Ice Age

Reputed to reduce inflammation, cellulite, anxiety, pain, and more, whole-body cryotherapy is popping up in spas across the country, as people are paying top dollar to subject their bodies to bone-chilling temperatures for one to three minutes. Although cryotherapy recently suffered a major setback with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reporting that there is no scientific evidence to back up the purported claims, that hasn’t stopped spa-goers from embracing this cool therapy.

Professional athletes were the first to adopt this growing trend by trading their ice baths for cryochambers to help ease their aches and pains. KryoLife cofounder and CEO Joanna Fryben explains that, unlike an ice bath, cryotherapy positively impacts the nervous and endocrine systems. “Whole-body cryotherapy is much more potent, of much shorter duration, and much more comfortable for the user,” she says. “After an ice bath, muscle loses it capacity for some time.” Plus, with cryotherapy, you don’t get wet. Now, celebrities and spa-goers are hopping on the bandwagon, and it’s no surprise when you consider a single cryotherapy session is reputed to burn up to 800 calories and help with anti-aging and weight loss. As a result, cryotherapy is turning up in spas across the country.

Despite it’s recent popularity, cryotherapy is far from new. Today’s whole-body cryotherapy, developed in 1978 in Japan to treat rheumatoid arthritis, involves entering a chamber of liquid nitrogen, which tricks the body into hypothermia. Scientists in Germany and Poland further developed cryo (cold) procedures, and in 1989, the third cryochamber in the world was created in Poland. The treatment quickly became commercialized and popular among athletes in Europe.

While cryotherapy was slow to come to the U.S., it is now being embraced by body-conscious consumers. KryoLife (New York City), which opened in 2012, offers whole-body cryotherapy sessions using protocols that have been developed over 25 years of using the modality in Europe. “My friends—athletes—were using the therapy back in my native country of Poland,” says Fryben. “I did a lot of research and interviewed many doctors and people who used the therapy in Poland and in Europe before I decided to introduce the modality on the East Coast.” KryoLife is a distributor of Juka Cryosaunas and an exclusive distributor of KrioSystem Life.

Today, spas and wellness clinics across the country are incorporating cryotherapy into their menus. In April 2015, The Spa at Sea Island (GA) began using Impact Cryotherapy equipment on its golfers. “We did a test with the professional golf community in our area, and it was a big hit,” says spa director Ella Stimpson.

As more technology is developed to localize cryotherapy treatments, spas are expanding their offerings with smaller, less expensive devices that target the face and neck. At Skintology Skin & Laser Center (New York City), guests can experience the CryoCure Facial ($155, 60 minutes), which uses a CryoWand from Cryohealthcare. “A controlled beam of vaporized liquid nitrogen is used to freeze the skin of the face, scalp, and neck area,” says owner Yevgenya Freylikhman. “The cold nitrogen produces an instantaneous tightness in the skin, filling in fine lines and wrinkles. Collagen is activated to produce more cells, causing skin to become more elastic over repeated use.” Now, cryotherapy gives spa-goers yet another reason to chill out.