What’s the Difference Between Oxygenating and Hydrating Your Skin?

You may have had an oxygen facial before (Madonna famously swears by them) or picked up a cream or a mask that touts O2 as an ingredient. But what does it actually mean to "oxygenate" your skin and how is it different from hydrating it?

Theoretically, "oxygenating" your skin is the process of delivering oxygen directly into it—be it through a facial or a product. The extra oxygen in your skin is supposed to increase cell turnover and circulation, which then increases the absorption of other skin-care ingredients.

For years, the medical community has used O2 in hospitals to speed up the healing of burned or severely compromised skin, but it’s important to note that in this context, the oxygen is highly pressurized in chambers (i.e., much more concentrated than anything you’d get at home or in a spa).

"Hydrating" your skin entails using topical products that contain humectants to bind and draw water into your cells. In doing so, they encourage them to absorb more moisture and plump up the appearance of your skin. (Not to make things any more confusing here, but hydrating your skin is different from moisturizing it, but it’s not an either/or situation; for the best results, you want to hydrate your skin with a serum or an essence and top it off with an occlusive moisturizer that seals everything in).

As for the benefits of oxygenating your skin? As far as we can tell, there isn’t any harm in it, but there is also limited research on whether it actually delivers on the "skin-brightening and hydrating" claims. So if it comes down to how you should spend your money at Sephora or a spa, we’d say go for a hydrating treatment over an oxygenating one.

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Beauty Director

Jenny Jin is PureWow’s Beauty Director and is currently based in Los Angeles. Since beginning her journalism career at Real Simple magazine, she has become a human encyclopedia of...