Oxygen facials: gimmick or game-changer?

Updated: May 7, 2020

Oxygen therapy is one of my favourite extras to any facial treatment. I choose it because it’s non-invasive, it gives the skin noticeable hydration and instant radiance and can be used on just about anyone.

Pure oxygen is no longer just a festival thing, but is now a device you can use at home, a dome you can slide under during a facial, and it’s even made its way into anti-blemish make-up and oxygenating face masks. It sounds like a gimmick, right? Oxygen, the stuff that’s all around us anyway, used in a facial and our products. This non-invasive technology boasts all kinds of benefits from calming acne to boosting blood flow, but how much of this fact and what is fiction? Find out everything you need to know about oxygen therapy, it’s effect on the skin and how it may boost your monthly facial in this latest post.

facial dome oxygen skin therapy

via faceofjules

What does oxygen do for the human body?

Oxygen is one of a handful of things that the human body needs to stay alive. Breathing in oxygen:

  1. Helps the body to burn food

  2. Eliminate the amount of carbon dioxide the body produces

  3. Help maintain healthy cells

We breathe in oxygen, but only 20% of it due to the earth’s atmosphere made up of other gases. This is not exactly bad news, because when we have too much oxygen, just like if we don’t get enough, it can lead to seriously poor health.

It’s important to know that when we are young and healthy, our body utilises oxygen a lot more effectively. As our bodies grow older or our health becomes compromised, it slows the ability to retain and utilise oxygen around the body as efficiently, which can contribute to the inevitable breakdown of collagen and elastin. Heart conditions, high altitude environments and smoking can also affect the way our bodies use oxygen.

tired exercise breathing gif

via giphy

What do oxygen facials involve?

Oxygen facials are becoming increasingly popular amongst aestheticians’ and regularly shown off on social media. These facials generally use a machine that delivers high-pressurised oxygen to the skin. The sensation can take your breath away at first but is undeniably comfortable as you only feel a mild pressure when it is worked over the skin.

Often these machines will be used to help work topical lotions, serums and essences into the skin, that can help target certain skin conditions and enhance the hydrating and plumping process of the treatment.

For best results, I like to perform an exfoliation treatment first, like microdermabrasion or dermaplaning to enhance the penetration of products being used in the oxygenation step of the facial.

How does oxygen affect the skin?

Pressurised oxygen is safe enough to use on all skin types as it doesn’t interrupt the skin’s barrier unlike other favoured skin facial therapies like microneedling, skin peels and laser.

Oxygen is great for giving the skin an instant boost or glow but provides only short-term effects. Because this treatment is so gentle, the effect from this treatment only tends to last only a few days. The effects that can follow after an oxygen facial includes:

Skin plumping

Oxygen facials are renowned for the temporary plumping effect and this is most likely because of the skin’s inflammation response that is caused from the high-pressure oxygen.

oxygen facial before and after

Before and after an oxygen facial via flawlessbody

Increased moisture and hydration

Oxygen facials can make the skin appear more moisturised, but this probably a result from the products being used. Skincare can help make an oxygen facial treatment more selective, as they help to target certain skin issues rather than the oxygen itself.

Reduction in oil and congestion

One known contributing cause to acne is the lack of oxygen in the skin. Viruses, bacteria and fungal infections cannot survive in an oxygen-rich environment, so it is thought that oxygen therapy helps reduce the inflammation and presence of the P bacterium in the skin.

Boost blood flow

Because the oxygen is delivered at such a rapid speed, it can help to stimulate blood flow in the same way facial massage can. The process can also aid lymphatic drainage, increasing the chances of toxin removal.

How effective is oxygen therapy?

Oxygen therapy claims to do many things, but studies are lacking. A 2007 trial concluded that topical oxygen increased the healing rate of wounds on pigs, but ‘further research was warranted.’

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy was first used in 1917 to treat carbon monoxide poisoning and decompression sickness, an illness that commonly develops after scuba diving. The treatment involves breathing in oxygen in a high-pressured chamber, and the environment has been lightly studied for the effect it may have on skin rejuvenation. An article was released in 2014 that summarised the research that had been carried out already, and what further exploration needed to be done. It was evident that oxygen creates a temporary effect in the skin, but the mechanism of how it reduces wrinkles required further investigation. It agreed that there were a lot of conflicting studies – one concluded that hyperbaric oxygen environments slow down angiogenesis whilst another argued it accelerated it in ulcers and wounds. Despite missing evidence, the article concluded that oxygen therapy has been “shown to be promising and effective to a certain degree” since the treatment is so widespread amongst dermatologists, aestheticians’ and spas.

Other experts have remained sceptical on this subject. Some agree that the skin has the wrong surface conditions to even be able ‘absorb’ oxygen.

@rejuvenationdayspa oxygen facial

via @rejuvenationspaday

Are there any side effects?

There is hardly any hard evidence to back up what these oxygen machines claim to do for the skin, however what we do know for sure is that this treatment posts minimal risk. If a skin reaction was to occur, it would most likely be down to the products used rather than the oxygen application.

Google ‘oxygen facial’ and you will most likely come across the hearsay of how too many of these facials can increase free radicals in the skin. Free radicals are a nuisance and something we are always trying to avoid as we apply our topical Vitamin C serums and use daily, broad-spectrum SPFs. The concern derives from the fact that when cells metabolise oxygen, 1-2% of cells get damaged during the process and turn into free radicals. It raises the question that if we give our skin ‘too much’ oxygen, does this lead to an increase of free radicals in the skin? There is no evidence to suggest it can, however it does not stop us from wondering.

bb confused gif

via giphy

An oxygen facial is a simple but effective hydrating treatment for all skin types. It’s perfect for the night-before-the-party-facial, or for a lunchtime pick-me-up. Oxygen therapy helps to create a temporary plump and hydration to the skin thanks to its simplistic mechanism of boosting blood flow and aiding lymphatic drainage. This radiant boost will last a few short days.

If you are looking for a treatment that makes drastic changes to significant facial concerns, then oxygen therapy is not for you. It’s not going to get rid of any acne scars, hyperpigmentation or fine lines, but it will always remain as one of my favourite add-ons to a facial.

If you enjoyed this article, then find out how you can slim your face without the surgery.

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