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Oxygen facials can plump fine lines, making them less noticeable, and can famously give skin a red-carpet glow with one treatment. But they might also be giving you free-radical damage.

That’s the not-so glamorous possible side effect of the popular facial, which is used in many spas from Bliss Spa to Trump – and by every celebrity come Oscar season.

The facials use a small machine that sprays atomized ingredients onto (and possibly into) the skin using a stream of pressurized oxygen. The idea being that oxygen is good for skin’s cellular metabolism and that the pressurized form can help deliver vitamins and nourishing ingredients into skin’s deeper layers. Additionally, the bacteria that cause pimples can’t live in oxygen’s presence (that’s the principle behind Proactive and other hydrogen peroxide-based acne treatments), so the facial is used to help clear up skin, too.

The idea sounds good, especially given all of the oxygen facial’s obvious (if anecdotal) benefits. But should we be using oxygen as a skin-care ingredient?

After all, science has long said that oxygen exposure is what causes free-radical damage. (A cut apple left on the counter proves the theory.) And beauty companies have sold us on the idea that slathering our skin with antioxidants is needed to help quench the dozens of free radical-causing substances in our midst (from pollution and ultraviolet rays to the skin’s own metabolic process).

So the oxygen facial that gives skin an instant rejuvenating boost may be causing (oxidative) damage to it in the long term. Which sounds like Sisyphean approach to skin care. Will we soon need a rejuvenating facial for the damage caused by this one?

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