Muscle relaxation; tightened skin and mental clarity – why cryotherapy continues to be all the rage in London
We've all seen the pictures on Instagram: a notable influencer, or perhaps even a brave friend, emerging from a steaming human-sized canister, adorned by a surgical mask. No, it’s not a throwback to Harrison Ford in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back; it’s cryotherapy – the health and wellness trend encouraging Londoners to step, or sink, into the cold.
A cryotherapy chamber can be most likened to a high-tech freezer, in which temperatures drop as low as minus 160C with vaporised nitrogen. The air is dry, meaning that it is bracing but bearable, while triggering a chemical fight-or-flight reaction in the body that releases endorphins, thus boosting your metabolism, blood circulation and energy levels.
The art of deep-freezing one’s assets originated in Japan during the late 1970s, when rheumatologist Toshima Yamaguchi employed cryotherapy to relieve conditions including arthritis and inflammation. It wasn’t until the late noughties however that the cryotherapy craze picked up pace as a wellness trend in LA (where else?), before crossing the Atlantic to London. It is used by athletes (Sir Mo Farah, Usain Bolt and Cristiano Ronaldo are fans) to soothe muscle pain and fatigue, as well as improving performance. On a more aesthetic level, it is known to tighten and brighten skin, while relieving insomnia and anxiety. Age-defying celebrities including Kate Moss, Jennifer Aniston and Jessica Alba praise its all-encompassing wellness benefits, while Daniel Craig regularly braced the chill in preparation for his role as James Bond in Skyfall.
In London, cryotherapy chambers now range from Instagrammable alpine lodges to sci-fi pods. Scroll on for your guide to cryotherapy in the capital.
What to expect…
Strip down to your underwear and don a pair of androgynous shorts and a crop top, accessorised by thick socks; gloves and a protective face mask. When you successfully look as though you are performing some sort of athleisure-style heist, step inside the icy chamber and shiver on the spot for three minutes, distracting yourself by reeling off the myriad wellness benefits of the exposing yourself to extreme cold. Leave feeling giddy, tingling and strangely euphoric.
Apogii Clinic, Notting Hill
The Apogii Clinic was opened by Danish Notting Hill resident and cryotherapy enthusiast Emilie Martinsen-Konigsfeldt, who was previously a professional showjumper. "As a showjumper, I tried Cryotherapy as a method of recovery and felt the power from the cold ‘shock’ to my system," she comments. "I was immediately hooked but struggled to find a medical-grade cryotherapy chamber in London. When I decided to open Apogii, I knew I wanted to include it in our offering because it fits so well with our overall concept of wellbeing and improving yourself in the most non-invasive manner. A few of our male clients have also commented that they’ve noticed a big improvement in the blood flow to their vital organs."
The Apogii Clinic embodies a chic Scandanavian aesthetic, with cosy treatment rooms offering Dr Barbara Sturm facials. The cryotheraphy chamber is fashioned like a frosty alpine lodge and fits up to four people. Participants can pick their own playlist and have their photograph taken, giving a whole new meaning to the term 'freeze frame.'
105 Westbourne Grove, Notting Hill, London W2 4UW, apogiiclinic.co.uk
111CRYO Harvey Nichols, Knightbridge
Designed in collaboration with Harley Street’s revered Dr Yannis Alexandrides, 111CRYO is the original deep freeze destination. Tucked away on the fourth floor of Harvey Nichols, the ice-white space also offers a Signature Cryotherapy Facial, which tightens skin through blasting targetted cold air. The sculpting effect on the jawline is particularly impressive, reducing the appearance of excess skin below the chin for a sharper, slimmer profile.
Dr Yannis has also recently launched the UK's first infrared heat chamber. The antithesis of cryotherapy, 111HEAT blasts the body with heat that reaches up to 90 degrees in order to boost blood circulation and detoxify the body. Hardcore CRYO fans experience all three offerings in a single session.
Harvey Nichols, Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7RJ, 111cryoheat.com
KXU is the luxe pay-as-you-go gym on Pavilion Road, which is an offshoot of the prestigious KX Members' Health Club. The endorphin-boosting -85c full body Cryotherapy chamber is the perfect antidote to the gym’s intense HIIT classes. Sessions can also be bought on a membership basis for those seeking unlimited cold encounters.
241 Pavilion Road, Chelsea, London SW1X 0BP, kxu.co.uk