Oxygen facials have been around for about 10 years. They are based on hyperbaric oxygen therapy, which has been used to treat thermal burns, carbon monoxide poisoning and diabetic wounds. This type of therapy has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), although oxygen facials have not. Because they are marketed as a cosmetic, not medical devices, manufacturers do not need to conduct studies, prove effectiveness or look for approval from the FDA.
Oxygen facials use pure oxygen combined with a moisturizing serum to temporarily plump your face, making wrinkles and other skin imperfections look better for a few days. Many spas offer oxygen facials as a cosmetic treatment. Some plastic surgeons offer this cosmetic treatment as well. Although there isn’t any scientific data to back up the use of oxygen facials, they are very popular, with some people receiving the treatment on a monthly basis. Others prefer to use it for special occasions.
Special equipment uses hyperbaric oxygen and forces a serum containing moisturizers, antioxidants and vitamins in your skin. Proponents believe that this method helps your skin better absorb the ingredients. The deep moisturizers temporarily plump up your skin, reducing the look of lines and wrinkles. It can also temporarily reduce the dimpling and marks on skin from acne scars.
One of the reasons for the popularity of this type of facial is that other cosmetic treatments can leave your face red for the first few days as it heals. You don’t see the benefits of these treatments for several days. With oxygen facials, you immediately see the difference. Your face looks smoother and the wrinkles, lines and dimpling are minimized.
Besides being used for anti-aging and to improve the look of acne scarring, some spas indicate that it improves dehydrated skin, which can be caused by pollutants in the air, dry environments or traveling. They claim that anyone can benefit from the deep moisturizing. According to Spafinder.com, "The benefits of oxygen facials are said to ranger from thorough pose cleansing to lightened hyperpigmentation…It is suggested to strengthen skin’s elasticity and help eliminate acne-causing bacteria, as well as reduce fine lines and wrinkles, even out skin tone and diminish pores."
Skeptics believe that the plumping is caused from inflammation caused by the high-pressure oxygen being forced on your face. Once the inflammation improves, the benefits of the treatment disappear.
It can be quite expensive and are considered a luxury beauty treatment. Prices vary widely depending on your area. They can range anywhere from $75 to $500. Some people use oxygen facials before special occasions.
Some dermatologists believe the effects and plumping are from inflammation caused from the high concentration and pressure of the oxygen used and this treatment offers no benefits to the skin. Because it is considered a cosmetic device, not a medical device, there are no licensing or special certifications required. Anyone working in a spa or doctor’s office can provide the treatment.
"Does the Quick-Fix Oxygen Facial Really Work?" 2006, April 6, Natasha Singer, The New York Times
"Oxygen Facials Debate," 2014, Leslie Morand, Ivanhoe.com
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.