The beginner’s guide to cryotherapy

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We’ve all seen the pictures on Instagram: a notable influencer, or perhaps even a brave friend, emerging from a steaming human-sized canister, adorned by a surgical mask. No, it’s not a throwback to Harrison Ford in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back; it’s cryotherapy – the health and wellness trend encouraging Londoners to step, or sink, into the cold.

A cryotherapy chamber can be most likened to a high-tech freezer, in which temperatures drop as low as minus 160C with the help of vaporised nitrogen. The air is dry, meaning that it is bracing but bearable, while triggering a chemical fight-or-flight reaction in the body that releases endorphins, thus boosting your metabolism, blood circulation and energy levels.

The art of deep-freezing one’s assets originated in Japan during the late 1970s, when rheumatologist Toshima Yamaguchi employed cryotherapy to relieve conditions including arthritis and inflammation. It wasn’t until the late Noughties, however, that the cryotherapy craze picked up pace as a wellness trend in LA (where else?), before crossing the Atlantic to London. It is used by athletes (Sir Mo Farah, Usain Bolt and Cristiano Ronaldo are fans) to soothe muscle pain and fatigue, as well as improving performance.

On a more aesthetic level, it is known to tighten and brighten skin, while relieving insomnia and anxiety. Age-defying celebrities including Kate Moss, Jennifer Aniston and Jessica Alba praise its all-encompassing wellness benefits, while Daniel Craig regularly braced the chill in preparation for his role as James Bond.

One brand pioneering the treatment in London is 111Skin. Founded in 2010 by Dr Yannis Alexandrides and Eva Alexandridis, it was one of the first to add cryotherapy to its menu of science-backed skincare beloved by Margot Robbie and Victoria Beckham. Here Dr Yannis explains the benefits of cryotherapy, what to expect and why, once you’ve tried it, you’ll never look back.

What is cryotherapy?

Whole-body cryotherapy is the immersion of the entire body in extremely low temperatures, inciting vasoconstriction and leading to a vast array of physical and mental benefits. Think of it as an intense version of a cold shower or an ice bath. There’s an abundance of benefits from aiding muscle recovery, improving sleep quality (by balancing the serotonin and melatonin hormone levels) to boosting metabolism, circulation, energy, and mood, thanks to the hit of adrenaline and endorphins to banish brain fog, stress, and fatigue. An ideal therapy for those who want to reset and clear the mind.

How long does cryotherapy last?

Time spent in the chamber is three minutes. This is occasionally extended to give the most optimal result for individuals, based on skin temperature readings immediately following each session. Overall session time is 15 minutes including changing time.

How do you prepare for cryotherapy?

No preparation is needed beforehand; just jump straight into the chamber! Although the temperature sounds extreme, the dry atmosphere makes it very manageable. When you enter the chamber, keep your extremities moving to encourage blood flow, and jog on the spot (we play music of your choice, so you may wish to dance instead if you feel so inclined).

The combined effects of cryotherapy on the body can stimulate an increase of calories burnt over the following 24 hours. It encourages adrenalin and endorphin release, helping to awaken the body and relieve pain. There is a wonderful feeling of exhilaration reported.

During the treatment the skin temperature drops significantly sending signals to the brain while core body temperature does not change. When exiting the chamber, increased circulation re-warms the skin rapidly and users do not remain cold.

When and how often should you do cryotherapy?

I recommend cryotherapy one or twice a week and it can be done at any time of day – it depends on desired outcomes and your own schedule. It is an excellent tool for recovering after exercise, helping to combat the effects of jet lag or to improve sleep quality after a busy day.

Extreme cold tightens, tones, and smooths skin. It stimulates the circulation and provides a boost of oxygen, which encourages collagen and elastin synthesis, and revives the complexion. Skin is retextured, with the appearance of pores diminishing, and feels firmer.

The cold temperate also induces a primal instinct known as ‘fight or flight’, which stimulates many positive short-term and long-term effects on the body. For example, a boost of ‘feel-good’ endorphins is released, giving a calming euphoria, while ‘energising’ adrenaline provides clarity and focus. Other benefits, as well as improved sleep quality and a metabolic boost, include immunity support, anti-inflammatory and anti-ageing effects.

London’s best cryotherapy clinics

111Cryo at Harvey Nichols, Knightsbridge

111cryo harvey nichols

Designed in collaboration with Harley Street’s Dr Yannis Alexandrides, 111Cryo is the original deep freeze destination. 111Cryo is the longest-established cryotherapy treatment in the UK and the first to pioneer gas-free cryotherapy, the safest modern way to deliver this highly effective treatment. Freezing air is evenly distributed over the body, offering incredible mental and physical benefits that include pain relief, muscle recovery, increased circulation, and improved sleep quality.

Tucked away on the fourth floor of Harvey Nichols, the ice-white space also offers a Signature Cryotherapy Facial, which tightens skin through blasting targetted cold air. The sculpting effect on the jawline is particularly impressive, reducing the appearance of excess skin below the chin for a sharper, slimmer profile.

The space is also home to the UK’s first infrared heat chamber. The antithesis of cryotherapy, 111Heat blasts the body with heat that reaches up to 90 degrees in order to boost blood circulation and detoxify the body. Hardcore cryo fans experience all three offerings in a single session.

Harvey Nichols, Knightsbridge, SW1X 7RJ,

Apogii Clinic, Notting Hill

apogii clinic london

The Apogii Clinic was opened by Danish Notting Hill resident and cryotherapy enthusiast Emilie Martinsen-Konigsfeldt, who was previously a professional showjumper. “As a showjumper, I tried cryotherapy as a method of recovery and felt the power from the cold ‘shock’ to my system,” she comments. “I was immediately hooked but struggled to find a medical-grade cryotherapy chamber in London. When I decided to open Apogii, I knew I wanted to include it in our offering because it fits so well with our overall concept of wellbeing and improving yourself in the most non-invasive manner. A few of our male clients have also commented that they’ve noticed a big improvement in the blood flow to their vital organs.”

The Apogii Clinic embodies a chic Scandinavian aesthetic, with cosy treatment rooms offering Hydrafacial, BioEffect and Mauli facials. The cryotherapy chamber is fashioned like a frosty alpine lodge and fits up to four people. Participants can pick their own playlist and have their photograph taken, giving a whole new meaning to the term ‘freeze frame.

105 Westbourne Grove, Notting Hill, W2 4UW,

KXU, Chelsea

kxu medispa

KXU is the luxe pay-as-you-go gym on Pavilion Road, which is an offshoot of the prestigious KX Members’ Health Club. The endorphin-boosting -85C full body cryotherapy chamber is the perfect antidote to the gym’s intense HIIT classes. Sessions can also be bought on a membership basis for those seeking unlimited cold encounters.

241 Pavilion Road, Chelsea, SW1X 0BP,

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