Oxygen Facials: Doctors and Cosmeticians Face Off

From the WebMD Archives

Aug. 11, 2000 -- If beauty is only skin deep, why are oxygen facials at the heart of a debate between doctors and cosmeticians? According to facialists, oxygen restores skin moisture and stimulates the growth of new cells. But dermatologists say oxygen is toxic to cells and advances the aging process. Fortunately, the two groups do see eye-to-eye on the importance of daily skin care.

Oxygen facials include various hydrogen peroxide creams, which are thought to help penetrate water and oxygen into the skin. "Oxygenation is a vital step in all our facials, but sometimes we use a blast of liquid oxygen to prevent future breakouts," says Mara Stern, a spokeswoman for New York's trendy salon Bliss. "That's because the bacteria that causes acne thrives in a low-oxygen environment," she tells WebMD.

But just as oxygen causes metal to rust, it also reacts with human cells to produce substances known as free radicals, which are produced daily from normal bodily processes and can cause damage to tissues in the body. Vitamins A, C, and E, found in many fruits and vegetables, help protect against free radicals, so dermatologists often recommend skin care products that contain these antioxidants.

In fact, Bliss offers antioxidant products in its mail-order catalog. "Antioxidant creams help reduce environmental damage from sun and air pollution, but there's no reason why they can't be used along with oxygen creams or between oxygen facials. They're really two separate issues," Stern says.

With or without oxygen, one dermatologist advises against facials. "I haven't had a facial in ten years, and most of my patients have replaced them with either microdermabrasion or glycolic acid peels," says Patricia Farris, MD, a clinical assistant professor of dermatology at Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans. "But even these treatments aren't as important as daiIy skin care."

Farris tells WebMD that there a few basic principles. "Undercleansing and overmoisturizing are the most common mistakes. Some women also forget to exfoliate and have a buildup of dead cells and dull looking skin. But above all else, don't pick at your face," she advises, adding these additional tips:


  • Wash twice a day with a gentle cleanser, but not a harsh deodorant soap
  • Exfoliate and protect with alpha-hydroxy moisturizer that contains sunscreen
  • Moisturize and repair with vitamin A/retinol at night, but don't overdo it

Farris also reminds us that facial skin is a reflection of overall health. "Its no coincidence that patients with healthy lifestyles also have good complexions. And with just a few changes in your routine, you can begin to see a difference in a few weeks." She suggests the following:

  • Drink eight to 10 glasses of water a day to prevent breakouts
  • Exercise three to five times per week for a healthy glow
  • Sleep eight or more hours a night to reduce dark circles
  • Eat five servings of fruits and vegetables a day to protect against free radicals

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