Oxygen masks are products which come out of the bottle as a gel, but start bubbling with oxygen gas after a few seconds on the skin. Brands like Bliss, Peter Thomas Roth, Dr Brandt, Oseque and Sephora have oxygen bubble masks. What do they do, and how did they get the gas into the bottle?
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How do oxygen masks work?
Oxygen masks work a lot like soda water or soft drinks, where gas is dissolved in water under pressure (carbon dioxide gas, for soda), and is released when the pressure drops (when you open the bottle).
Oxygen doesn’t dissolve as well in water, so instead it’s dissolved in chemicals called perfluorocarbons, which are stable, unreactive carbon-based compounds containing fluorine atoms. They can dissolve 20 times more oxygen than water, and have even been investigated for use in artificial blood.
These oxygenated perfluorocarbons are then sealed in a pressurised bottle. When the mask comes out, the oxygen starts fizzing out slowly like the bubbles in soft drink. For some thicker products, a pressurised bottle isn’t required – the thickness of the product itself is enough to hold the oxygen until you massage it out by applying it on the skin.
The most commonly used perfluorocarbons in cosmetics are perfluorodecalin and methyl perfluorobutyl ether, but pretty much anything in the ingredients list with “perfluoro” in it will be a perfluorocarbon. Here are the perfluorocarbon ingredients in some popular oxygen masks: