Oxygen flows through every single one of our cells. We need it to stay alive, so it makes sense that our skin needs it to function at peak capacity, too. So when an esthetician mists your face with oxygen—which is a common part of many facials—it boosts circulation within your skin, giving you a more radiant glow. Since most of us don’t have oxygen infusion devices at home, brands have found a way to bottle up their benefits into oxygen-infused skin care, which provides a high dose of O2 to keep your cells functioning their best.
“When skin is oxygen-deprived it can appear dull, dry, and tired,” says Varun Koneru, vice president of research and development for beauty brand SeneGence. “When oxygen is available and circulating within the skin cells, it promotes increased moisture. The oxygen revitalizes the skin, visibly plumping out the lines and wrinkles. Oxygen is known for assisting in skin rejuvenation and helping encourage a healthy aging process, improving the overall health of the skin.”
Our skin gets oxygen in two ways—directly from the air and from our lungs via our blood. Although the outermost layer of skin is always absorbing oxygen from the air around you, it’s not a super efficient exchange. “There’s 21 percent oxygen in the air around you, but you don’t get 21 percent of oxygen in your skin,” says Gerard Camme, president and CEO of Element Eight, a new skin-care line that uses oxygen in its formulation. Hemoglobin in our blood is responsible for carrying the oxygen that our lungs absorb throughout our skin and our organs. But as we age, the number of blood vessels in our skin declines, which means there’s less oxygenated blood flowing within our skin.
So the skin-care world has spent decades finding ways to concentrate oxygen so that your skin can better absorb and hold onto it. That’s why oxygen facials are so popular—they use high pressure to flood the skin with oxygen in a way that our environment can’t. “Oxygen facials can help to boost skin repair and help with rejuvenation,” says Marisa Garshick, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City. “When the cells are oxygenated, it is thought to boost circulation, giving the skin a radiant glow.” (She cautions that there is little data to support the effects of oxygen on the skin and more research and evidence are needed to determine the full benefits.)
The closest thing you can get to an oxygen facial at home is using the Le Mieux Ionized Oxygen Infuser ($135). It’s a mini, at-home version of the pro-grade oxygen machines that costs $500 and up. It boosts skin with high-pressure oxygen while also delivering a fine mist of 10 different sizes of hyaluronic acid to plump and hydrate along with genuine diamond powder to provide a diffused, luminous glow.
Another way to get oxygen into your skin is to use oxygen-infused skin-care products. And since oxygen is a gas, scientists have to be creative in finding ways for it to stick around and make a difference. To make the oxygen in Element Eight’s products stay put, oxygen is delivered with Oxygen-Amplified Therapy or OATH, a liquid that the brand’s CTO Andrew Carter, PhD, first developed to expedite healing in spinal surgery. OATH mimicks hemoglobin in that it gives oxygen something to hold on to. It’s applied to a severed spine during surgery to give an immediate super dose of oxygen to speed up the healing process. (The body will produce this increased oxygen on its own but it can take weeks to months for this to happen.) And when applied to the face, the brand claims that OATH gives skin 20 times more oxygen than it can get from the air alone.
The technology behind Element Eight’s oxygen face creams is unlike anything else on the market. And at $250 a pop, they sit at the high end of the oxygen skin-care market, but other brands have found ways to harness the power of oxygen at more affordable price points. OxygenCeuticals and Liquid Oxygen, for example, rely on oxygen-infused water. The OxygenCeuticals B5 Gel ($60) uses mineral-rich, oxygen-infused deep-sea water to strengthen skin and help it retain moisture by forming an oxygen-infused protective layer on top of the skin (the same technology is used in all of the brand’s products). It also includes vitamin B5 to protect and rejuvenate skin. The Liquid Oxygen Facial Cleanser ($28) oxygenates skin while vitamin A aids in cell function, vitamin D protects from environmental damage, vitamin C limits sun damage, vitamin E moisturizes, and aloe vera soothes.
Other formulas oxygenate by eliciting a chemical reaction on the skin that yields oxygen. The SeneGence Detoxifying Oxygen Facial Mask ($75) does this with a blend of highly active siloxane and copolymer to form frothy oxygen bubbles to revitalize skin. It also includes kaolin clay to deeply cleanse, alpha-hydroxy acids to gently exfoliate, Rhodiola extract to protect against environmental aggressors, and dragon fruit extract to deliver nourishing vitamins and minerals.
The Natura Bissé Oxygen Complex ($185) and the Beauty Pie Oxygen Instant Facial Refuelling Mask ($60) both contain hydrogen peroxide which converts to pure oxygen and water once it penetrates your skin. The Natura Bissé serum is ideal for acne-prone and oily skin and also contains encapsulated oxygen, mineral-rich and deeply hydrating water, and spirulina algae which provides trace elements, vitamins, and proteins. The Beauty Pie Mask includes vitamin A in the form of retinyl palmitate (an ester of retinol and palmitic acid) to soften the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and hyperpigmentation and salicylic acid to shrink the appearance of pores; prevent clogging, blackheads, and breakouts; and smooth and refresh skin.
As you consider adding oxygen-infused skin care into your routine, keep in mind that, unlike protective ingredients like antioxidants and SPF, oxygen is a nice-to-have in your routine, not a must-have. “Oxygen isn’t going to replace other skin-care modalities, but it can help to boost circulation and give the skin a healthy and refreshed appearance,” says Dr. Garshick.
And though an in-office oxygen facial will always give you a better benefit than an at-home treatment, incorporating oxygen-infused skin care in your everyday routine provides a consistent flow of oxygen that your skin cells will love. “It connects the dots between those treatments,” says Camme.