what are bubble masks

“That’s so freaking cool!,” I squealed in delight as bubbles started covering my entire face.

I had just slathered on Elizavecca Carbonated Bubble Clay Mask. In the pot, it looked like your ordinary, muddy clay mask. But as soon as you put it on, it starts foaming into a bubbly lather that turns your face into a cloud.


But is it effective, too? I mean, do the bubbles do anything – apart from making you reach for your phone to take a selfie?

(P.S. Yours truly hates selfies. I’m old school like that).

Let’s see what the science says:

How Do Oxygen Masks Work?

Sort of like soda water. When you open your can of Coke, the pressure drops, releasing gas that makes it fizzy and bubbly.

The difference? Soda water uses carbon dioxide gas, a gas that dissolves in water. Skincare prefers oxygen. But oxygen doesn’t dissolve in water that well.

Enter perfluorocarbons. Perfluoro… what?!

Perfluorocarbons are a family of chemicals that dissolve 20x more oxygen than water. You put the oxygenated perfluorocarbons in the can and seal them in a pressurised bottle.

(Fun Fact: if the mask is thick enough, no pressure needed).

When you put the mask on your face, the oxygen turns back into gas, creating little bubbles all over your face. Cool, huh?

P.S. The most common perfluorocarbons in skincare are methyl perfluorobutyl ether and perfluorodecalin, but anything with “perfluoro” in the name will do the job.

Related: The Truth About Oxygen Facials: Do They Work?

Struggling to put together a skincare routine that minimises wrinkles, prevents premature aging, and gives your complexion a youthful glow? Download your FREE “Best Anti-Aging Skincare Routine” to get started (it features product recommendations + right application order):

What Does Oxygen Do For Your Skin?

Ok, the bubbling effect is super cool. You’ll squeal with delight the first time you use one of these masks. But does the oxygen do anything good for your skin?

I guess you could buy a cheap bubble mask just for kicks once. But if you want to invest in a pricier mask, it’d better work, you know what I’m saying? So does it?

Yes and no. There’s a reason why I usually keep away from oxygen in skincare. Too much oxygen can cause free radicals, those little rascals responsible for premature aging.

So excess oxygen is no good. But lack of oxygen isn’t good either. Your skin has ¼ less oxygen by the time you hit the big 3-0. When you’re 40, it drops to ½.

Why does this matter? Well, your skin uses oxygen to make collagen and heal wounds faster. Rumour has it, oxygen may help with acne too.

Some will tell you oxygen can reduce wrinkles but studies don’t support this. Still, it seems that the right amount of oxygen helps skin look and act its best.

Related: 8 Science-Backed Ways To Replenish Lost Collagen

how bubble masks work

Do Oxygen Masks Really Make You Younger?

Truth bomb: it’s not enough to put oxygen in a mask to boost collagen, heal wounds and treat acne. That oxygen must be able to penetrate skin.

Can a bubble mask deliver oxygen into the skin or does it leave it on the surface to perform its cool magic acts only?

Sadly, the latter option is way more likely. Seeing all those little bubbles cover your face may give you the impression it’s working – but if the oxygen is reacting on top of your skin, chances are not a lot of it actually penetrates into your skin, where it can perform the real magic.

Plus, these masks are designed to stay on the skin for only a few minutes. Even if oxygen could get in, chances are you’d be rinsing most of it away before it has a chance to do so.

are bubble masks gimmicks 02

Should You Invest In Bubble Masks?

As I said, if you want to try one just for kicks once, go ahead. Sometimes, skincare is just meant to be fun.

I personally don’t bother to look for oxygen in my skincare. The only bubble mask I’ve tried is Elizavecca Carbonated Bubble Clay Mask because it has clays that can absorb the excess oil on my shiny t-zone. But I didn’t expect the bubbling effect to be anything more than a gimmick.

Related: How To Choose The Right Type Of Mask For Your Skin Type

What Are The Best Bubble Masks?

If you’d like to invest in bubble masks, pick one that does double duty – like turn your face into a cloud AND absorb excess oil/hydrate skin/brighten the complexion. You get the drill.

Here are my fave picks:

  • Dr Brandt Skincare Oxygen Facial Flash Recovery Mask ($70.00): available at Sephora
  • Elizavecca Carbonated Clay Mask ($11.15/£8.70): available at iHerbSelfridges and Yes Style
  • Glamglow Bubblesheet Oxygenating Deep Cleanse Mask ($9.00): available at Asos and Sephora.

The Bottom Line

Bubble Masks are a nice gimmick that can make an ordinary mask so much more fun to use. Just make sure that’s not all it does!