Yes, It Should. Cold Is Powerfully Anti-Inflammatory.
The Essential Info
Applying ice to an emerging pimple can often work wonders in preventing its development. In fact, applying ice is more powerful than anything you could apply topically, and a lot less expensive to boot.
Ice not only helps prevent the swelling and inflammation inherent in acne, it may help in managing any pain as well.
Spot Treatment: For a safe and convenient method of preventing an acne lesion, put a single ice cube into a Ziploc®-type bag and gently hold it on an emerging pimple for 5 minutes, twice a day. Ice works less well on a full-blown zit.
Treating Your Entire Face: Fill a Styrofoam cup with water and freeze it. Peel away the top ½ inch of Styrofoam and very gently move the ice around your entire face for 5 – 10 minutes. You can do this up to twice per day. However, since acne-prone skin should only be washed a maximum of twice per day, make sure you do it immediately before washing your face during your morning and/or evening acne treatment regimen.
So far there is only one study that looks directly at how reducing skin temperature might help heal acne. The study shows that reducing temperature may in fact help reduce skin oil and thus reduce acne.1
Expand to read details of study
Even though we only have this one study, in the real world, doctors frequently use cold in the form of a procedure called cryosurgery to treat acne. Cryosurgery uses extreme cold (liquid nitrogen or dry ice) to freeze an acne lesion for just a few seconds. This destroys the damaged cells within the lesion that cause redness and inflammation and promotes rapid healing of the lesion.
It would be dangerous to use liquid nitrogen or dry ice at home in this manner, but this successful use of cold by dermatologists tells us that cold in the form of ice may also help heal acne.
Scientists have also performed several studies on the use of cold with soft-tissue injuries of the muscles, ligaments, and tendons. We can use this research to give us clues into how cold might help with acne as well. Results from these studies are mixed, but overall cold appears to perform some beneficial functions like reducing inflammation and tissue damage, which tells us that ice could potentially also help with acne.2-4
Expand to read details of studies
Ice for Acne
As we have seen so far, hard science and decades of successful use in dermatologists’ offices tells us that cold is likely beneficial for acne.
Cold causes several physiological changes that result in reduced:
- Tissue damage
- Metabolic speed (cells slow down their usual processes)
- Blood flow
All of these physiological changes can be helpful in managing acne.5
Spot treatment: Place a single ice cube into a Ziploc®-type bag and gently hold it over the area to be treated for 5 minutes, twice a day. You may be surprised at how well this works, especially when you catch a pimple in its early stages.
Treating the entire face: This is a way you can help manage acne in an all-over fashion on a daily basis. Fill a Styrofoam cup with water and freeze it. Peel away the top ½ inch of Styrofoam and very gently move the ice around your entire face for 5 – 10 minutes. Remember to stay gentle because physical irritation can aggravate acne. Just very gently move the ice around without “smashing” it into your skin. You may do this up to twice per day, but even once a day may produce noticeable results. Note: When it comes to acne, it is important to avoid over-washing your skin. You should never wash more than twice per day. Since treating your entire face with ice like this gets your skin wet and is tantamount to washing your skin, treat the entire face with ice immediately before performing your morning and/or evening acne treatment regimen.
- Ray Jalian, H. et al. Selective Cryolysis of Sebaceous Glands. J. Invest. Dermatol. 135, 2173 – 2180 (2015). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25860384
- Schaser, K. D. et al. Prolonged superficial local cryotherapy attenuates microcirculatory impairment, regional inflammation, and muscle necrosis after closed soft tissue injury in rats. Am. J. Sports Med. 35, 93 – 102 (2007). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17197574
- Greenstein, G. Therapeutic efficacy of cold therapy after intraoral surgical procedures: a literature review. J. Periodontol. 78, 790 – 800 (2007). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17470011
- Collins, N. C. Is ice right? Does cryotherapy improve outcome for acute soft tissue injury? Emerg. Med. J. 25, 65 – 68 (2008). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18212134
- Thai, K. E. & Sinclair, R. D. Cryosurgery of benign skin lesions. Australas. J. Dermatol. 40, 175 – 184; quiz 185-186 (1999). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10570551