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See-O₂ to those wrinkles. Carboxytherapy is an anti-ageing and fat-destroying cosmetic treatment that involves the injection of a small amount of carbon dioxide (CO₂) gas under problem areas of skin. CO₂ is the gas that makes sparkling drinks fizzy and is a natural byproduct of respiration (which may ring a bell if you can think back to science classes). It’s normally removed from your blood in the lungs, where it is exhaled and released from the body.
The science bit above is the reason why carboxytherapy is thought to work, so bear with us as we explain. The process carboxytherapy exploits is known as ‘oxygen offloading’. When red blood cells have passed through the lungs, picked up oxygen and dropped it off at the cells where it’s needed, they take on board the carbon dioxide that’s produced as a result (like a respiration driven door-to-door taxi service). The CO₂ is then ferried back to lungs and exhaled, where the whole process starts again.
Carboxytherapy stimulates this process when injections are used in areas that have poor circulation. Problems such as dark circles are thought to be partly caused or worsened by circulatory issues, and introducing a minute amount of CO₂ to cells in the region forces the body to increase the flow of oxygenated blood to the area. The red blood cells rush to the injection site, pass on the oxygen and quickly take away the excess carbon dioxide to rebalance things. Any blue tinged areas (caused by CO₂ pooling at the site) are replaced with healthy, oxygenated pink skin. Fabulous!
The treatment is also said to increase collagen production and skin renewal in the injected area, improving the appearance of scars and wrinkles. When fat sculpting or eradication is desired, the CO₂ is injected deeper and directly into the unwanted fat cells, causing them to explode (in an entirely non-violent manner). Men can even get in on the act. If advancing baldness is a problem, it is said that carboxytherapy can reopen close pores and follicles, potentially enabling new hair growth.
The gas used during procedures is stored in tanks and connected to plastic tubing and then a flow-regulator. The flow-regulator is controlled by the practitioner and works by slowing down the speed of the gas expelled. After leaving the flow-regulator, the CO₂ is pumped into sterile tubing that has a filter on the end to remove any microscopic impurities, before being run through a tiny needle attached to the opposite side of the filter. The pure carbon dioxide is then injected beneath the skin using a small hypodermic needle.
A typical carboxytherapy session lasts 15 to 30 minutes and the average patient returns for a total of six to twelve treatments spaced one week apart.
Carboxytherapy has been dubbed a more natural alternative to Botox and artificial fillers, so if you’d prefer not to have poison or artificial substances injected into your face, CO₂ injections could be for you. Limited research has been carried out on the long term effects of the treatment, but the technique has been used in a medical setting (during endoscopic surgeries of the abdomen and invasive heart surgery) for many years. Those who have already tried carboxytherapy claim it is just as quick as other injection procedures, requires minimal recovery time and results in very little pain.
Instead, the adjective most often used to describe the sensation is ‘weird’, but as a precaution, many centres use a topical numbing cream or gel on the area being treated. The skin may feel puffy and unusually plumped (like eyelids after a night spent crying) immediately after treatment, but this subsides as the gas gets absorbed.
The injected gas may cause some slight pressure on surrounding tissue when stretch-marks and scar tissue become distended, and some patients report that the skin feels a bit itchy in the five minutes following treatment. However, scar tissue doesn’t contain nerve endings, so you definitely won’t feel any pain. Again, practitioners promise that this effect soon disappears once the gas is absorbed by the body. When larger amounts of gas are used in fat treatments, you may feel some pressure in the area being treated that feels similar to when the arm is squeezed by a blood pressure cuff as the cells expand. In all cases, the treated area is likely to feel warm and tingly for up to 24 hours after the treatment due to the improved circulation.
This treatment is not one to try just before a holiday or event, as there is the potential for bruising at injection sites. Trypanophobes – that’s needle haters to us - would also be advised to avoid this one.
Carboxytherapy was discovered in the Royal Spas of France in the 1930’s when people noticed that bathing in the pools of carbon dioxide rich water seemed to speed up wound healing.