People Are Injecting Carbon Dioxide Around Their Eyes For Beauty

Carboxytherapy won’t make dark circles go away and might even cause wrinkles

Photo Illustration: Vocativ
Aug 01, 2016 at 1:58 PM ET

The latest technique to get rid of dark under-eye circles may not provide the benefits that proponents claim, according to an article published Friday by Stat News.

The method, called carboxytherapy, involves injecting the eyelid and lower eye area with carbon dioxide. This causes the eye to swell up at the injection site. In theory, the procedure works because the injection of carbon dioxide, which builds up naturally in cells, gets swept away by the blood cells on their way to the lungs. By opening up the blood vessels around the eye, the carboxytherapy supposedly increases blood flow to the darkened areas and, presumably, restores their coloration to that of typical skin.

The treatment has a quicker recovery time than chemical peels, which remove the top layer of skin, and claims to be more effective than concealers or colored creams. Some purveyors claim carboxytherapy is the “biggest beauty breakthrough since Botox.”

But not only has the treatment not been scientifically proven to be effective, carboxytherapy doesn’t get to the heart of how dark circles form under the eyes in the first place. Dark circles have little to do with sleep deprivation or even circulation—they appear because blood vessels are visible through the skin around the eyes, which is thin to begin with (just a quarter of the thickness of skin elsewhere on the body) and thins even more with age, especially in those with a genetic predisposition.

Even if the rationale for the procedure is wrong, there’s a chance the technique could still work. There is little literature on the effectiveness on carboxytherapy, and even less that’s been peer reviewed. One 2014 study conducted in 48 patients in Poland found that carboxytherapy reduced dark eye circles; another, published in June in the Journal of Surgical Dermatology and conducted in Egypt, found that chemical peels showed similar but slightly better results than carboxytherapy at repairing the coloration under the eyes. But the evidence is hardly convincing—the biggest difference between the “before” and “after” photos of patients appears to simply be the lighting, as one researcher told Stat News.

In fact, in the process of trying to treat discoloration, carboxytherapy might be exacerbating another aesthetic issue: wrinkles around the eyes.

That’s not to say carboxytherapy is totally useless—other studies show that it could help improve the appearance of scars or swelling caused by clogged lymph nodes. But people considering getting some carbon dioxide injections for their under-eye circles might just want to wait for some more reliable evidence.