualized and temporary.”
Are there any downsides to an ice facial?
Exposure to cold temperatures may feel uncomfortable for some people. Otherwise, ice facials are generally safe for most people, Bustamante says. Just limit exposure to cold temperatures to 15 minutes or less – anything more than that will provide no additional benefits and can actually damage the skin in a number of ways.
The most common problem is that people who are sensitive to cold can experience redness when using facial ice, Portela says. This can also trigger redness in rosacea sufferers. And touching ice with your fingers can trigger symptoms for people with chilblains, a condition that causes hands or feet to swell and blister when they have a cold, or Raynaud’s syndrome, a disorder that causes blood vessels in the fingers, lips or nose to spasm. , in response to cold.
People with autoimmune disorders, diabetes, peripheral neuropathy, or cardiovascular conditions should consult a doctor before trying an ice facial, as they may be particularly sensitive to a drop in body temperature or impaired circulation, Aguilar says.
If your skin is exposed to ice for too long, for example more than 15 minutes, this can put you at risk of ice burns or frostbite. According to the Cleveland Clinic, this can cause pain, numbness, swelling, or discoloration.
If you have sensitive skin, it’s best to avoid ice facials, says the Cleveland Clinic. If you have broken capillaries or are recovering from a cosmetic procedure, such as laser treatment or surgery, let your skin heal naturally first.
How to do an ice facial.
It’s safe to have an ice facial a few times a week, as long as you limit it to 15 minutes, Aguilar says.
There is no right or wrong way to do an ice facial (unless your face is often exposed to cold conditions). Bustamante says you can dunk your face in a bowl of ice water, use ice balls or a mask, or try an ice roller. Some people may not want to apply ice directly to the skin and may wrap it in a cloth to create a barrier.
It’s also a good idea to wash your face before applying icing to remove makeup or skin care products, according to Bustamante. “It’s impossible to mess it up as long as everything is clean,” he said.
Always clean reusable products after you use them, Portela says. He recommends also using filtered or distilled water to ensure the ice is free of bacteria.
Follow up your ice facial with a moisturizer that contains humectants, such as glycerin or snail mucin-based products, to “lock in moisture so your skin doesn’t dry out,” Bustamante says.
“It is important to listen to your skin condition, and if one experiences discomfort or a negative reaction, discontinue use immediately,” she says.