The growth kinetics of thermally grown oxide (TGO) silica in Yb-disilicate (YbDS) environmental barrier coatings (EBCs) significantly affects the durability of EBCs. The oxygen permeability can control the TGO growth kinetics and thus could play an essential role in determining EBCs life. Therefore, the oxygen permeability constant of YbDS and TGO is systematically evaluated and quantified in terms of thermodynamics using defect reactions and the parabolic rate constant (kp), respectively. Dry oxygen and wet oxygen conditions as well as different temperatures, partial pressures and top coat modifiers are investigated. The results offer evidence that the oxygen permeability constant for the YbDS top coat is an order of magnitude higher than for the TGO. As such, the TGO hinders the oxidant diffusion stronger, proving to be the diffusion rate controlling layer. Moreover, water vapor strongly increases the oxygen permeability with defect reactions playing a key role. It is suggested that the mass transfer through the top coat is primarily by outward ytterbium ion diffusion and inward oxygen ion movement, with the latter being dominant, particularly in wet environments. The effect of top coat modifiers on oxidant permeation is composition sensitive and seems to be related to their interaction with oxygen ions and their mobility.