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Do Skin-Care Products That “Boost Blood Flow” Actually Do Anything?


Do Skin-Care Products That “Boost Blood Flow” Actually Do Anything?

A Peloton bike and a rose-quartz gua sha have more in common than you might think. They’ve both gotten a lot of play over the last two years, but more notably (in our book), they both make skin look damn good by pumping up circulation, or blood flow, a bodily function that “the skin and every other organ relies on for a supply of nutrients, oxygen, and immune cells,” says Laurel Geraghty, M.D., a dermatologist in Medford, Oregon. When blood flow is restricted, tissue starts to peace out — something anyone who has ever wrapped a Band-Aid around their finger too tightly would understand. When we encourage blood flow (whether by doing a few Down Dogs or lovingly massaging in face oil), we replenish skin with the nutrients it needs to function at its peak. Visible benefits tend to fade quickly, but there may be more happening beneath the surface.

Researchers in Asia — where blood flow has long been viewed as a source of beauty and health — are seeking a new vein of truth. At Kao, a Japanese beauty behemoth that owns Jergens and Curél in the U.S., researchers discovered that better capillary (i.e., baby blood vessels closest to the skin’s surface) blood flow was associated with various markers of skin health, including smoother texture and higher cell turnover. To encourage this through skin care, they took inspiration from older studies that show carbon dioxide application increased circulation via blood vessel dilation. After testing a CO2 solution, researchers found it boosted capillary blood flow in two minutes, and decreased transepidermal water loss to boot, and published the results in the journal Skin Research & Technology. Theoretically, Dr. Geraghty says, it makes sense that “blood vessels would dilate [in the presence of] more carbon dioxide to deliver more oxygen to our tissues.” The research led to a makeover of one of Japan’s best-selling essences, Sofina iP Dodai Essence, to include carbon dioxide in the formula.

But it’s not just blood flow that impacts skin health; scientists at Shiseido think its mode of transportation to the skin is just as important. In the past 20 years, they’ve…

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