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Joan Crawford Knew Something About Keeping Her Skin Beautiful That Scientists Are Only Just Discovering

The cold water secret that works like a facial to keep skin young and taut — here's how to get the benefit

Joan Crawford starred in classic films like Mildred Pierce, The Women and What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? and was known for being one of Old Hollywood’s most famous divas. And it was not only her off-screen persona that earned her the reputation of being an ice queen. It was also due in part to her DIY anti-aging routine that kept her complexion looking young and taut: she gave herself an “ice” water facial. “I have always known what I wanted, and that was beauty… in every form,” the actress once said.

Joan Crawford in 1928
A young Joan Crawford shows off her luminous complexion in 1928Mgm/Kobal/Shutterstock

How Joan Crawford used ice to look young

Legend has it and multiple sources have reported, that whenever she washed her face, Joan Crawford would also splash it with ice water 25 times.

“When it comes to skincare, splashing your face with cold water and ice can have many beauty benefits, especially if done properly,” explains California-based aesthetician Cassandra Bankson. The cold water instantly tightens pores and reduces inflammation, making skin look firmer and less puffy instantly. “Skin is our body’s largest living organ and needs blood flow plus lymphatic fluid drainage,” explains Bankson. “Using ice can help stimulate and redirect circulation within the skin, helping to give the skin a more flushed, radiant and refreshed appearance.” 

Crawford’s youthful skincare hack was ahead of her time as cold therapy, also known as cryotherapy, has become a huge industry, and for good reason. Since its inception in the 1970s, the cryotherapy market was valued at more than $6 billion in 2022 alone.

What is cryotherapy and what are the skin-enhancing benefits?

Cryotherapy involves spending 3-5 minutes immersed in a cold chamber set at around a bone chilling 200-300 degrees Fahrenheit.

Studies have explored many potential benefits to the practice but one major one is that it can reduce inflammation — so it makes sense that it affects the inflammatory response of our skin. (Click through to learn the benefits cold water can have on your vagus nerve — it’s really quite amazing!) 

Introducing “frotox”

Cryofacials are an extension of this trend. Also known as “frotox,” the procedure involves pumping liquid nitrogen into the face to freeze it, tightening pores, reducing fine lines and wrinkles and making the face appear more youthful and plump. 

Ice baths, or cold water immersion therapy, utilize the same theories to help aid in muscle recovery and skin tightening by narrowing your blood vessels — which, in turn, increases blood flow to those areas. Plunging your face has the same effect. 

“When combined with the right techniques, ice baths, and ice facials can be relaxing and beneficial,” Bankson affirms. Besides the skincare perks, “our bodies have a ‘dive response’ that is nerve signaling and helps us relax whenever our faces are plunged underwater,” says Bankson.

The best part: While pricey treatments are available, you can get the same results at home without spending a dime.

Related: The Trending Treatment That Leaves Skin Looking Radiant In Just 10 Minutes

Joan Crawford in 1932
Joan Crawford looking fresh-faced in 1932HA/THA/Shutterstock

How to give your face the ice bath that kept Joan Crawford young

Bankson shares this step-by-step tutorial for a Joan Crawford-approved ice bath.

  1. Start by cleansing your skin as usual. 
  2. Prepare your sink or a large water bowl with water and a few ice cubes. Let the cubes melt down so the water is completely chilled. 
  3. Hold your breath, and place your face into the water. Avoid having ice cubes directly touching the face, as they can cause redness and irritation. Keep your face in the water for as long as you can hold your breath. If you’re uncomfortable doing it this way, you can simply splash the cold water onto your face 20-25 times in a row, like Joan did.
  4. After removing your face from the water, pat your skin dry and apply a serum or toner of your choice. 

Bankson says this is best done in the morning to get you started freshly hydrated and revitalized, and can be done every day.

Another quick trick along the same vein if you don’t want to get your face wet — using an ice roller (Buy from Amazon, $5.99) which can be stored in the freezer and rolled all over the face whenever you need a quick refresh. 

Joan Crawford in 1944
Crawford in color in 1944HA/THA/Shutterstock

Watch this YouTube video to see the Doctor-approved method in action:

Want to learn more classic Hollywood beauty secrets? Click here:

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Jene Sena

Jené Luciani Sena is a veteran journalist and internationally-renowned bestselling author of The Bra Book: An Intimate Guide to Finding the Right Bra, Shapewear, Swimsuit, and More! and Get It!: A Beauty, Style, and Wellness Guide to Getting Your “It” Together. She’s also a style, bra and beauty expert regularly seen on shows like Access Hollywood and NBC’s Today.

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