What are some celebrities claiming is a fountain of youth? You're breathing it right now.
The so-called oxygen facial, which counts Madonna among its fans, has grown in popularity among women looking to stop time in its tracks.
During treatment, an aesthetician applies pressurized oxygen, acid and a customized serum to the skin to reveal visibly plumper, younger-looking skin. But does it work?
“The skin often looks more firm and smooth after the first treatment and the benefits are cumulative,” says Arizona-based Heidi Lamar, who claims that her business, Spa Lamar, was the among the first to introduce the oxygen facial and has provided the service for more than 10 years.
“Many of our guests have been getting these treatments monthly since we started giving them and say this preventive treatment has helped them avoid plastic surgery," she adds. "Oxygen facials do not work like Botox, by paralyzing your expression lines, so you friends will still be able to tell if you are happy or not, which is important because our oxygen facial regulars tend to smile a lot!”
Dr. Marina Peredo, an associate clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, notes that the treatment may be ideal for those looking for a less painful way to fight aging.
“Oxygen is a necessity if you want to have healthy, youthful looking skin,” says Peredo. “This facial is great because it helps protect and reverse damage from environmental pollutants that can harm our skin. It also helps the overall texture of your skin, which feels smoother after this facial. The oxygen facial reduces the appearance of lines and wrinkles by releasing moisturizers onto the skin, which absorb quickly with the help of oxygen. It's an ultimate hydrator that infuses vitamins and nutrients into the skin."
With the exposure of environmental pollutants and damaging sun rays, many can understand the oxygen facial’s appeal, which works with an element that’s essential to the body.
“As we age, our bodies are less able to readily assimilate the oxygen in our blood into the skin,” explains Leslie Christensen, regional spa manager at fitness club Equinox in New York City. “This leads to a drop in a multitude of issues, including a reduction of collagen and elastin production in the skin, which in effect, leads to the quintessential signs of aging, such as fine lines. When pressurized, the oxygen helps the skin absorb the infused serums, which are customized to treat the specific needs of the skin.”
Oxygen facials may be a soothing experience for those seeking a day of pampering, but when it comes to eliminating the signs of aging permanently, some experts say it's a lot of hot air.
“Although this all sounds very intriguing, especially when celebrities like Madonna sing its praises, there is no scientific evidence showing that it works to do anything beneficial to the skin in the long term,” explains Dr. Whitney Bowe, clinical assistant professor of dermatology at SUNY Downstate Medical Center. “Most of these so-called plumping effects are likely the result of temporary inflammation and swelling. Microdermabrasion creates that same type of temporary swelling.”
There is also the cost, with the average running between $200 and $500. In addition, there are monthly maintenance treatments to ensure that the face stays fresh. Unlike Botox, which Dr. Bowe points out is approved by the FDA, the oxygen facial is not. Plus, you don’t need to be a medically-licensed dermatologist to administer the treatment.
“I’ve treated a number of patients who feel as though they wasted their money on spa treatments that provided very transient benefits, and they come asking for treatments with proven long-term and anti-aging effects,” adds Dr. Bowe.
Plastic surgeon Dr. James C. Marotta also warns that the oxygen facial can do more harm than good for those attempting to erase lines and blemishes.
“I doubt that the oxygen penetrates the skin in any meaningful way,” he says. “Even if it did, the effects of concentrated oxygen are not known and there is even a theoretical danger in that oxygen can generate free radicals, which can lead to more skin damage."