Oxygen facials and products touting oxygen as a skin enhancer are hot right now. But are they just blowing hot air?
There are two ways to deliver oxygen (O2) to your face which are advertised as ways to make you look younger. The first is an oxygen facial, which, for about $500 a treatment, blasts oxygen at your face. This is a favorite of Madonna, who loves it so much that she dropped $7,000 to have her own unit at home.
According to one website, oxygen facials calm inflammation, treat acne, kill bacteria, drive antioxidants and vitamins into the skin, and make your skin younger looking by providing oxygen to the skin cells.
Other oxygen-peddling websites report that “pollutants” in modern cities have led to decreased oxygenation of your skin. This is bunk. The amount of oxygen in your skin depends markedly on your age and health. Having a history of smoking or lung disease, heart disease, or anemia all significantly decrease the amount of oxygen in your skin. There is no evidence that pollutants decrease your skin’s oxygen levels.
You can dramatically increase the oxygenation of your skin right now — for free!
Take a few deep, fast breaths (careful, don’t pass out).
You have just significantly increased your skin’s oxygen level. Easy, huh?
The amount of oxygen in your skin also depends on where you live. Here in San Diego at sea level, the air pressure and oxygen partial pressure is high, whereas in Denver, CO, the air pressure is much lower and the amount of oxygen that your body and your skin receive is much lower. Does this mean that people in San Diego have healthier, younger skin than those in Denver? Of course not.
Your skin needs a certain amount of oxygen to remain healthy. Having lots more oxygen than what is needed does not make your skin younger or healthier.
But what about high pressure oxygen for wounds? This is a special circumstance in which a patient is placed in a high pressure chamber, increasing the amount of oxygen in their lungs, blood, and all tissues. There is no evidence that blasting O2 at your skin is anything like hyperbaric oxygen therapy or that it even increases the oxygenation of your skin at all.
Your skin is not designed to take oxygen in from the outside (unless you’re a frog). It is somewhat analogous to getting into a bath tub to soak because you are very thirsty. When you get out of the tub, you will be wet and still very thirsty. It simply doesn’t work.
The second way that oxygen is touted to make you look younger is through facial products. Products that claim to deliver oxygen to your skin have never been shown in studies to increase O2 levels. Oxygen is a gas. There is no way to put that into a cream, keep it there, then have it released when it hits your skin. It would be like opening a soda can — as soon as it was opened, all the oxygen would fizz out.
Even if creams did provide some extra oxygen to the skin, the effects would last only minutes at best.
So why do so many people claim that it helps? It is likely that blasting air and water droplets on your face act like microdermabrasion, exfoliating and moisturizing your skin, giving you a soft glow afterward. That alone might be worth $500 to you, but I doubt it.
Post written by Jeffrey Benabio, MD. You might also like:
Photo credit: Theremina