It’s 6 o’clock on a recent Tuesday night, and Steven Evans, 38, a dapper British investment banker clad in an open robe, gray Tommy Hilfiger briefs, midcalf tube socks and wooden-soled clogs, stands in a sterile Midtown waiting room. He fidgets alongside his pal, a nervous-looking Alex Silver, 39, until their names are called and they’re led into a closet-size room.
Within seconds, Evans’ screams can be heard through the closed door.
“They’re euphoric,” says Joanna Fryben, the owner of KryoLife, with a big, satisfied smile.
It may sound like a torture chamber, but KryoLife is actually a spa catering to the latest beauty trend overtaking Manhattan: cryotherapy.
KryoLife owner Joanna FrybenPhoto: Tamara Beckwith
During the three-minute sessions, clients are placed in a 6-foot-tall tubular machine pumping out air hovering between an icy minus 184 and minus 292 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s the treatment du jour for people who want to boost their metabolism, loosen their muscles, flatten their stomachs, reduce cellulite and allegedly burn up to 800 calories without moving a muscle.
Oh, and get a little natural high, too.
“I left feeling like I drank four Red Bulls and was a Prozac-ed-out Disney employee,” says one New York-based magazine editor who tried full-body cryotherapy in May (and asked not to be named).
“It’s a good complement to a healthy lifestyle,” says Salvatore Buscema, owner of Elite Total Body Cryotherapy in Wayne, NJ. “We want to look good, feel good and we want it to be done yesterday, right?”
As hot as cryotherapy is, the notion of extreme cold being good for your health isn’t new. Hippocrates wrote about the pain-relieving benefits of ice thousands of years ago, and athletes have long been using ice baths to reduce swelling and increase performance.
But in recent months, whole-body cryotherapy — which was developed in Japan in 1978 to treat arthritis — has exploded thanks to celebrities such as Lindsay Lohan, Derek Hough and Mandy Moore, who’ve been Instagramming their sci-fi-looking treatment pics. Makeup maven Bobbi Brown, Yoko Ono and Daniel Craig are devotees, and the New York Knicks have two cryo-saunas installed in Madison Square Garden. Soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo is such a fan, he bought his own $50,000 device.
“If Demi Moore does it, it’s good enough for me,” says Sarah, a 38-year-old lawyer, who asked that her last name not be used for professional reasons. She’s spent more than $1,000 visiting KryoLife 15 times in the past three months.
“I think it’s awesome. My friends think it’s absolutely insane,” Sarah admits.
Insane? Maybe. Popular? Definitely.
Since opening the city’s first stand-alone cryotherapy center on 57th Street in November 2013, Fryben’s seen her clients, whom she describes as “open-minded . . . usually with greater-than-average income,” jump from 10 per day to 70.
One 180-second-long treatment costs $90, a five-minute cryofacial $45. Business is firing up so quickly that Fryben, 40, and her partner are opening a second location in Flatiron this October, complete with a cryochamber, a multi-person room filled with ice and cold air.
“Our customers are going to love it,” says Fryben, who first tried cryotherapy during a visit to Europe in 2011 before bringing it back to Gotham.
According to Fryben, 30 percent of KryoLife’s clients come in solely for the beauty benefits.
Brittany Byrd, 21, one of LiLo’s close friends and a fellow cryotherapy aficionado, says the “Mean Girls” star does it “as much as she can. She’s a maniac!”
“When she came to New York, she was doing it every day,” says Byrd, who first tried the treatment in June with Lohan in Monaco.
“Lindsay said it gave her more energy,” says Byrd, marketing director at event-planning company Studio Six Point Six. “And she lost a ton of weight from it.”
Once users are hooked, it can be hard to stop.
“Since I started, I go at least four times a week,” says Amy Heart, the 37-year-old host of the podcast Sports With A Heart. “I took a break because I was traveling, and I really noticed a difference in my energy level.”
Nutritionist Tricia Williams is so devoted to her thrice-a-week freezing habit that she says she felt like she had “lost my bionic power” during a recent two-week stay in the Hamptons sans cryosauna.
New Jersey mom Heather Thomas, 37, says cryotherapy “gives you energy. Some people have a cup of coffee, I go into the cryosauna.”Photo: Jennifer Brown
“I love it … I always tell people it should be the new happy hour. Who needs to drink?” Williams asks. “You come out feeling so great.”
Experts warn, though, that cryotherapy isn’t a miracle worker.
“The cooling of the body has an anti-inflammatory benefit,” says Park Avenue plastic surgeon Dr. Steven Levine. “But cryotherapy as you’re talking about it, is akin to a medical fad,” he says, pointing fingers at the industry’s claims that a person can burn hundreds of calories during one speedy session.
“If there was a way to burn 800 calories in three minutes, it would be a whole lot more popular than it is,” says Levine, “and a whole lot more than the $90 that they’re charging for it.”