Whether you have your finger on the pulse of the hottest wellness trends or not, it is hard to ignore the rise in infrared sauna sweats and cryotherapy chills. Despite their polar opposite temperatures, both of these tried-and-true rituals come with a dose of impressive health benefits. And as with many things in the health and fitness world, the promising properties of infrared sauna and cryotherapy cross over into beauty, too.
Up ahead, we tap the experts to find out why (and how) cryotherapy and infrared sauna leave a lasting effect on the skin, plus how submerging yourself in their hot and cold temperatures can amp up your health regimen.
Infrared Sauna Benefits
If you belong to a gym or have ever treated yourself to a relaxing day at the spa, you are probably familiar with the sauna. But although they look similar, these saunas and the raved-about infrared saunas are different in the way they heat the body up. “Hot coal saunas [aka those typically found at the gym] warms the surrounding air and causes you to become warm,” explains Alissia Zenhausern, N.M.D., a naturopathic physician at NMD Wellness of Scottsdale. “An infrared sauna uses infrared light to actually stimulate heat from the inside out,” she adds, suggesting that it’s like “a mini-fever [that] stimulates your body to detox.” Because of that, sweating it out in an infrared sauna can up the ante on your skincare.
“With your skin being not only the largest organ of your body but also a vital organ of detoxification, infrared sauna treatments will help you detox from environmental toxins leading to exceptional glowing skin,” says Zenhausern. In addition to glowing skin, detoxification can also help reduce acne because “the mild increase in body temperature that is seen with infrared sauna use can help kill bacteria that can cause acne,” notes Zenhausern. “The other reason it is helpful is because infrared sauna treatments help your skin properly detox and can help minimize clogged pores, areas where bacteria love to sit,” she adds.
The stimulation of sweat helps to improve blood flow and circulation, two necessities in targeting the look of cellulite. And, on top of that, an infrared sauna sweat sesh could help improve rosacea. While the heat from an infrared sauna might seem like the worst thing you can do for rosacea-ridden skin, its anti-inflammatory benefits (combined with the detoxification) actually help reduce the appearance says Zenhausern.
A sauna isn’t the only way to reap the benefits — infrared light facials are an excellent way to target concerns specifically on the complexion. Like the sauna, the infrared light helps kill acne-causing bacteria, helps decrease inflammation, and promotes detoxification for clearer skin.
What is an infrared sauna treatment like?
When you step foot into an infrared sauna, you will find that it has a similar look and feel to the hot coal saunas, only it uses light to trigger your body’s natural detox. According to Zenhausern, an infrared sweat sesh typically lasts around 30 minutes and can range in temperature from 110 degrees to 130 degrees. “Typically, if it is your first treatment, start slow at about 110,” she notes. “The idea is to stimulate sweating, not to make you feel distressed, so some people do just fine at 110 and do not need to increase the temperature for future sessions,” she adds.
As to how often you should sweat, Zenhausern says “the frequency of treatment varies depending on what you wish to address. Ideally, a 30 to 40-minute infrared sauna treatment can be done three times a week.” However, most people can hit the sauna once a week. “You will still see results with going weekly or monthly, but the effect will likely be less,” notes Zenhausern.
In your first sauna session, you might not sweat as much as you think as “the sauna warms you using infrared light [it] can take your body a little time to adjust, [which] is often why you don’t sweat during the first treatment,” explains Zenhausern. “Once your body understands what the infrared sauna is doing, sweating will occur.” After your infrared sauna treatment, Zenhausern recommends increasing your water intake. “Make sure to drink at least half your body weight in ounces. So, for example, if you weigh 135 pounds, drink roughly 67 ounces of water.”
On the opposite end of the spectrum, cryotherapy is another popular wellness treatment that boasts major benefits. “Cryotherapy is the practice of exposing the body to cold temperatures,” explains Lily Kunin, founder of Clean Market, a wellness center in New York City. “Whole body cryotherapy exposes the body to sub-zero temperatures of up to -220 degrees Fahrenheit in order to stimulate multiple physical benefits,” she adds.
Cryotherapy isn’t just for the body though, which is why cryotherapy facials — aka cryofacials — have become increasingly popular amongst beauty editors and skin care fanatics alike. If a full body experience in a cryotherapy sauna seems intimidating, this facial treatment may be for you. “When applied locally to the face, cryotherapy reduces inflammation, which can help stimulate collagen. Additionally, it can help reduce fine lines, clear acne and eczema, and reduce signs of aging,” notes Kunin. On top of that, some use the freezing temperatures as an alternative to Botox, or “Frotox,” as John Hoekman, founder of QuickCryo, says. Applying cryotherapy to the face “decrease[s] pore size, reduce[s] puffiness and dark circles, stimulates collagen and elastin production, and lifts and tightens the skin,” Hoekman notes. At Hershesons in London, you can experience the signature (and only) Sunday Riley facial. You have a choice of three treatments depending on skin needs: Ice Lift, Ice Clear and Ice Express. The common denominator? Cryotherapy is used in each to reduce inflammation and redness.
What is cryotherapy treatment like?
The cryo facial treatment uses “cryogenically-cooled air of up to -160 degrees Fahrenheit” to target the complexion and help aid in the reduction of said symptoms. “The skin on your face is much more sensitive and the benefits max out at -160F,” which is why the temperature is kept so low Hoekman notes. Unlike traditional facials, a cryofacial is a quickie. It lasts up to 12 minutes and can be applied to a full face of makeup. But, there is so much more to a cryofacial — and cryotherapy in general — than a blast of cold air to the face.
The treatment itself uses liquid nitrogen vapor to super-cool the skin, which “triggers neuro-receptors to stimulate the flight response in our bodies, [which] hyper-circulates blood, distributes nutrients and enzymes, and flushes out toxins,” explains Hoekman. The process sets off “a domino effect of anti-inflammatory factors and endorphins, as well as lowers cortisol [aka, the stress hormone],” he adds.
Cryotherapy on the body requires a little more preparation. Before going into a cryotherapy sauna, you will strip down (women can go in nude, men should wear boxer briefs for additional protection) and cover your hands and feet with socks and gloves. Then, you will enter the ice sauna chamber and begin a treatment of up to three minutes. The biggest misconception of a cryotherapy session is that you will experience a freezing sensation — the cryotherapy air lacks moisture, which means that you will feel cool but not uncomfortable. All in all, the many cold sauna benefits are definitely worth a quick chill.
Cryotherapy vs. Infrared Sauna
In the case of cryotherapy vs. infrared sauna, one is not exactly better than the other. As it turns out, these two treatments work together to maximize health benefits. According to Kunin, the two treatments can be used synergistically. “Hot and cold therapies have been used together for centuries,” she notes. “Both have their own unique benefits and using [the] contrasting temperatures can improve treatment of pain and inflammation, boost your immune system, improve blood flow and muscle movement, and encourage a deeper detox,” she adds. The practice of alternating between cryotherapy and infrared sauna treatments is similar to that of winter bathing in Scandinavian countries — aka the mix of hot and cold therapy Kunin references — and both have the similar benefits, only the modern technology of infrared and cryo can enhance them.
That said, using these treatments back-to-back can counteract the benefits of each. “Artificially heating yourself back up with a sauna after cryotherapy is cheating yourself of the great benefits,” says Hoekman. So, while you can benefit from adding both to your wellness and beauty regimen, spreading out your treatments is the best way to reap their benefits individually and together.
“That is truly all you need to maximize the benefits and feel great,” says Kunin. “[But,] as with any therapy, it’s a good idea to consult your doctor if you believe you may have a contraindication,” she adds.
$29 infrared session at GoCryo