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Cryotherapy, in simple terms, is the general or localised use of cold temperatures for medical or, more and more these days, beauty therapy. It is a non-invasive treatment that boasts a pretty impressive number of benefits, including increased collagen production, weight loss, energy-level and metabolism boost, and inflammation reduction. It’s got some pretty famous supporters, too. Footballer Cristiano Ronaldo swears by it for faster recovery during training, while Demi Moore and Jessica Alba use it for beauty purposes.
So what does a whole body cryotherapy treatment entail? The full body treatment takes place in a cryosauna, which doesn’t look unlike a souped-up refrigerator. When you step inside, you are naked – bar some disposable knickers, ski gloves, thermal footwear, oh and nipple pads (all of which are provided). It’s an interesting look, let’s be honest! As you stand in the machine, the top of it reaches your shoulders, leaving your head above the chamber and therefore not exposed.
And there you stand, naked, being blasted by freezing nitrogen gas. Think of it as the coldest shower you ever took, but ten times worse. The session lasts just three minutes but in that time the temperature will drop to between -70 to -140 degrees C. (They go easy on first-timers, gradually reducing the temperature with each session.) It’s FREEZING! You will never be so happy to be wearing nipple pads. A therapist remains in the room with you, monitoring your reactions, talking to you (distracting you from how cold you are and how slowly the time seems to be going – three minutes has never felt so long) and checking the machine is working OK. They ask you to turn periodically, which seems to vary the intensity on parts of your body and also it feels good to keep moving. For the most part your gloved hands are just outside of the chamber, holding the edge. It’s only toward the end that you drop them by your side so that they also get the freezing blast. Your whole body is shivering. The dry air is more manageable than an ice bath, but it’s intense and is a relief to step out and envelope yourself in the warm bathrobe. My skin is tingling and is flushed pink. It feels like it’s springing back to life, which is kind of the idea; the extreme cold temperatures stimulate blood circulation and increase oxygen and nutrient supply, so it’s no surprise that you feel invigorated after. And you potentially lost weight while you were in there. Bonus! An injury I have to my knee also seems to hurt less.
Facial and localised (which is ideal to treat sport injuries or arthritis) treatments are carried out in another, equally slick room. The facial treatment lasts 15 minutes. It is a strange feeling as the beam of freezing nitrogen gas touches your face. It’s kind of like ice-cold water massaging and gently pushing upwards, but it’s actually dry. It’s not painful. The freezing jetstream moving around your face is a very peculiar sensation, though. I close my eyes and can almost imagine that I’m skiing down the slopes with the ice-cold wind blowing in my face. Every now and then the stream of air passes in front of my mouth and takes my breath away. When we finish my face does feel different, the skin seems tighter, like it has lifted. I have a definite flush and I feel great. After one session, the results weren’t necessarily long lasting, but I’m sure a regular freeze could have a positive impact on my skin, and my mood. The rush of post freeze endorphins has left me raring to go.