What Happened When I Gave Myself An Ice Bath Facial

by Sara Farrell Baker
Sara Farrell Baker

I have never understood people who say they need to take a cold shower. Who would do that to themselves? When I turn on my shower, I keep the water hot enough to steam wallpaper off the walls. I’m pretty sure that I am walking around in a constant state of “medium rare” because I have come close to boiling myself in the pursuit of warmth and coziness.

So when I first read about ice bath facials, I thought they sounded terrible. But — because I’m adventurous or a glutton for punishment (or both) — I decided to give them a try and then tell you all about it. You’re welcome.

First, an ice bath facial is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a bath made of ice for your face. You take a large bowl and fill it with ice water. Some people prefer to splash their faces a specific number of times with this frigid water. Joan Crawford was a devoted face-freezer and splashed her face with ice water 25 times every time she washed it. Others prefer to submerge their faces completely in the bowl.

The icy cold water is meant to constrict the capillaries in the face to reduce swelling and puffiness, with the desired result of looking awake and refreshed.

After attempting this feat myself, I can vouch for the fact that it does make a person look awake. Mostly because I’ve never seen a sleeping person scream and curse so much at six in the morning.

Splashing water makes for a very wet bathroom, so I decided to go with polar-plunging my face. I figured it would be quicker and it wasn’t like I was submerging my entire body. I pulled my hair back, secured my bangs and flyaways with a headband, set out my towel, and dunked.

Except I forgot—but immediately remembered— that ice water burns.

My intention was to keep my head under water for a few seconds. Maybe not as long as I could hold my breath, but close. Instead, I looked like one of those water drinking birds people used to sit on their desks that you only see in old Looney Toons shorts. Face went in. Face came right back out. Because ice water and human flesh is unfuckingpleasant.

Upon psyching myself up and trying to convince myself that this wasn’t an absolutely terrible idea, I was able to re-plunge my face and hold it in the water for a few seconds. After I came back up and patted my face down with a towel, I took a look in the mirror.

My face looked awake, alright. But it didn’t look so much refreshed as it looked enraged.

Sure, my makeup went on rather nicely afterward and my skin did feel smoother than usual and my complexion was a little brighter. But even though making my body think I was dying for a second wasn’t a bad look on me, the ice bath facial is not likely to be something I’m going to be adding to my beauty routine any time soon.

If I want pain in my skincare, my tolerance is better spent on microneedling and acid peels. But if I ever wake up puffy or extremely tired and need to do something about it, dunking my head in a bowl of ice isn’t the worst remedy.

But because extreme temperatures, both hot and cold, aren’t great for the skin, I wouldn’t recommend a frequent habit. Subjecting your skin to freezing temperatures can result in broken capillaries, causing red spots on your face that can be hard to get rid of. At a maximum, I wouldn’t exceed doing an ice bath facial more than a couple times per week.

However, I think I may have finally found the solution to my inability to drink coffee because coffee is disgusting. Flash-freezing my head first thing in the morning felt similar to injecting caffeine straight into my eyeballs, so I might be onto something here.