Highly oxygenated organic molecules (HOMs) are formed from the oxidation of biogenic and anthropogenic gases and affect Earth’s climate and air quality by their key role in particle formation and growth. While the formation of these molecules in the gas phase has been extensively studied, the complexity of organic aerosol (OA) and lack of suitable measurement techniques have hindered the investigation of their fate post-condensation, although further reactions have been proposed. We report here novel real-time measurements of these species in the particle phase, achieved using our recently developed extractive electrospray ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometer (EESI-TOF). Our results reveal that condensed-phase reactions rapidly alter OA composition and the contribution of HOMs to the particle mass. In consequence, the atmospheric fate of HOMs cannot be described solely in terms of volatility, but particle-phase reactions must be considered to describe HOM effects on the overall particle life cycle and global carbon budget.