So, what is cool about the cold? We asked Consultant Dermatologists Dr Sreedhar & Dr Zainab to find out...
Open water swimming, ice-cold baths and Wim Hof; cold temperatures have had a lot of coverage in the last year. With rising anxiety rates around the uncertainty of the Covid-19 pandemic, many have turned to the healing nature of the elements, in particular the icy ones.
Cryotherapy literally translates as ‘cold therapy’ and is used in medical practices, using cold temperatures to freeze and remove abnormal tissue. However, there are a lot of great benefits that cryotherapy can bring to skincare and well-being also.
Good thing we had Dr Zainab Laftah, a Consultant Dermatologist at Omniya Clinic and Dr Sreedhar Krisha, Consultant Dermatologist at skindoc to run us through the benefits of cryotherapy and the best way to use it.
What exactly is Cryotherapy?
‘Cryotherapy is a treatment modality that has been used by Dermatologists for decades for numerous indications. It involves the precise localised application of cold temperatures of -196°C to destroy skin cells and traditionally has been used in the treatment of verrucas and pre-cancerous lesions. Whole body cryotherapy has recently become en vogue and treatment involves exposing the naked body to sub-zero temperatures for a few minutes.’
Why cold temperatures in particular?
‘Exposure to the cold can wake up the nervous system, helping you feel more awake and refreshed. The cold can also activate your body's immune system which helps protect you from infections. In the same way that we use ice packs to settle a sprained ankle, cold exposure is anti-inflammatory.’
What about the benefits of cryotherapy for our skin?
Dr Sreedhar said:
‘Yes! The benefits go way beyond our skin. It can stimulate our immune system and help us feel refreshed. There is some evidence that whole-body cryotherapy may reduce the risk of Alzheimer's and dementia through reducing inflammation. It can also be used to reduce the pain of arthritis.
The technique has been successfully used to improve mental wellbeing. This is because cold exposure stimulates the release of pleasure hormones (e.g. endorphins). This can help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.’
What is the best way to carry out cryotherapy massage on ourselves?
Dr Sreedhar suggests that the best techniques are the ones that ‘depend on your particular aims and circumstances.’ But there are some general guidelines he suggests following such as being ‘gentle when applying cryotherapy in areas of particularly fragile skin, e.g around the eyes. There are a variety of tools employed in cryotherapy but if using fingers, it’s worthwhile applying firm deep pressure and making small circular movements.’
To hear more from our wonderful skin professionals, check out Consultant Dermatologist Dr Sreedhar Krishna at the skindoc and Consultant Dermatologist Dr Zainhab Laftah at the Omniya Clinic.