I Spent an Hour in a Hyperbaric Oxygen Chamber for Glowy Skin — See Photos

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Laying in an enclosed capsule that’s being pumped with medical-grade oxygen might sound intense — but would you try it if it meant your skin would glow? Increased collagen production, accelerated cell regeneration, and reduced appearance of wrinkles are just some of the skin-care benefits a session in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber (a.k.a. HOC therapy) may be able to offer if you can work up the nerve. Celebrities such as Kendall Jenner and Justin Bieber have jumped onto the trend, zipping themselves up in their very own pressurized oxygen pods (in the comfort of their own homes) for convenient access to this skin-rejuvenating treatment. 

HOC therapy entails lying in a tanning bed-sized chamber that fills up with a “highly concentrated, pressurized dose of pure oxygen with levels 1.5 to three times higher than the average,” explains Mona Gohara, MD, a board-certified dermatologist located in Connecticut. The treatment was first developed to counteract negative effects after deep sea diving and tissue damage by radiation, but a recent study concluded that it may have skin-care benefits, too. “Oxygen in high doses, like HOC therapy, recently has been found to be an important component in skin rejuvenation, treating photoaging skin, and improvement in skin complexions,” says a 2014 study published in the National Library of Medicine

Aestheticians are now harnessing HOC therapy’s effects and offering it as a treatment at their spas. I stumbled upon this treatment after a relaxing, pore-cleansing facial at Joanna Vargas Skin Care Spa in New York City. Vargas gave me a sneak peek inside the spa’s very own HOC treatment room, and while this therapy is typically considered an add-on to her list of facials, massages, and LED treatments, I couldn’t resist Vargas’ kind offer for me to experience the hour-long service on its own the following week. 

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What is hyperbaric oxygen chamber therapy?

The first recorded use of hyperbaric air therapy was in the 1660s to treat chronic conditions like decompression sickness and carbon monoxide poisoning, but it wasn’t until the 1920s that hyperbaric oxygen therapy began being used widely in medicine. The goal of breathing in pure oxygen in these types of chambers is, according to an article published on Johns Hopkins Medicine’s website, “to fill the blood with enough oxygen to repair tissues and restore normal body function.” In more modern times, many doctors have created their own interpretations of HOC therapy, like this pressurized hospital chamber built in the mid-1920s by Dr. John Cunningham.

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