This Carbon Dioxide-Powered Face Mask Worked Magic on my Facial Dermatitis

My redness disappeared in less than an hour.

Face mask on a background of a woman's face

Courtesy CO2Lift, Getty Images

When I sprung for a buccal and lymphatic drainage facial massage from Sonia Vargas, a holistic licensed esthetician in Los Angeles, I had been dealing with stubborn facial dermatitis that would not heal despite two prescriptions from my dermatologist. In the months following a severely drying treatment, my skin had become chronically dehydrated and highly reactive, with red bumps spreading from my nose down to my chin and lingering chafing under the tip of my nose.

After the treatment, Vargas introduced me to the CO2 Lift Pro Gel Carboxy Treatment. "It's like a treatment in a mask — use it tonight, if you can," Vargas told me after my facial, noting that it would jumpstart my healing by flushing my skin with oxygen, helping to heal the tissue, while hydrating and calming my ravaged skin barrier.

That night, I applied a thick layer of the jelly over my face and neck, dermatitis and all. I then let the cooling concoction sit for 45 minutes before removing it. What I saw afterward left me astounded: Yes, the dermatitis was still there, but the redness was completely gone, while the rest of my complexion had the unmistakable glow of being freshly oxygenated. Two weeks later, my dermatitis was healed — and I realized I needed to learn more about this miraculous goop.

What Is the CO2 Lift Mask?

The mask's concept is rooted in a medical procedure called carboxy therapy, which uses carbon dioxide to attract fresh oxygen via the Bohr effect. "In carboxy therapy, warm carbon dioxide is injected under the skin to increase blood flow and neovascular genesis," says Ben Talei, M.D., a double board-certified plastic surgeon in Los Angeles, CA. That encourages fibroblasts, a type of cell in your skin, to heal damaged collagen and elastin — which is why the treatment is often used for brightening eyes, increasing blood flow, improving the appearance of scars and stretch marks, and even to alleviate pain.

The mask, meanwhole, uses encapsulated carbon dioxide to signal the body to send fresh oxygen where it is applied. "Basically, the mask creates carbon dioxide, depriving the skin of oxygen temporarily, and thereby forcing an uptake of oxygen from the mask," says Natalie Aguilar, a dermatology nurse and celebrity facialist in Los Angeles.

Why Does It Work?

Oxygenation is known to be healing, which is why surgeons recommend Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) to post-op patients, and athletes use it to recover. But it's also necessary for cellular health. "Essentially, the oxygen stimulates optimal cellular function," says Katie Sobelman, a holistic esthetician in California. "Just like we need air to breathe, so do all of our cells." All cellular activities, such as converting nutrients into energy, collagen synthesis, and cellular regeneration, require fresh oxygen to fuel them. 

Oxygenation also becomes less efficient over time, making it beneficial to help supplement its stores by promoting circulation. So taking steps to promote oxygenation in our skin cells helps to offset the natural loss that occurs as we age — enhancing skin health, addressing signs of aging, promoting healing, and brightening skin.

How to Use the Mask

Each mask pack comes with two foil packets, an applicator stick, and a disposable headband. First, I mixed the contents of the foil packets in a separate bowl for one minute. Then, using the applicator stick, I applied a thick layer of the gel to my face, neck, and décolletage. (I also like to apply some extra to the backs of my hands.) Then, I left the cooling jelly on my face as it hardened into a gel; it can stay on for up to an hour.

The mask stays cool throughout the entire process for a soothing effect and left my skin with a lifted, tightened feel and appearance — similar to a cryotherapy mask. And, of course, my redness was significantly improved.

Who Should Use This Mask

Virtually all skin types can benefit from this mask, says Aguilar; the simplest way to incorporate it into your regimen is to use it every three or four weeks for maintenance. Jeanette Graf, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist in New York, likes to use it after flying, and also recommends it to her patients "before important events like a wedding or graduation" for its glowing effect. Used regularly, she finds that it hydrates, lifts, and rejuvenates the skin while also lightening dark spots. Other experts, meanwhile, use it in-office over numbing cream to blunt the discomfort of in-office treatments.

At $100 a pop, the mask is an investment — but since it's rare to find something with such immediate and long-term effects that can be easily applied at home, it's worth it to me. While my dermatitis has finally healed, I plan to keep using it to see its effects over time.

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