The latest craze in beauty therapy and medical treatment is so cool it is literally freezing. Cryotherapy is all the rage in Hollywood, with stars such as Jessica Alba exposing their skin to nitrogen vapour at -160ºC to uppercut their most formidable foe: ageing.
Sports stars including Real Madrid striker Cristiano Ronaldo also use “cryosaunas” to enhance performance and recover from injuries.
In September, CryoLiving in Cape Town became the first company in South Africa to offer cryotherapy.
Owner Eugene Pienaar said a steady stream of clients was spending about R495 for up to three minutes of “whole-body cryotherapy” each.
The cold is said to stimulate the release of “happy hormones”, cortisone and natural morphine, creating an anti-inflammatory and pain-killing response.
Also on offer is a cryofacial, in which pressurised liquid nitrogen vapour is applied to the face and neck.
“The cold temperatures lead to the collagen beneath the skin being disrupted. The body reacts by trying to heal the disrupted collagen and the results are firmer skin, a reduction in wrinkle depth, decreased pore size and improved texture of the skin,” said Dr Kim Prescott, a medical aesthetician in Cape Town.
Movie star Demi Moore, 53, is reportedly a fan, and earlier this year actress Lindsay Lohan posted images of herself undergoing the treatment.
Daniel Craig apparently even used it to get into shape for his role as James Bond in Skyfall.
Basketball superhero LeBron James can be found on YouTube chilling in a cryosauna for “recovery from his workouts”.
People suffering from myriad ailments also swear by it.
Constantia businessman Ivan Garavaglia has had 12 sauna sessions. “I am from Italy where they use it a lot and it is not expensive,” he said.
“Now I sleep well, there is no pain in my legs and I relax a lot.”
A 31-year-old financial manager with an undiagnosed illness causing anaemia, chronic fatigue and inflammation said she felt “alive again”.
“Two weeks ago I was bedridden. I couldn’t even walk up a flight of stairs. Now I am thinking of doing a marathon,” she said.
Pienaar said he had done extensive research into the safety of the treatment before opening his business.
“Our physiotherapist has been extremely busy treating people who have injuries.
“We only launched our aesthetic side of the facility at the end of November. The feedback we’ve had from people was amazing,” said Pienaar.
But Las Vegas aesthetician Chelsea Ake-Salvacion died in her salon’s cryotherapy chamber in October.
The Washington Post reported: “Medical examiners told her family she died in ‘seconds’ … after she entered the machine alone, and her family says she ‘froze to death’.
“She had reportedly been in the machine for more than 10 hours when her body was found.”
When he heard about the incident, Pienaar contacted his suppliers.
“Their comment was that it was under investigation and it was uncertain why she didn’t open the door to exit.
“It happened in a cryochamber, which is like a room with a door that closes. We use a cryosauna where your head is exposed to natural air at all times and the door is held closed by magnets, so it can be opened at any stage.
“Most importantly, though, she administered the treatment herself with no supervision. This is strictly prohibited and reckless,” he said.
Last month, a Forbes article about the treatment’s efficacy listed pros. But it noted: “Without nearly enough scientific evidence, the US Food and Drug Administration has not yet approved whole body cryotherapy as a medical treatment.”
SHIVER, SHRIVEL, TINGLE, RELAX NOW
They say summer bodies are made in winter. It is just a fat-shaming method to sell gym contracts. But I never expected to experience winter in summer, all in the name of a healthy body.
Jerome Cornelius is having a CryoFacial treatment on December 10, 2015. Image: Ruvan Boshoff
The cold therapy was daunting: one’s instinct is not to jump into a nitrogen gas-filled cylinder, and the rolling cold smoke does not help.
Hanging out in his underpants in a cold environment is every man’s dream. I felt my resolve, dignity and other things shrivel, but soon got used to the swirling cold from below – it was no colder than the meat aisle at Woolies. A spin on an exercise bike warmed me up, and a spine-stretching ride on an inversion table followed.
My skin was still tingling long afterwards.
The facial was relaxing, cosmetologist Belinda Woods kneading my face like dough. I could have fallen asleep were it not for the burst of cold, like a lick from Frosty the Snowman.
A citrus moisturiser completed a treatment that left me glowing for the rest of the day.
– additional reporting by Jerome Cornelius
This article appeared on: http://www.timeslive.co.za/sundaytimes/stnews/2015/12/13/Freeze-yourself-into-good-health-SAs-first-cryosauna-open-for-business-video