what is icing and why it's important for acne
it's now common knowledge that inflammation is the root cause of many health issues, and acne is no exception. a low-inflammatory lifestyle, best for optimal health, is a big piece of the puzzle for getting clear skin. while it is critical to manage inflammation with diet modifications and stress management, you can also reduce inflammation topically by icing your skin.
icing is a really important and effective part of any acne skin care regimen. so much so that our acne guru dr. james e. fulton jr. called it the "poor man's antibiotic," because of its ability to relieve inflammation just as, if not more, effectively than the oral antibiotic prescription medications commonly prescribed to treat acne.
WHAT DOES ICING DO?
the benefits of icing are multiple fold. It:
- helps prevent inflammation before it sets in
- relieves existing inflammation (much like alleviating a swollen ankle), speeding healing thus reducing scarring + pigmentation
- creates micro-fissures in the most superficial layers of the skin, allowing corrective products to penetrate more deeply, allowing them to work more effectively and efficiently
- is free and/or cheap - anyone can do it anywhere
- keeps fingers busy, hopefully reducing picking!
while its effectiveness (and low cost!) make icing worth it, some people do find it uncomfortable. try to distract yourself so that you can incorporate this regularly. it’s a HUGE game changer for people with acne, especially the visibly inflamed kind.
HOW TO DO IT
The bigger cubes you can use, the easier to hold onto, the more icing surface area you’ll have to work with and the longer you’ll be able to do it! the silicone ice pop molds we sell in our online shop are a perfect because they are a great size, and the silicone tubes keep your fingers from freezing.
- straight from the freezer, you’ll want to run your ice underneath some water to take that dry chill off, and avoid frostbite. (think of licking a metal signpost in a snowy climate and your tongue gets stuck to it — not a good idea). but if you bring your ice to the bathroom with you before you wash your face, the slight melting of the ice during those few minutes will make the cap easy to remove, and the ice wet making it safe to apply onto your skin.
- immediately after washing your face, lightly rub the ice directly onto your face, cold and water dripping everywhere, best done over a sink or a towel draped around your chest to catch those drips. applying no pressure, and keeping the ice constantly moving.
- rub the ice all over your face, and spend extra time on areas where the skin is most inflamed (or feels like it’s going to be). also, start your icing distraction routine, whatever that is. watch your favorite show, dance along to a short playlist, or use it as a time to deep breathe and meditate, twice a day. do what you need to do, to do it on the regular!
- after you’re all done, gently pat your skin dry with a clean towel, and proceed with the rest of your regimen immediately after drying off. these proceeding steps are usually your toner, followed by your treatment serum and/or your moisturizer or spf. do not dilly dally after drying your face off to finish the rest of your regimen. your face will dry out, making it susceptible to dehydration, and sensitivity to your active products.
redness and flushing after icing is totally normal and expected. your skin will normalize within at most a half hour after icing, but more often than not, much sooner. unless your skin is super sensitive or you iced too much / incorrectly, your skin will return to normal by the time you walk out the door to start your day.
this icing trick also works for ingrown hairs anywhere on your body!
HOW FREQUENTLY SHOULD YOU ICE
icing twice a day, after cleansing and before toning is what we recommend for our clients.
per icing session, anywhere from 3 quick rounds all over the face for maintenance, at least five minutes for mild acne cases and up to 30 minutes for more advanced cases is an incredibly super duper important part of your clearing program. it sounds crazy but do it and you’ll see the results exponentially increase!
once you start to clear up, you can back off the icing a bit, but i do recommend keeping it up at least a few times a week (or even better, very quick icing sessions done everyday) to maintain your clarity and prevent any new pimples that may pop up.
WAYS YOU COULD BE DOING IT WRONG
ok. as good and simple as icing is, you can still do it wrong. here are some pointers to keep it on the beneficial side!
- press hard on the inflamed lesions with the ice, this actually causes more irritation and thus inflammation. it’s not the pressure that makes the ice work, but the direct cold temperature.
- keep the ice stationary in one spot, allowing for a kind of frostbite! keep it moving, hun.
- ice for longer than 30 minutes at a time (or even less, depending on how sensitive your skin is). if you finished doing your regimen a half hour ago and your skin is really red or you see broken capillaries, you’ve taken it too far. start slow and gradually increase your timing as your skin can tolerate and as your acne needs.
IF YOU DON’T THINK ICING WORKS:
- it may be because you’re not icing long enough. if you’re “doing all the things” but still inflamed, you may just not be icing enough. set a timer and aim for 30 minutes to be sure you’re really getting enough of that werkkk in.
- are you applying the ice directly to the skin? the ice should literally be melting on your face, getting it wet. you’d be surprised at how many clients were rubbing the silicone tube to their face, with the ice melting inside it and not on the skin.
- are you even icing at all? many clients over the years have straight up lied to themselves (and their estheticians) for whatever reason: either they don’t take it seriously, they don’t have enough time, they hate it or whatever. check yourself if you need to! skin stuff doesn’t work if it doesn’t get onto your face!
- OK, if you are really doing all the things and you’re still inflamed, it may be time to do a once-over on the diet and stress management side of things to make sure you’re good on those systemic-inflammatory inducing fronts, and possibly incorporate some anti-inflammatory supplements like optizinc (zinc monomethionine; a.k.a. zinc + copper; the copper aids in zinc absorption) or zyflamend (a natural formula with tons of herbs to help alleviate inflammation; it also comes in a nighttime version to help you sleep!).
in any case, make sure you are applying the ice directly to the face!!
HOW TO MAKE IT A BIT EASIER TO DO:
it's all about mindset. think of icing like working out - most people don’t enjoy it, but they do it because they know it’s good for them. i use this time to breathe deep, meditate and be really present - even if that means just concentrating on how uncomfortable it is. i envision how much clearer my skin will be, enjoy the feeling of tight muscle tone i feel when i’m done, and remind myself that the self-care and mild temporary discomfort is worth it.
NOTE FOR FOLKS WITH ROSACEA, BROKEN CAPILLARIES OR REALLY SENSITIVE SKIN:
i recommend taking it very slow, or maybe even skipping icing altogether, depending on how sensitive your capillaries are. a quick one time swipe of ice on the skin may be ok, but just know that too extreme temperatures (especially when directly applied to the skin) can break more capillaries, exacerbating your rosacea.
instead, you can try splashes of cold water, or applying a cold compress (like a cool wet towel) directly onto the skin for a few seconds or minutes, as your skin can tolerate. we’ll want to cool the skin down, but not get it super cold as we would with icing, to preserve your tender capillaries and prevent breakage. consult your esthetician or dermatologist for the best advice.
FINALLY, ENJOY THIS TEASER VIDEO OF HOW TO ICE!