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If you’ve ever Googled ways to de-puff your swollen skin after a crying session or a long day of traveling, you may have found some ice masks—face-shaped versions of the flexible ice packs you may have carried in your school lunches—such as ones from PerfeCore or TheraPearl. Or maybe you’ve come across the Esarora Ice Roller, which uses a jade roller-like mechanism, but where there would be jade is a frozen roller head. Using cooling products on the skin can feel good, and if you can garner skin benefits from them, it’s a win-win. But do they actually do anything?
What do frozen skincare devices claim to do?
Aside from cooling the skin, the ice masks claim to reduce redness and puffiness, shrink pores, and calm acne-prone skin. Similarly, the ice roller claims to prevent wrinkles, relieve fatigue, calm the skin, and shrink pores. You place an ice mask over your face like a sheet mask and affix the straps around the head to keep it in place, while you roll the ice roller on your face upward and outward to massage the skin. What these products have in common is the icy pressure they apply to supposedly alleviate skin troubles. We asked Dr. Richard Torbeck, a board-certified dermatologist practicing at Advanced Dermatology in New York, to weigh in on what to expect.
They can reduce inflammation
Cryotherapy—the practice of subjecting the body to low temperatures for healing purposes—has been proven temporarily effective for decreasing swelling and redness in the skin. Dr. Torbeck explains that cooling the skin reduces inflammatory markers, or elevated protein levels in the bloodstream caused by irritation or injury. When the face is swollen, it indicates that fluid is trapped in the tissue instead of flushing through the lymphatic system. “The cold and the pressure reduce any aberrant fluid leaking into the top layers of skin and the pressure promotes fluid return to the lymphatics,” Torbeck says. “The lymphatics return the blood to the circulation, reducing puffiness.”
They can shrink pores
While a cold compress relieves swelling, it also shrinks pores—temporarily. Your pores are the visible pinhole-looking elements of the skin’s pilosebaceous unit, which is comprised of the sebaceous glands (responsible for oil production in the skin), our hair follicles, and the arrector pili muscle (responsible for our goosebumps). When we put a cold compress onto our skin, the muscles beneath the skin contract, which makes our pores appear smaller and, in some areas of the body, goosebumps appear. This effect is noticeable immediately, but just like goosebumps go away when the skin is no longer in cold temperatures, so does this pore-tightening effect.
What can freezing the skin not do?
When the arrector pili muscles contract and cause pores to shrink, this may also cause a tightening effect that reduces wrinkles, again, temporarily. However, Torbeck says, there is not enough evidence to prove that cooling products are treatments or preventative measures for wrinkles.
Freezing skin devices are also not magic fixes for other skincare woes, like dark spots or acne scars. And while doctors may use cryotherapy treatments to remove skin lesions, moles, and tags, these at-home devices won’t have that effect.
Is there any harm to ‘freezing your face?’
The products’ effectiveness is only a great thing if they are also safe to use. “There appears to not be any issues with these devices that are non-invasive,” Torbeck says. “However, if the person leaves it on the skin for a prolonged period of time at a very cold temperature, they are at risk of frostbite.”
If you purchase a mask that does not have a protective barrier between the ice pack and your skin (the PerfeCore is lined, for example), do not leave the product on for more than 20 minutes or past the point of comfort. If you’re using an ice roller, keep it in motion so you’re never focusing the cold on one spot for too long. The rolling encourages blood flow in the skin, which helps prevent frostbite, too.
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