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Should I Be Icing My Face?

Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photo: Getty Images

Everything old is new again on TikTok—as long as you give it a catchy name. The latest beauty trend to be resurrected? Ice facials, which proponents credit with various skin benefits, from de-puffing and tightening to contouring facial muscles and smoothing wrinkles. ​​People are out there rubbing ice cubes on their cheeks, submerging their faces in freezing water (#IceDunking, #FaceDipping), and using cleverly named ice-facial tools like the Super Chill Facial Pill, the Contour Cube, and the CryoRoll (hats off to Big Beauty for managing to glamorize what are, in essence, Popsicle molds).

Thing is, experts say most of these tools and techniques are way too cold. “Submitting your skin to freezing temperatures can result in cell damage and rupture,” says New York City dermatologist Nava Greenfield, M.D. In fact, she adds, “We use freezing techniques in medicine if we are looking for a modality to destroy skin cells for a variety of reasons.” Yes, you read that right, she said destroy.

Ice is usually well below freezing temperature (water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit, but most home freezers are set to 0 degrees Fahrenheit). And even ice water can be too harsh! I just put 12 ice cubes in a bowl, filled it with tap water, and measured the temperature with my food thermometer. It was 30.8 degrees Fahrenheit. And Greenfield says, “Direct contact with freezing temperatures can cause a reaction similar to a burn.”

Aesthetician Joanna Vargas has seen it firsthand. “I’ve had clients come in with rashes from overdoing the ice cubes,” she says. “And the ice baths are a bit savage, no? I mean, my mom used to do that, but we’ve come a long way since then. We can do better.”

The better option she’s referring to is cold therapy, which is different from icing. “Safe cold temperatures can reduce puffiness and help with rosacea,” says Vargas. It’s also anti-inflammatory and can help with bruising. “The cold clamps down on superficial blood vessels,” Greenfield explains.

So how do you get those cold-therapy benefits without destroying skin cells in the process? Greenfield suggests putting ice in a zipped bag and then wrapping that in a cloth and pressing it to puffy or inflamed areas of your face for a few minutes. It may not make for a great TikTok video, but it works. Vargas says you can put a gua sha tool in the fridge and use it to give yourself a cooling facial massage. In a pinch, you can even apply your usual serum or face oil, and then use the back of a refrigerator-chilled metal spoon to deflate puffy eyes or soothe inflammation. “As long as the temperature does not get too low and is not causing any pain, it’s okay to try,” says Greenfield.

If you’re feeling fancy, there are sophisticated skin gadgets (read: not Popsicle molds) that deliver sustained cold without dropping below the freezing mark. Vargas’s Magic Glow Wand has both warm and cool modes and a massaging action you can turn on and off. And the Theraface Pro, which every celebrity seems to have, features a cold-ring attachment (sold separately) that gives you the ice-facial effect without the ice.

And don’t be tempted to store your skin care at subzero temps, like that viral Vue De Pulang Frozen Cream, a moisturizer that resembles a slushy after you pop it in the freezer for a few hours. “Most moisturizers are not meant to be frozen, and chemical structures can change when heated or cooled beyond certain temperatures,” says Greenfield. Even those skin-care fridges can get too cold for some products, adds Vargas. So, I guess my final words of advice on this whole ice-facial thing are the same as those for most people on TikTok: Please, just chill.

Jennifer Sullivan answers all your beauty-related questions with practical advice and zero judgment. Send your questions to (By emailing, you agree to the terms here.)

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Should I Be Icing My Face?