Ice Face: An Easier Hack Than Ice Baths To Get the Benefits of Cold Thermogenesis?

cold thermogenesis
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I’ve spent some time experimenting with sitting in ice baths to induce cold thermogenesis, a fat burning state with wide-ranging health benefits from fat loss and faster muscle recovery after workouts, to better sleep and reduced inflammation [1-5].

Using this kind of therapy can have a ton of benefits, but it is still difficult for the average person to do.  The initial shock of sitting in a tub full of ice can scare most people away from doing it again. It’s time consuming and expensive to fill your bathtub with ice, and working up to tolerating a tub of ice can take a month. (In my experiments, I once got 1st degree ice burns over 15% of my body…going too fast can be dangerous).

The good news is that there is a quick, easy, and cheap way to get your body adapted to the cold, and to get many of the benefits without the pain and the hassle of sitting in the tub with 20 pounds of ice – brrr. 

Watch it here:

This is an old trick from meditation that has been borrowed as the entry path to more advanced cold thermogenesis practices like sitting submerged in ice, like the Iceman Wim Hof.

Sticking your face in ice water works because the vagus nerve in your face is connected to nerves in the rest of your nervous system throughout your body [6-9].  By using this simple trick to get the nerves in your face used to the cold, it will translate over to the rest of your body as well, and allow you to tolerate ice baths and cold showers far more easily.

The protocol:

  • Fill a shallow pan or dish with water and put it in your freezer.
  • When the water is frozen solid take the pan out, add water on top of the ice, and stir it up to chill the water.
  • Hold your breath and put your face into the pan for as long as you can hold your breath, or until you can’t take the discomfort from the cold anymore.
  • You can start slow with just a few seconds at a time, and build up to longer periods of time soon.

Tip #1: The optimal temperature for an ice bath is around 40-45 degrees Fahrenheit (because you want to get your skin temp down close to 50-55 degrees). You can use a thermometer to check the temperature of the water until you get good at estimating it.

Tip #2: I ended up using a snorkel so I could keep my face submerged for up to 5 minutes at a time (seriously, I’m a professional biohacker!). 🙂

Doing this trick before bed every night will drop your body temperature and help you fall asleep faster, and sleep deeper. I noticed profound changes within a week when I started experimenting with this 3 years ago.




Read more on Cold Thermogenesis and Sleep Hacking:

Sleep Technology:

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By Dave Asprey

  • Debbie Belcore

    Activating the dive reflex/Vagus this way is also supposed to be an effective anti-anxiety strategy as well

  • Robert

    Hey Dave, why not just use an ice pack? I have a really large, flexible icepack I could put over a t-shirt onto my face. That way you can still breathe. Would it be too hot or cold though?

    • I’m guessing it wouldn’t affect you quite the same way. I think the water itself contacting your skin stimulates the mammalian dive reflex which might have something to do with the effect on your vagus nerve.

    • Sarita Premley

      I read that you can indeed use ice packs! (don’t know where, sorry; a whole long article on the vagus nerve and the dive reflex.)

  • Commenter in Sweden

    Dave, when are you going to discuss the Neanderthal question on your podcast?

    There’s lots of fertile ground for discussion. The asperger´s connection, for instance.

  • Peggy Holloway

    So, I was biking this afternoon and it was doing what is called in Nebraska a “light wintry mix,” that is, almost sleeting, around 35 degrees. Would that cold, icy rain/snow/sleet in my face produce a similar result?

  • putaneiro

    Want to try, but I wonder if that wouldn’t affect my rosacea.

  • Freddie Teigland Olsen

    lucky me, i got a river of melting glacier running past my house year around. 4 degrees even in midst of summer. time to test this ice-ness out.. or mabye wait till summer and build up to the winter (-20 – -25 during winter months)

  • Silence

    Isn’t this how Beethoven went deaf?

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  • Leni Chan

    I’m thinking this obviously isn’t as good as getting into an ice bath

  • Alison Joy Hasselquist

    what about just some ice on the forehead. I tried the cold shower but I almost couldn’t breathe.

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  • andrew

    Surely you mean trigeminal nerve? (in the face)

  • claudia storer

    Hi Dave and Co. When you say you noticed profound changes, do you mind me asking what changes you noticed?

    • Joshua J Carter

      From personal experience with cold exposure I’ve noticed “profound” reduction in inflammation (ESR, CRP, and HbA1c), aches and pains, stress, and improved mental clarity, to name a few.

  • Metalmaiden

    I live in New England. 6 months of the year taking the dog out each morning for 5 – 10 minutes must equals an ice facial…no snorkel required! This morning I have the bonus of sleet. lol!