Carboxytherapy Overview

Woman receiving face treatment.
Carboxytherapy uses a tiny needle to inject carbon dioxide beneath the skin's surface, so the procedure is considered to be nonsurgical. See more getting beautiful skin pictures.

If you'd like to reduce the appearance of scars, cellulite and stretch marks but don't want to have surgery or risk unpleasant side effects, you might consider the lesser-known treatment of carboxytherapy. As its name suggests, carboxytherapy involves the injection of carbon dioxide gas just below the skin's surface. This is intended to jump-start circulation and increase the production of collagen, which can improve the look of the skin [source: McDonald].

Aging can reduce blood circulation, which means less oxygen gets to the cells. As a result, the process of creating new cells slows or even stops. Injecting carbon dioxide gas under the skin tricks the body into believing it needs more oxygen, presumably resulting in an increase in blood flow and cell growth [source: McDonald]. Carboxytherapy is also believed to destroy fat cells, which can make the top layer of skin tissue feel and look firmer [source: Cosmetic Medical].


Because the process of injecting the carbon dioxide gas into the skin is done with a tiny needle, the procedure is considered to be nonsurgical. If you're not fond of the idea of surgery to repair damaged or aged skin, this aspect of carboxytherapy might appeal to you.

Those who offer the treatment say it can be used effectively in the majority of patients to remove stretch marks, cellulite, dark under-eye circles and scars over the course of a series of sessions. It can be used to treat many parts of the body, including the face, eyelids, neck, arms, stomach, legs and buttocks [source: Zdinak]. Carboxytherapy is available at spas and cosmetic surgery centers around the world.

Read on to find out how effective this treatment is.


Effectiveness of Carboxytherapy

As with many other health and beauty treatments, there are varying opinions on the effectiveness of carboxytherapy. People have recognized the health benefits of bathing in spring water with carbon dioxide for decades, and it is thought to be effective in treating some vascular diseases, high blood pressure and heart disease. Some scientific studies have shown that carbon dioxide can have a positive effect on the human body. For example, one study found that such bathing improved blood flow through the areas of the body that were immersed in the water [source: Ito].

However, some experts question whether enough scientific evidence exists to prove carboxytherapy's effectiveness in treating cellulite or scar tissue. Carboxytherapy practitioners disagree, saying that the treatment can trick the body into increasing blood flow. They argue that the procedure is much less invasive than liposuction, with similar results [source: CarboxyWorld]. Practitioners of carboxytherapy can see the effects and results up close -- and many claim it works wonders -- but without extensive, long-term studies, the jury is still out on this one.


If you choose this treatment, you should notice improvement after your first time, but you will likely require multiple treatments to achieve maximum results [source: McDonald]. Since cellulite can return, you might need additional treatments several times per year.

Multiple treatments, however, can mean high bills. For more about the cost of carboxytherapy, read on.


Cost of Carboxytherapy

One factor that can play a part in choosing a health or beauty treatment is its cost. Because it usually requires multiple treatments, the cost of carboxytherapy can add up in the long term. Although the price varies by area, expect to pay between $100 and $150 per treatment.

For an average problem that requires 10 treatment sessions, the total cost is likely to rise above $1,000. You should also consider the cost of additional treatments once or twice a year thereafter.


The number of treatments also may vary according to the practitioner you visit. Depending on the severity of the case and the practitioner, you may be scheduled for somewhere between four and 15 treatments [source: McDonald].

Of course, for the effects of carboxytherapy to last, you have to do your part. For example, if you experience a successful round of treatment for cellulite, you might be able to keep the appearance cellulite away for years if you eat right and exercise. If you do not maintain a healthy lifestyle, though, you might notice the cellulite beginning to reappear after five or six months, resulting in the need for several more sessions of carboxytherapy. With more sessions comes more cost to you.

However, carboxytherapy can be less expensive than more invasive alternatives such as surgery. Surgery, in addition to being more expensive, can be risky and involve time away from home and work. Carboxytherapy, on the other hand, is said to have very mild side effects.

Read on to find out more about the kinds of side effects that come with treatment.


Carboxytherapy Side Effects

Though "no pain, no gain" is a common saying when it comes to improving your appearance, exactly how much pain is involved in a health and beauty treatment is usually a determining factor. Compared with plastic surgery, carboxytherapy is said to have minimal side effects. You might feel some discomfort during the procedure, and the amount of discomfort varies depending on the problem being treated [source: Zdinak]. Your practitioner can tell you what to expect. Once you have completed a treatment, you can typically return to your usual activities immediately [source: Cosmetic Medical].

The most common side effect of carboxytherapy is the possibility of bruising at the site of the injection. While treatments to eyelids typically do not cause bruising, redness and swelling are common on arms and legs that have been treated [source: Zdinak].


After a carboxytherapy treatment, you might feel warmth or tingling at the injection site for a short time; this is considered normal [source: Cosmetic Medical]. Treatment of cellulite and fatty deposits may cause a feeling of pressure as the carbon dioxide expands into the deposits. This sensation should subside after a no more than a day [source: Zdinak]. If you experience any unusual side effects after receiving a treatment, you should consult a physician.

If you want to get rid of cellulite, stretch marks or other skin issues but don't want to have surgery or worry about horrible side effects, carboxytherapy might be what you're looking for. To learn more about this treatment, check out the resources on the next page.


Lots More Information

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

  • Brockow, Thomas, T. Hausner, A. Dillner and K.L. Resch. “Clinical Evidence of Subcutaneous CO2 Insufflations: A Systematic Review.” Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 6:391-403, 2000.
  • United States Environmental Protection Agency. “Carbon Dioxide.” (Accessed 7/23/09)
  • Cosmetic Medical Center. “Carboxytherapy.” (Accessed 7/23/09)
  • Ito, Takashi, Joanne Moore and Michael Koss. “Topical Application of CO2 Increases Skin Blood Flow.” Journal of Investigative Dermatology 93:259-262, 1989.
  • McDonald, Claire. “Trick or Treatment? Carboxy Therapy.” The Times. 8/23/08. (Accessed 7/23/09)
  • Panzeri, Daniela. “Forever Young.” Live Out Loud Magazine. 11/6/08. (Accessed 7/23/09)
  • Phillippe, Cadic. “What Is Carboxytherapy?” (Accessed 7/23/09)
  • Zdinak, Lisa. “FAQs About Carboxytherapy.” (Accessed 7/23/09)