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Chill Out With Cooling Creams

They sure feel nice, but can they actually lower your body temperature?

| August 21st, 2012
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cooling eye cream

Maybe you've noticed an odd little tingle from your eye cream. Or maybe you've purposely sought out a lotion that promises to lower your skin temp. An increasing number of beauty items now boast cooling benefits. YouBeauty investigates whether the effects are more than superficial.

How They Work

Cooling products work their magic through menthol, a naturally occurring compound in mint plants. Menthol's cooling properties stumped scientists for decades.

“Nobody had any idea how it worked,” says John Leffingwell Ph.D., an organic chemist and president of Leffingwell and Associates, a flavor and fragrance consultancy company. Only within the last decade did researchers identify a certain kind of receptor on our skin's surface, “the cold receptor,” Leffingwell explains. It sends a signal to your brain when your skin comes in contact with anything below 80 degrees Fahrenheit in temperature. And, “that same receptor that's activated by cold temperature is also activated by substances like menthol,” he says.

QUIZ: Is Your Body Skin Touchable?

When a product containing menthol touches your skin, those receptors send the same sensory signal to your brain as they would if you'd touched a glass of ice water. Although your skin doesn't actually turn cold like you'd plunged your hand into a glass of ice water, your brain gets the same signal so you feel the same kind of refreshing cold on your skin.

More Than Skin Deep

So are the effects all in your head and not on your skin?

Not quite, for while cooling products won't change the temperature of your skin, they can still affect your overall body temperature.

MORE: Six Ways to Beat the Heat

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