Right around Valentine’s Day, the Sun published a story about a treatment called “Love Mist,” in which a man’s genitalia are blasted with liquid nitrogen for 30 minutes. The promised benefits are twofold: 1) increased sex drive and 2) improved appearance of his nether regions. It’s the latest in a questionable trend of exposing genitals to various weather conditions, like when Gwyneth Paltrow raved about the wonders of vaginal steaming last year (Love Mist allegedly works on lady parts, too).
Cryotherapy was originally used by athletes such as Kobe, LeBron and Floyd Mayweather as an alternative to ice baths to relieve muscle soreness. It has also been employed to kill cancerous tumors, and is increasingly being marketed by the beauty industry as an anti-aging solution.
A $60 Love Mist session, on the other hand, is considered targeted cryotherapy.
The target is your testicles.
“The groin is made cold,” says Debra Lister, the managing director of Cryotherapy UK, the company behind the treatment, which is currently administered at the Ainscow Spa in Manchester. “That, in turn, stimulates bloodflow, sending oxygen and fresh brown blood cells to the area, creating an endorphin rush.”
The feel-good effect of Love Mist, she says, is all about those endorphins — a group of hormones secreted within the brain that activate the body’s opiate receptors. Jordanne, the spa manager at Ainscow, tells me that when the -160 degree blast hits the skin of the genitals, the sudden drop in heat prompts the brain to transmit messages to blood vessels throughout the body to undergo vasoconstriction. She claims this produces quicker blood flow and ramps up endorphin levels, generating a natural high and hyper-horniness from all the blood that’s now flooding your genitals.
Using liquid nitrogen in such a fashion isn’t all that bizarre when you consider the other crazy shit people get turned on by, like statues (agalmatophilia); stuttering (psellismophilia); feces (coprophilia); fog (nebulophilia); wood (xylophilia); stones (lithophilia); and falling down stairs (climacophilia). And none of those can boast Love Mist’s dermatological benefits. When the skin of your penis and testicles is frozen, Jordanne says, the brain sends signals for the body to begin repairing damaged tissue and boost collagen — the protein that makes skin elastic and healthy — which is why Love Mist allegedly results in such a youthful, attractive scrotum.
Curiously, all the literature and research on Love Mist is currently unavailable while it’s being reviewed by the National Health Service, from whom Ainscow hopes to receive certification. “If you would like to do your own research you’re more than welcome to,” Jordanne writes to me over email.
I definitely wanted to. So I called up urologist Alex Shteynshlyuger, who most recently explained to me that blue balls don’t actually turn my balls blue, to ask if blasting them with liquid nitrogen might make them more attractive and/or me hornier.
“I’d be wary of using this as a way to boost someone’s sexual performance,” he cautions. “It does make sense in a way, but not in the way they’re advertising.” Specifically the whole bit about the “feel-good effect” that supposedly results from increased endorphins. Shteynshlyuger explains that all new experiences result in endorphins being released.
He adds that some endorphins do create increased pleasure and suppress pain, which is why people in horrible car accidents sometimes report feeling no pain. “You wouldn’t advocate someone freely entering into that kind of situation, though,” he says — for the same reason you wouldn’t endorse autoerotic asphyxiation. “So yeah, it could lead to the release of endorphins and various other substances, but it’s probably the same mechanism that causes someone to experience various levels of pleasure from travel or experiencing new experiences, like having sex on the beach.”
But cryotherapy, while it avoids the risks associated with sand in one’s sensitive areas, may not be a harmless kink.
Cryofreezing releases many different molecules in the body. Some of them — like endorphins — decrease pain and increase pleasure. But others aren’t so benign, Shteynshlyuger says, and may even do real harm. Since the release of more malevolent molecules could potentially be much more serious than getting sand in your ass crack, Shteynshlyuger doesn’t advocate using Love Mist to shake up your sex life. “It may not be beneficial to someone if they’re exposed to this repeatedly,” he says.
But what about the aesthetic benefits? As Ainscow told the Sun, Love Mist “creates a tighter, youthful, vibrant genital skin appearance” through the boosting of collagen. And who wouldn’t want more youthful-looking balls?
“Oh god,” Shteynshlyuger sighs. “I have no idea where they’re pulling this from. To make a claim like that one needs to make a randomized controlled study where one group of people is exposed to this experiment and the other group of people isn’t and then compare them. I doubt they can point to anything like that.”
Love Mist may improve the appearance of genital skin temporarily, he says, since as we covered in our “Short Explanation of Shrinkage,” muscles and skin tend to contract in low temperatures. “It may be that the skin looks a little better because there is less redundant skin while you’re exposed to this temperature,” Shteynshlyuger concedes. “The scrotum shrinks and the balls pull up and therefore would appear less wrinkly, which would make it smoother — at least for the moment.
“But an hour later it will return to normal.”