The influence of cold work on the initially formed oxide layer on the stainless steels AISI 304 and Incology 800H has been studied by XPS. Oxidations were performed at pressures of 10-6-10-4 Pa and temperatures of 300–800 K. All samples showed a similar oxidation behaviour. The oxidation rates of iron and chromium are of the same order of magnitude at temperatures below 650 K. Subsequent oxidation results in an iron oxide on top of a chromium oxide layer. At temperatures above 650 K the metal surface becomes enriched in chromium, which is preferentially oxidized at these temperatures and pressures. Even prolonged oxidation does not result in an iron-rich oxide surface. Nickel has never been found in its oxidized form. The binding energy of oxygen, in the various oxide layers, is independent of the extent of oxidation and is 530.6 eV.