Bliss Spa, considered an institution in the spa world during its heyday in the ’90s, is largely known for its Triple Oxygen Facial. Despite the spa chain’s current reputation for surreptitious service “add-ons” and “spin the chair” service garnered on consumer-review sites, Bliss continues to have a considerable following. Women seem to have been falling over themselves for oxygen facials, as the effects are supposedly immediate, rendering the skin, “red carpet ready.” Oxygen facials have managed to sustain popularity for some years now and Madonna and Eva Longoria are rumored to be proud owners of their very own oxygen machines. Yet I had never tried an oxygen facial.

I admit to administering oxygen facials during my very early days as an esthetician. The facials were in demand so I learned to use the oxygen tank and accompanying nebulizer if I wanted to remain employed. However, I didn’t buy into the concept of “infusing” skin with oxygen. Basic cell biology dictates there are actually very few ways to penetrate the epidermis and a nebulizer connected to an oxygen tank isn’t on the list. Based on my research, Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) is the only way to literally infuse oxygen into the body, using 100% oxygen under pressure in a sealed chamber.

Moreover, I had looked up a review for a facial employing the same PureBlue O2 oxygen tank I was utilizing. The reviewer actually had the same concerns I do regarding oxygen facials; what’s the difference between oxidation of the skin and the oxygen elements of the facials? The esthetician in the review assured the free-radical concerned reviewer that no oxidation occurred during the facial as she was being treated with “pure oxygen.” I may likely be the only person to have read the PureBlue O2 information sheet, which clearly states: “Purity- 95% pure, medical-grade oxygen.” There is no information on what comprises the other 5% of the tank’s ingredients. PureBlue O2 isn’t pure which further validated my distrust of the concept.

I was wary as I entered Bliss SoHo spa for my Triple Oxygen Facial ($165). The facial involves a light peel for your skin type, followed by an oxygen wrap. The Bliss Triple Oxygen Instant Energizing Mask ($54) is applied followed by the Bliss Triple Oxygen +C cream ($54) with hot, steamed towels. A gauze mask drenched with nano-hydroscopic (moisture-retaining) enzymes is then layered over a blend of vitamin A, C and E serums. The facial is finished off by infusing the skin with oxygen. The treatment is interspersed with an eye mask and plenty of relaxing massages for the scalp, shoulders, hands, and feet.

Bliss does not use steam to soften skin pre-extractions, opting for an “oxygen wrap,” by applying an “oxygen cream” (not sold to consumers) and wrapping the face with warm, steamed towels to loosen up clogged pores. The oxygen cream is hydrogen peroxide (HP) based. HP is commonly used as a mild disinfectant for cuts and scrapes by releasing oxygen to destroy bacteria, causing the liquid to convert to a foam. While writing this article, I came across evidence that HP causes damage to the human body as it destroys cell membranes in a non-specific manner. The body already fights infection by manufacturing its own HP, which it self-regulates (by releasing an enzyme) to keep HP levels low in order to avoid undue cell death.

I hate to bore you with science but in this case, it’s requisite to understanding oxygen facials so I’ll be brief. Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) is simply water with an extra oxygen atom attached (H2O+O). When the body senses excess HP, it releases an antioxidant enzyme (peroxiredoxin) which breaks down HP into water and… you guessed it - oxygen! The process, oxidation-reduction, transfers the oxygen atom from the oxidizer (HP) to the substance being oxidized, which is in this case is, regrettably, your face. I’m not thrilled about using HP during facials.

The Triple Oxygen Instant Energizing Mask released quite a bit of bubbly froth when applied. I admit that the tingly, citrus-smelling froth slowly dissipating over my face felt refreshing. And the vitamin-infused oxygen spray was stimulating yet relaxing (though I can’t help envisioning the image of the rusting Statue of Liberty in my mind when I think on it now). I genuinely enjoyed the facial but I honestly think that was mainly attributable to the skills of Anna Czapola, whom I was extremely fortunate to have as my esthetician. Anna’s facial ministrations and massages were the true highlight of my facial!

My face was positively glowing after the facial and I can see (literally) why the Triple Oxygen Facial is so popular, and the accompanying mask is a best seller. My skin was radiant and dewy without looking the least bit oily - I was glad I had plans for that night.  However I, quite inadvertently, made an unfortunate discovery. I had received my facial relatively early in the day and about six hours later, I got ready to go out. I noted the triple oxygen glow my skin had earlier in the day, had undoubtedly faded to perhaps the equivalent of a single oxygen glow. The purpose of the oxygen facial is to engorge your skin with oxygen, making it swollen, and smooth. I never thought I’d be so disappointed to witness reduced swelling on my face. I now understand why oxygen facials are the go-to when you need to be red-carpet ready - you need to head right out before it all fades away.

Overall, I’m not impressed enough by the oxygen facial to drop $1,036 on the Oxygeneration Personal Oxygen System, sold by Bliss. I’ll leave the luxury of purchasing personal oxygen tanks to the Madonnas of the world.