Cryotherapy, which involves exposing your skin to extreme cold, may help relieve eczema symptoms. But research is limited, and some people may experience severe side effects.

Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, is a skin condition that causes skin dryness, itching, rashes, and bumps. It affects around 30% of people in the United States and can make you prone to developing skin infections.

Eczema is not curable, but treatments can help manage symptoms.

One such treatment option for eczema is cryotherapy, which involves immersing your entire body in extreme cold. But experts warn that the risks may outweigh the benefits for some people.

Keep reading to learn more about how cryotherapy works to treat eczema and what the research says about its safety and effectiveness.

Cryotherapy is a method that involves the use of extreme cold to treat various conditions. Since the 1800s, dermatologists (doctors who treat skin conditions) have used cryotherapy to remove skin lesions on specific areas of the skin.

Skin conditions that doctors may treat with cryotherapy include:

Whole-body cryotherapy involves exposing your entire body to extremely cold temperatures to treat systemic conditions — those that affect multiple areas of the body.

Those who support whole-body cryotherapy say it can improve blood circulation and metabolism and relieve joint and body pain. These supposed benefits make it an attractive therapy option for some athletes and people with chronic pain.

But experts warn that there’s not enough evidence to support these claims. For this reason, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved any whole-body cryotherapy devices.

Some small studies suggest that cryotherapy or cold treatments can be an effective treatment for people with eczema. Cryotherapy may provide the following effects:

  • anti-inflammatory, meaning it relieves inflammation
  • antipruritic, meaning it relieves itching
  • analgesic, meaning it relieves pain

A 2022 research review confirms these effects and vouches for the technique’s safety. Still, the authors caution that research is limited.

What other cold treatments can help eczema?

There’s anecdotal evidence for people using other cold techniques to treat eczema, including:

These methods use temperatures of 59°F (15ºC) or lower to treat the skin.

Research suggests regular cold exposure can help treat chronic autoimmune inflammation and improve blood flow.

Still, there’s little scientific research to suggest that these techniques help relieve eczema symptoms. However, a cold compress can help relieve itching.

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If you’re interested in undergoing cryotherapy, the National Eczema Association (NEA) recommends first consulting a doctor familiar with you and your eczema symptoms.

If you go to a cryotherapy center, it’s best to work with a healthcare professional who can monitor your health and ensure you’re comfortable during the whole session. Extreme cold temperatures can increase your chance of developing blisters and skin dryness. You may also have scarring and skin discoloration.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD), other side effects of cryotherapy include:

According to the NEA, whole-body cryotherapy sessions last less than 30 minutes and take place in a metal cooling chamber that sends cold air to your body. The temperature is usually -200°F (-129°C) or lower.

You may have to wear gloves and foot coverings so that you don’t develop frostbite. You may also have to wear minimal clothing, such as socks, a mask, a bathing suit, or a headband.

You’ll also need to remove any sweat from your skin, as this can lead to skin burning and necrosis (death of skin tissue).

Once the session is over, you may get dressed and resume your day-to-day tasks.

If you have an uncomfortable wart or skin tag, your dermatologist may only treat the concerned area. This is different than whole-body cryotherapy. They may use a cryotherapy wand or perform a cryotherapy facial.

These are commonly asked questions about cryotherapy.

Who should not use cryotherapy?

The authors of a recent study note that cryotherapy may not be the right treatment if you have conditions that can worsen when exposed to cold temperatures. These include:

The NEA also notes that children under 12 may not be allowed to use whole-body cryotherapy.

Is cryotherapy FDA-approved to treat eczema?

The FDA has not approved any whole-body cryotherapy devices. Many companies claim that these can treat various skin conditions, but studies on their safety and effectiveness are limited.

How much does cryotherapy cost?

According to the NEA, cryotherapy can range from $70–$120 per session.

Is there a permanent cure for eczema?

There’s no cure for eczema. According to the AAD, it can be a long-term condition, as some people develop flare-ups throughout their life. Corticosteroids can treat mild eczema, but home remedies can help you manage your symptoms.

Eczema management tips

Working with a doctor to develop a treatment plan can help you manage your eczema symptoms effectively. Regardless of which treatment options you pursue, the following tips from the National Institutes of Health may help:

  • Avoid scrubbing your skin.
  • Apply a lubricating ointment to moisturize your skin.
  • Cut your fingernails so that you don’t scratch your skin.
  • Use alcohol- and fragrance-free products.
  • Avoid taking hot baths.
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Whole-body cryotherapy is a procedure in which you sit in a metal chamber and expose your skin to very cold temperatures.

This treatment may help relieve eczema symptoms, such as itching, inflammation, and dryness. However, it’s not FDA-approved and may cause frostbite, skin rashes, and temporary memory loss.

You may not be a good candidate for cryotherapy if you have other conditions. These include cold allergy, Raynaud disease, and multiple myeloma.

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