Adele Rosi

Tales of oxygen's anti-ageing effects have been in the air for years. In the past, many of Hollywood's A-listers have sworn by regular inhalations of rarefied oxygen to keep them looking and feeling good, and actor Woody Harrelson was so taken by the concept he opened his own oxygen bar. Sports people have been known to take a quick snort, for increased stamina, before competing, and gamblers are convinced the gas is pumped into Las Vegas casinos to keep customers awake and at the tables. If money is no object forget about the hair of the dog; an oxygen hit is said to be an excellent hangover cure, apparently working wonders on a thumping head and wasted brain cells.

But this treatment is already old hat. In our never-ending quest to eliminate the effects of days in the sun and nights on the town, it's now not enough to head for an oxygen bar, shove a tube up each nostril and breathe. If you really want to be in with the in-crowd, the latest panacea for stressed-out, ageing skin is oxygen facials.

Introduced to Hong Kong a fortnight ago by the Beautiful Skin Centre, the Oxyjet Triple Oxygen treatment is aimed at urbanites whose skin faces a daily bashing from pollution and UV rays. By means of an Oxyjet machine, a piece of equipment that wouldn't look out of place in a hospital, the facial delivers the wonder gas to dermal cells (the skin's strength and structure) via a spray, pump and mask. No needles and, most importantly, no pain. The treatment claims to prevent and correct premature ageing, help skin regeneration, elasticity and vitality, and give you that much coveted bloom of youth. Although the medical profession is divided as to whether doses of fresh air are beneficial, there is a method in this madness. Oxygen is essential for skin regeneration and these days we're not getting enough of the good stuff. Several decades ago the oxygen content in the air was 35 per cent; today it has dropped to about 21 per cent, and could be as low as 16 per cent in cities such as Hong Kong, where pollution levels verge on the criminal.

While I lie on the massage bed, therapist Joanne Rose exfoliates, cleanses and tones my face before 'airbrushing' it with a skin-brightening oxygen spray, which feels as though someone is blowing gently on my skin. She then applies a hydrating hyaluron serum. (Hyaluronic acid is the skin's natural moisture but it decreases with age, which is why skin typically becomes dehydrated, lined and less firm the older you get.) Using a probe connected to the Oxyjet machine, Rose presses the serum into my skin with a blast of cool, pressurised oxygen, moving across my face from my forehead down. The probe's nozzle is about the size of my little fingernail so it takes a while for Rose to do my face, but the areas she works on feel immediately plumper.

When Rose finishes pumping my face with the gas, she smoothes in an anti-oxidant oxyserum containing borage oil, squalene and the purest form of Vitamin E to seal my now rehydrated, oxygen-enriched skin cells.

Next up is a honey and mimosa face-pack to nourish the skin further, followed by 10 blissful minutes of oxygen inhalation through a mask lightly scented with peppermint, and a head massage. Rose rounds off the facial by applying a product called Excellence Serum, which contains more hyaluron, anti-ageing royal jelly, silk protein with amino acids for skin rebuilding, and vitamins B1, B2, B3 and B6, and an equally enriching Elegance Moisturising Cream.

Does it work? Rose purposefully does half of my face with the Oxyjet at a time so I can see the before-and-after effects. The lines between my eyebrows are barely visible, the crease from nose to mouth is much less prominent on the side she has worked on and my cheeks are noticeably rounder. I also feel far more alert by the end of the treatment thanks to the oxygen inhalation. No, I won't be mistaken for a teenager, but the elusive facial glow I took for granted in my youth seems - albeit temporarily - to be back.

Value for money: There are a lot of components to this treatment, which always gets my thumbs-up, and I was so impressed with the instant results I was ready to sign up for a course - five in quick succession are recommended with quarterly top-ups thereafter. Until I saw the price. At $1,288 for 90 minutes ($988 is the promotional price until Monday), this is the queen supreme of facials - a course would be cheaper than a face-lift, but only just.

So what's the score? 9/10. A superb treatment that was relaxing and effective - results seemed even better two days later - but I found it hard in these cash-strapped times to justify the price. However, if you've got a healthy bank balance, go for it.

Reservations: Beautiful Skin Centre, shop 344, level 3, Pacific Place, Admiralty (tel: 2877-8911).