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What’s Oxygen Doing in my Moisturiser?

June 13, 2010

The use of Oxygen in skin care is not a new thing indeed dermatologists were using oxygen therapy over fourty years ago. However, the use of it as an active in skin care seems to be something of a modern phenomenon as more and more brands look to beautify you with O2.

For Example:

Nivea launched their Visage Oxygen Power Reviving Day Cream back in 2008 off the back of a 2006 patent protecting the use of unbound oxygen in oil-in-water emulsions.  Basically they describe  a method for putting pure  oxygen  (in this case in its gaseous phase) into the cream as one of the last steps. The emulsion would then be filled into a bag-in-can aerosol pack to prevent the gas escaping.  Apparently this improves skin micro-circulation and also boosts skin metabolism making it look and feel younger. Sounds interesting!

Oxygen Therapy from Nivea

Oxygenergy Paris also have a range of salon treatments and a serum based on oxygen.  The interesting thing about this product is its use of a chemical called Perfluorodecalin which helps to bind up the oxygen and carry it deeper into the skin cells which could be interesting as the skin’s natural barrier is pretty impermeable to oxygen in ‘real life’ – I will explain more later.

OPur Oxygen from Switzerland  (Newpharm Co) also have a range of serums (probably due to the Nivea patent) utilising high-grade oxygen in emulsion form. These guys also use the same technology as Nivea to ensure that the oxygen is still in the product when you, the customer use it!


Well,  a long and pretty painful look through a number of dermatological files shows that scientists have not found it easy to link oxygen therapy to unequivocal skin improvements. Much work has been done on the treatment of Diabetic leg ulcers via hyperbaric oxygen chambers  due to the fact that it is relatively easy to set up a study group in this demographic.  The results of these trials showed that while the extra oxygen did seem to boost the skin metabolism and offer some improvements in skin look and feel, it did not really affect the healing time of the ulcerated area. Maybe skin can’t suck it up?

So how easy is it to get oxygen through the skin?

Well, as I mentioned above the skin is very good at keeping most gasses out – just think how bad it would be if our skin sucked up the gasses from our perfume…. While we’re on that wave length have you ever noticed how your butt skin is so soft when compared to your hands or face?  That area has to put up with lots of toxic gas and pollution but seems to thrive! 

Basically we have evolved to live in this planet which means that our bodies maintain the status quo as far as gas goes. Our bodies are able to exchange gases with the environment but we generally end up coming back to our default position. BUT that is in ‘normal’ conditions. Put us into an oxygen chamber and all of a sudden a difference exists between our bodies and the outside. Gasses usually like to level out the pressures and so more oxygen will pass through the skin so as to even things out a bit – good sharing! That is why hyperbaric chambers work.

So, in a nutshell it is very difficult to maintain extra oxygen or other gas levels under ‘normal’ conditions as the skin will quickly try to re-calibrate to its norm.

Do our cells need oxygen?

Oh yes BUT remember back to your high school biology days?  Remember the KREBS cycle (Citric Aid cycle), Oxydative Phosphorylation and all that stuff? No, neither did I until I looked it up again BUT basically the  skin cells don’t use gaseous oxygen fresh from the air, they get their oxygen from haemoglobin in red blood cells that then goes through lots of cycles to end up as ATP – cell food.  It’s complicated.

So, should I leave my money at home?

Well that is really up to you but the evidence all points to oxygenated skin products being more marketing than science but that isn’t always a bad thing.  Oxygen based creams have been found to produce some visible benefits in skin and if you like trying something new then go for it.  Another plus point for the Nivea product is that it is reasonably priced which makes it very affordable. If you are going to buy oxygen skin care make sure it is in an aerosol can though as at least you have some chance of retaining some oxygen in the formulation. 

On a last note though I would say that it is usually oxygen that DOES the damage in cells – The free radical oxygen ions (rather than molecules) which have too much energy and use it to start unwanted reactions in cells. I am not sure what effect adding oxygen to your face would have in this regard but doubt it would linger long enough to do much damage.

Let me know how you go and remember that oxygen is different to air – air contains up to 78% nitrogen and only 21%  oxygen plus some other bits and pieces so this isn’t all the  mumbo jumbo that some would have us believe.

Have fun and remember to breathe deep and long!

PS: The Nivea product does get one definate thumbs down for the over-packaging. Nobody needs a can in a box…

4 Comments leave one →
  1. June 21, 2010 8:06 pm

    Goodmorning, have you seen studies from chemist Zastrow, who has been working for many years for Lancaster? Lancaster uses oxygen allready for a long time in cosmetics? wondering what your opinion is about his studies and their products?

    all the best
    journalist from the netherlands

    • RealizeBeautyEd permalink
      June 21, 2010 11:37 pm

      Hi Monique,
      I don’t believe that I have seen that. I will have a look and let you know! I love this info and idea sharing, thanks.


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