The effect of whole body cryotherapy on skin temperature

In this blog, we explain the effect of whole body cryotherapy treatments on skin temperature, and why choosing a safe whole body cryotherapy solution is so important.


# Get the right skin temperatures for the best result with whole body cryotherapy


The beneficial effects of whole body cryotherapy are caused by a number of physiological reactions to the cold conditions. The change in skin temperature is regarded as the trigger for these reactions. Although the effect of whole body cryotherapy on skin temperature is significant, there are other factors which help to reach to reach the right skin temperature.


The average general skin temperature of human beings (although highly depending on the environment and circumstances) is approximately 33°C/ 91°F. One session of whole body cryotherapy is able to decrease local skin temperatures to between 8°-18°C, implying a change in general skin temperature of 10-15°C.


Absolute skin temperature, however, is not what causes beneficial responses: it is the change in skin temperature which triggers the hypothalamus. As humans, we don’t feel the ambient temperature; we only feel the effect of whole body cryotherapy on skin temperature.


# Cold and low temperatures are different concepts

Temperature perception
Picture 1: perceiving 100°C as hotter than 200°C


This perception is illustrated very well in this video, which also explains why 100°C vapor from your stove can feel so much hotter than a blast of dry air at 200°C from your oven.


# The effect of whole body cryotherapy on skin temperature


The capacity to transfer thermal energy with whole body cryotherapy is much lower compared to, for example, cold water immersion (air is an insulator and water a conductor). To compensate for this difference, whole body cryotherapy uses much lower temperatures compared to water immersion protocols, resulting in a comparable effect on general skin temperature.


A study of Costello and colleagues (2012) compared the effect of whole body cryotherapy (-110°C for 4 minutes) and of cold water immersion (-8°C for 4 minutes). The decrease in general skin temperature directly after the exposure was slightly higher for whole body cryotherapy (-12°C versus -8°C), with no difference between the two methods after 10-60 minutes.


Theoretically, the cooling efficiency is a function of the lowering of skin temperature within a certain range. Research illustrates that different variables such as gender, region, body composition, the type of exposure and the chosen protocol influence the decrease in skin temperature. Hammond and his colleagues (2014) illustrated that on average women’s skin temperature cools faster compared to men’s skin temperature. We must also bear in mind that the decrease in skin temperature is not distributed evenly throughout the body (see Picture 2).

Picture 2: A male volunteer directly after a whole body cryotherapy session. Thermal mapping illustrates the temperature distribution and areas with cold spots


A fact often overlooked is that no individual responds the same way to a stressor such as extreme cold, and the response might even be different for the same individual when exposed twice to the same protocol. With PolarFit® Care , we standardize the effect of whole body cryotherapy on skin temperature among individuals. We use a sophisticated and certified Health Software method that incorporates a well-validated thermophysiological model (FPC model, Fiala et al. 2001). Contrary to the use of a standard mathematical model (Polidori et al. 2016), this model can simulate the effect of a whole body cryotherapy session on the thermal state of an individual. In this way, we can calculate the correct combination between treatment temperature and treatment duration For each person to achieve the desired change in general skin temperature (Broede et al. 2017). Table 1 shows how this works.


Using the PolarFit® Care method, the treatment duration is recalculated, resulting in an exposure time for person A of two minutes and fifty-one seconds, whilst person B has a treatment duration of two minutes and thirty-four seconds.


Table 1: example of how two individuals obtain a different treatment duration using PolarFit® Care


This not only helps to get the right result, it is also much safer!




  • Broede, P, Fiala, D., Viroux, PF, Tiemessen, I. & Trembley J.P. Impact of personal characterisitics on whole body cryostimulation settings: a numerical simulation study using the FPC model. DOI: 10.18462/iir.cryo.2017.0059. The 14th CRYOGENICS 2017 IIR International Conference, Dresden, Germany.
  • Costello, J. T., Culligan, K., Selfe, J. & Donnelly, A. E. Muscle, skin and core temperature after -110°c cold air and 8°c water treatment. PLoS ONE 7, e48190 (2012).
  • Fiala, D., Lomas, K. J. & Stohrer, M. Computer prediction of human thermoregulatory and temperature responses to a wide range of environmental conditions. Int J Biometeorol 45, 143–159 (2001).
  • Hammond, L. E., Cuttell, S., Nunley, P. & Meyler, J. Anthropometric characteristics and sex influence magnitude of skin cooling following exposure to whole body cryotherapy. Biomed Res Int 2014, 628724 (2014).
  • Polidori, G. et al. Theoretical modeling of time-dependent skin temperature and heat losses during whole-body cryotherapy: A pilot study. Med. Hypotheses 96, 11–15 (2016).


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Recent publications
PolarFit® Care publications

19 / 12 / 18 - Why choosing a safe cryotherapy solution is so important Read more →

20 / 02 / 18 - The impact of whole body cryotherapy on core and muscle temperature Read more →

29 / 01 / 18 - The effect of whole body cryotherapy on skin temperature Read more →

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