Disclaimer: None of the information in this article constitutes medical advice. All statements are merely the opinion of the writer(s). We recommend that patients follow their doctor’s guidance in regard to pain relief.
Biofreeze and Icy Hot are two of the most popular pain relieving creams on the market. Both creams claim to work fast, and it can be challenging for consumers to differentiate between the two products.
But do Biofreeze and Icy Hot both have ingredients shown in medical studies to relieve pain? Which product has the better formulation? Does either cream have questionable additive ingredients? And how do real users compare the effects of the two products?
In this article we’ll answer all of these questions and more as we analyze the ingredients in Biofreeze and Icy Hot based on medical studies to give our take on which product has a better formulation, and which we would recommend.
We’ll feature real, unsponsored user comparisons between the two products and provide a cost breakdown to determine which is cheaper.
Ingredient Analysis – Biofreeze
The ingredients in Biofreeze are shown above.
Menthol is the active ingredient, and is clinically shown to reduce pain when applied to the skin.
A 2022 clinical trial found that menthol significantly reduced pain scores when applied to the skin. This is a commonly-used drug ingredient, and also the active ingredient in products like Vicks VapoRub.
A clinical trial published in the Journal of Geriatric Physical Therapy reported that pain scores and the ability to complete functional tasks improved significantly in patients with arthritis after application of a menthol gel.
Grape seed oil, one of the inactive ingredients, was shown in a 2016 clinical trial to have pain-relieving effects, although it was an in vitro (test tube) study, which is a weaker standard of evidence than a trial with human participants.
Phenoxyethanol is the only ingredient in this formulation that may be questionable from a health perspective, as this preservative was shown to be toxic to human cells in a clinical trial as we documented in our review of Neutrogena Hydro Boost, another skincare product containing this ingredient.
Overall, we consider Biofreeze likely to relieve pain but don’t currently recommend it due to the inclusion of phenoxyethanol.
But are the ingredients in Icy Hot better? We’ll review in the next section.
Ingredient Analysis – Icy Hot
The active ingredients in Icy Hot are shown above.
Menthol is included at the exact same concentration as in Biofreeze, and we already documented the research backing of this ingredient for pain relief in the previous section.
Menthol provides a cooling effect.
Methyl salicylate provides a warming effect, which is why the product is called “Icy Hot.”
This compound was shown in a clinical trial published in the Frontiers in Pharmacology journal to relieve pain in over 82% of patients.
A 2017 medical review described the pain relief capabilities of methyl salicylate as “well established,” but also discussed the potential for salicylate poisoning with over-application of topical pain relief products like Icy Hot.
A 1996 medical review described potential dangers from use of methyl salicylate on the skin, including anaphylactic reactions which can be fatal. The study authors concluded:
“Physicians should fully appreciate the potential dangers from topical preparations containing methyl salicylate.”
The inactive ingredients in Icy Hot are shown below:
Triethanolamine is a pH balancer that was shown in animal studies to be toxic, as we documented in our review of Perbelle cosmetics.
Our verdict: We consider Biofreeze to be a better formulation from a safety perspective, and Icy Hot to be a better formulation from an efficacy perspective.
Biofreeze contains one questionable additive ingredient, but that ingredient doesn’t seem as risky as methyl salicylate based on our review of medical studies.
Icy Hot contains two active ingredients that are both clinically shown to relieve pain, so individuals in severe pain may benefit from discussing this product with their doctor over Biofreeze.
But how do real users compare the effects of Biofreeze and Icy Hot? We’ll review in the next section.
Real, Unsponsored User Comparisons
A YouTube creator named “116falconer” compared the effects of Biofreeze and Icy Hot:
A YouTube creator named Izzy Kornblau who has chronic pain reviewed a large number of topical pain creams including Biofreeze:
Both Biofreeze and Icy Hot are relatively affordable, with the cream version of each product costing well under $15.
Since the products are sold at different sizes, here’s a price comparison per-ounce:
Icy Hot: $4.79 (link to official Amazon listing)
Biofreeze: $3.81 (link to official Amazon listing)
At the time of publishing this article, Biofreeze is 20% cheaper per-ounce than Icy Hot.
Can CBD Cream Relieve Pain?
Cornbread CBD Lotion is our top pick for a topical CBD product.
This lotion also contains menthol, which was shown in a 2022 clinical trial to reduce pain scores.
Interested consumers can check out Cornbread CBD Lotion at this link to the product page on the official brand's website.
There are also food-based compounds which have been clinically shown to support pain relief.
Cinnamon is a spice that has been studied for its ability to reduce pain and support joint health.
A clinical trial published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition found that cinnamon supplementation at a daily dose of 500 mg reduced inflammation and joint swelling in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.
A 2020 clinical trial found that cinnamon supplementation reduced inflammatory markers. The study authors concluded that “Cinnamon could be regarded as a safe supplement to relieve pain.”
Illuminate Labs manufactures a Ceylon Cinnamon Extract supplement that’s potent (standardized to minimum 8% flavonoids) and third-party tested to ensure purity and label accuracy (test results published transparently on the product page). It only costs $15 for a monthly subscription.
Interested consumers can check out Illuminate Labs Ceylon Cinnamon Extract at this link.
Collagen is the core structural protein in joints. The body produces it naturally, but its production decreases with age. Medical research has shown that collagen can reduce joint pain in athletes at a 10 gram (g) daily dose, and can reduce arthritic pain (meta-study, doses ranging between 40 mg and 10 g daily dose).
We recommend Bulletproof Collagen Powder as our top collagen product because it provides an effective collagen dose per serving (20 g) and contains one single ingredient: collagen peptides sourced from grass-fed animals. There are no questionable additives. This supplement only costs $45.16 for over a month's worth of product.
Interested consumers can check out Bulletproof Collagen powder at this link to the brand's official website.
We do not recommend using dietary supplements to treat any specific medical condition related to pain.