The latest upgrade to the cleansing and extraction a traditional facial involves is a pressurized blast of concentrated O2 that purports to rehydrate skin instantly, making it softer, firmer, and smoother. For those who can’t make it to the spa, oxygen has also become a ubiquitous ingredient in moisturizers and anti-aging cosmeceuticals, all of which promise to bring out skin’s best and keep it looking younger, longer. Augmenting facial treatments with oxygen has become one of the hottest beauty fads … but does it even work?
Benefits of the Big O
Aestheticians and some dermatologists claim that an oxygen treatment—in which a pressurized stream of oxygen is applied to the face with a wandlike device—is a godsend to anyone seeking clear, youthful, hydrated skin. “It dramatically speeds up healing,” says Rachel Fields, an aesthetician at Tru Spa  in San Francisco, who has fifteen years of skincare experience. “You don’t leave [the spa] red, blotchy, or irritated.” The oxygen spray, applied after extractions, kills anaerobic bacteria that can cause acne, lessens redness and swelling, and stimulates collagen production; after an oxygen facial, devotees claim to enjoy clearer, brighter, more hydrated skin. In theory, the treatments work because the pressurized spray forces the oxygen more deeply into the skin, hydrating it and increasing its absorption of other beneficial antioxidants, such as vitamins A, C, and E, which are often used in conjunction with the treatment.
However, since the machines and nebulizers that deliver the hyperbaric mist don’t claim to rearrange skin’s cellular structure or treat a disease, they’ve never actually undergone rigorous clinical trials to prove their effectiveness, so some dermatologists remain skeptical about whether extra bursts of oxygen can really provide anything more than a quick pick-me-up. Fans of oxygen-enhanced facials don’t deny that the results are temporary, though. “The skin looks really great for a week or so, with more suppleness and fewer fine lines,” Fields says. But even if the benefits are short-lived, oxygen facials’ popularity has grown so much that many dermatologists are getting on the bandwagon, too, by offering the procedures in their own offices.
For fans of the oxygen facials, the results speak for themselves, and that’s what keeps them coming back for more—at Tru Spa, the TruO2 Facial is the bestselling service. For those who don’t live near a spa offering oxygen facials (or who can’t afford the cost, which often starts at about $150), Fields recommends using an oxygen-enhanced daily product, like Peter Thomas Roth Radiance Oxygenating Serum ($65 at Sephora ), to achieve similar effects. (But don’t forget that the best way to oxygenate skin is from the inside out—by exercising, drinking plenty of water, and not smoking.)
Oxygen facials may not be a permanent fix, but their enduring popularity shows that they do have some advantages, even if they’re short-lived. Fields recommends them for any skin type but especially for people with aging skin, acne, or rosacea, or anyone who wants to look her best before a big event. “I feel really confident that when clients leave, their skin is going to feel phenomenal.”