Oxygen is the element of survival, feeding every cell in our body with the lustre for life. However it is simultaneously one of the most destructive elements on earth, causing cellular injury through free radical damage – one of the primary causes of ageing. The health and beauty industry is awash with products that are marketed to prevent ageing and environmental damage. Yet there has recently been a boom in the number of oxygen bars, facials and skincare products available on the market. This begs the question – when it comes to such treatments, is oxygen our friend, or foe?
Why give the skin oxygen?
The word anti-oxidant means anti-oxygen and the beauty industry is awash with such serums. Examples of antioxidant ingredients include vitamin C, selenium, plant extracts and Vitamin E. Why is it then that we are now being sold products that claim to deliver oxygen to the skin? ‘Oxygenating’ creams tend to contain hydrogen peroxide, or some other oxygen-releasing molecule, which is supposedly activated upon contact with the skin. The theory is that oxygen-depletion of the skin is concurrent with ageing, the mechanism of which is unknown but is believed to be related to the reduced blood flow and lung volume with age. Therefore delivering oxygen topically should in theory have an anti-ageing effect.
Oxygen and Acne
Recent research has also linked the formation of acne to a lack of oxygen in the skin. Excess sebum from the skin reduces the amount of oxygen available creating a fertile breeding ground for bacteria to multiply. In the process, these bacteria produce more fatty acids that further contribute to the formation of acne by blocking pores.
Lack of solid evidence
Nevertheless, there does not seem to be any solid evidence that delivering oxygen to the skin in the form of creams and serums is effective enough to treat acne or prevent aging. We reached out to leading Dermatologist, Dr Adam Friedmann, who stated that “the evidence is pretty much non-existent for oxygen therapies as such” and advised that the best way to keep skin healthy is to adhere to the following:
- avoid sunlight and use a high factor SPF on a daily basis
- moisturise regularly
- eat a healthy, balanced diet full of fruits and vegetables
- refrain from smoking and reduce alcohol consumption
- get plenty of sleep
Exercise also helps to improve circulation to the skin as well as reducing the effects of stress. As for oxygen bars, can breathing in more oxygen help the skin? The air around us is 21% oxygen and at that level the blood is almost completely saturated with oxygen, meaning inhaling pure oxygen has no added benefit. Breathing pure oxygen for too long can be harmful and is usually only administered for a short period of time, to those who are critically ill in hospital. Although 30 minutes at an Oxygen Bar shouldn’t have any negative effects in fit and healthy individuals, the FDA has ruled it unsafe for those with heart or lung conditions such as emphysema.
It would seem that as with many areas of scientific interest within the beauty industry, the evidence leaves much to be desired and is still an area of great uncertainty. There may not be any harm in trying such treatments, but the only thing you may be cleansing is your wallet.