SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — Full body chryotherapy has been around for decades in Europe, and they are gaining popularity in the United States despite some of the potential risks.
The draw: a cryotherapy chamber filled with liquid nitrogen – it can expose your entire body to temperatures as low as minus 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
For $65 dollars you can step into one of these machines and in just three minutes it promises to reduce pain, increase energy, tighten skin and even burn calories.
Tennis pro Mark Roberts comes six days a week. “It’s pretty cold but I love it. The pain is nothing compared to the pleasure afterwards,” he said.
Anthony Bayquen’s more of a beginner. “800 calories .. beats running!,” he said. He does it to stay trim. Plus he says, it’s a thrill. “You feel that adrenalin rush, that rush!” he said.
“When I started researching the science behind this cryotherapy, what can happen to your body in 3 minutes, I fell in love with it,” said Skyler Scarlett, the company’s co-creator.
He says cryotherapy is safe, despite the recent death of a spa employee in a cryotherapy chamber in Nevada. “ A major rule was broken and that rule is you do not do cryotherapy alone,” he said.
He says protocols were also not followed in another case in Dallas in which a client’s arm froze, causing third degree burns. “I think she had a wet glove or something,” said Skyler. “Now we make it clear to everyone nothing wet, no metal on your skin.”
But question for consumers is, how you do you know that salons are actually following those safety guidelines? The simple answer is you don’t. No one, not the federal government, the state or even the county health department is regulating or monitoring cryotherapy centers.
“In theory, you can get frostbite, or skins blisters or skin lesions because we don’t know how these chambers are regulated,” said dermatologist Dr. Vic Narurkar. He says doctors have used FDA-approved, targeted cryotherapy for years. But whole body cryotherapy is very different.
He says the claims on the company’s website that cryotherapy can repair and tighten skin and burn calories cannot be substantiated. “We found that there was absolutely nothing peer-reviewed specifically about its use with weight loss or skin toning or skin brightening,” he said.
So what about faster recovery for athletes? Big names like boxer Floyd Merriweather swear by it.
But Stanford professor of sport medicine Dr. Michael Fredericson is not convinced: “I think we can say, if done properly, it’s probably not harmful. But it’s still not clear what benefit it will give you,” he said.
Owner Skyler is convinced he’s offering a positive and safe experience. “San Jose Sharks, Oakland Raiders, they have the best professional athletes in the world coming here,” he said.
And here in San Jose the cold therapy trend shows no sign of cooling off. “Once I am done with my 10 pack I will be getting another 20 pack probably. That’s how good it is,” said Anthony Bayquen.
There are peer reviewed studies that suggest enhanced recovery after athletic exercise. But other studies conclude there’s insufficient evidence for that. So far no studies have been published in the U.S.