Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, has a $37,000 a year beauty regimen that includes Karin Herzog’s oxygen-based skincare products.  I am ever thankful for the Royal tip-off for the bee venom mask and so was hoping for another good lead. But they turned out to be little more than hot air (and paraffin).

Both of Kate’s choices Vita-A-Kombi ($62) and Oxygen Face Cream ($44) are formulated with 2% oxygen. Karin Herzog is a family-run cosmetic company in Switzerland, brandishing the slogan “If it’s not Karin Herzog, its not oxygen.” They fiercely guard the secret to stabilizing oxygen in cream, a process invented by hubby, Dr Paul Herzog.

Stable or not, oxygen’s cosmetic benefits are up in the air. Some even believe that oxygen facials are bad things as an excess of high-pressure oxygen applied to the skin's surface can theoretically generate high levels of free radicals and degrade oxidizable molecules. Oxygen in cream is much more benign, but it is unlikely that the gas would cross the stratum corneum (source).

Since you can’t see oxygen, it is tempting to fear emperor’s new clothes syndrome. Is it even in Vita-A-Kombi and Oxygen Face Cream? Well, there is hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), which is per Wikipedia “the simplest peroxide (a compound with an oxygen-oxygen single bond).” Living things turn H2O2 into oxygen. So there you have it. However, you might not want to slather hydrogen peroxide on your skin. Because it is a strong oxidizer, it is used as a bleaching agent for food and textiles and to oxygenate stains on teeth (it is in the whitener by Tanda that I recently tested). According to Cosmetics Info, it is an antimicrobial.

Both Vita-A-Kombi and Oxygen Face Cream have a base of water and paraffinum liquidum, otherwise known as paraffin or mineral oil. Mineral oil is an inexpensive petrochemical byproduct made from petroleum. Because of its ability to cut through grease and dirt, mineral oil is commonly used to remove makeup.

It is a very odd choice to use with oxygen since mineral oil forms an impenetrable film over skin that traps in toxins and hinders normal skin respiration. Mineral oil is eschewed by many modern formulators because is prevents in oxygen and release carbon dioxide in order to appear healthy, and mineral oil tends to interfere with the body's own natural moisturizing mechanism.

I have to say Karin Herzog’s Vita-A Kombi and Oxygen Face Cream are amongst the most unconvincing that I have perused for a while. Kate must be placing a lot of faith in mineral oil and hydrogen peroxide since, part from retinol and vitamin B1 that’s all there is. Emperor’s clothes indeed.

See all our Five Best recommendations, including Five Best for sagging skin and Five Best with vitamin.C and Five Best eye creams.

Ingredients in Vita-A-Kombi: Aqua, Paraffinum Liquidum, Glycerin, Stearyl Alcohol, Polysorbate 20, Hydrogen Peroxide, Tocopheryl Acetate, Retinol, Parfum.

Oxygen Face Cream: Aqua, Paraffinum Liquidum, Glycerin, Stearyl Alcohol, Polysorbate 20, Hydrogen Peroxide, Thiamine Nitrate.