Everyone wants smooth, bright, and youthful-looking skin. Instead of spending a fortune on oils, creams, essences, and serums in a multistep skin-care routine, you may be able to achieve a natural glow with a facial that some say is rising in popularity.
Proponents of the trendy treatment, called the HydraFacial, bill it as a way to pursue and maintain long-term skin health, which makes it more than your typical spa treatment. According to the HydraFacial website, a HydraFacial is performed every 15 seconds, and it is currently available in more than 80 countries, including the United States.
“The HydraFacial is a multistep facial treatment typically performed with a proprietary machine (HydraFacial MD) manufactured by Edge Systems. In one session, aestheticians can use the HydraFacial [device] to cleanse, exfoliate, extract, and deliver a variety of rejuvenating serums,” explains Glen Crawford, MD, of Schweiger Dermatology Group in Philadelphia.
It’s become an in-demand service because it creates an instant “wow factor” in terms of brightening and firming skin, says Sarah Akram, master aesthetician at Sarah Akram Skincare in Alexandria, Virginia. People can get the treatment before a big event or regularly to maintain skin health, she adds.
How Does a HydraFacial Work Exactly?
The HydraFacial is similar to another treatment called microdermabrasion, says Akram. Microdermabrasion uses a “mildly abrasive instrument to gently sand your skin, removing the thicker, uneven outer layer,” according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.
That said, it’s not exactly microdermabrasion, and some people say it’s far better. “The [HydraFacial] device uses an exfoliating tip paired with suction to remove dead skin cells from the surface of your face,” says Akram. After skin is exfoliated, serums are infused into the skin, she says. That last step is the key reason proponents say it’s so effective.
There are three steps in the HydraFacial treatment, according to the company. There is no downtime — a common word for recovery time in dermatology — and the entire treatment can be done in as little as 30 minutes.
Here are the three steps involved in a HydraFacial:
Cleanse and Peel
This is the resurfacing step, when skin is exfoliated. “Exfoliation is the process of removing dead skin cells from the outer layer of the skin. It has long been known to have beneficial skin effects, including leaving the skin looking brighter, unclogging pores, and — with long-term use — increasing collagen production,” says Dr. Crawford. This is all done in the HydraFacial with the HydraFacial tip. This “generates a fluid vortex over the skin that gently dislodges impurities and dead skin cells,” says Crawford.
Extract and Hydrate
The tip gets gunk out of pores and delivers topical moisturizers simultaneously.
Infuse and Protect
Your treatment will finish with “boosters,” or serums. These are geared toward your skin goal, which may include reducing the appearance of hyperpigmentation, fine lines and wrinkles, dull skin, or enlarged pores. The treatment is entirely customizable through these “boost” serums, which is a major perk for patients.
As an alternative, there is the Geneo Super-Facial, another three-step facial that combines exfoliation and active topicals. DiamondGlow Dermalinfusion is another such treatment that purports to exfoliate, extract, and infuse for radiant and rejuvenated skin. The premise behind all of these is similar — exfoliation and an infusion of serums — but the patented technology differs. Ask your dermatologist or aesthetician which treatment is best for you, and which ones they offer.
The Potential Benefits of Getting a HydraFacial
The company says it delivers “the best skin of your life,” which is a big promise. While that’s certainly not a guarantee, there are some important complexion perks. Along with exfoliation, the device delivers active ingredients into the skin, says Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. “Depending on the specific active [ingredients] used in the HydraFacial, the treatment can improve hydration, radiance, and even skin texture and pore size,” he says.
The company uses their own serums but has also partnered with companies like Alastin Skincare, ZO Skin Health, and HydroPeptide to offer a wider range of choices. (What will be best for you is a conversation to have with your dermatologist or aesthetician.)
There is some older research to suggest the premise is effective, though designated research on HydraFacial itself does not exist. A small past study on 20 female participants ages 34 to 65 looked at the benefits of hydradermabrasion. This is a treatment that combines microdermabrasion with antioxidant serums, and it is similar to the HydraFacial, but this study was not done on the HydraFacial treatment itself.
In the study, one group received six treatments, each about a week apart. Another group received the antioxidant serum only, which was smoothed on the skin by hand every week. Researchers measured the results via photos, skin biopsies, and antioxidant levels in the skin. At the end of the study, only the hydradermabrasion group had increased thickness in the outer layer of skin and the papillary layer (which contains collagen), and increased antioxidant levels. In terms of appearance, that all equaled fewer fine lines, more cinched pores, and a more even skin tone.
Another past study published by the same author aimed to discover if microdermabrasion was indeed made better by combining it with an antioxidant serum. Each female participant received a microdermabrasion treatment, and an antioxidant-rich serum was applied to half of their face. After six weeks of weekly treatments, skin biopsies revealed that the microdermabrasion serum side had increased skin thickness and fibroblast density (fibroblasts make collagen, per the National Cancer Institute), and antioxidant levels increased by 32 percent.
Overall, the two studies found that a microdermabrasion treatment combined with topical antioxidants (similar to what you’d find in the HydraFacial) was more effective than each on their own. A HydraFacial essentially combines a microdermabrasion-like treatment with an infusion of serums. This is delivered through their patented technology and device.
Who Should Not Get a HydraFacial and Why
The HydraFacial is appropriate for all skin types, according to the company. But you should avoid a HydraFacial if you have an active rash, sunburn, or moderate to severe acne or rosacea, says Gretchen Frieling, MD, board certified dermatopathologist in Wellesley, Massachusetts.
Pregnant women should also skip it. “Some of the ingredients used during the HydraFacial, such as salicylic acid, haven’t been tested and proven safe during pregnancy,” she says. That said, there’s some controversy on this — the American Academy of Dermatology says salicylic acid may be safe to use for a limited time during pregnancy. The takeaway: Check with your obstetrician or dermatologist before getting a HydraFacial while pregnant.
Another thing to take into consideration: You may have to tweak your normal skin-care routine before your appointment. “We recommend you stop using prescription creams for a few days before the treatment to avoid irritation,” says Akram.
How Much Does It Cost to Get a HydraFacial and Who Performs Them?
You can safely get a HydraFacial from a trained aesthetician or dermatologist. Prices will vary based on location and specific practice, but as an example, a 45-minute HydraFacial at Sarah Akram Skincare is $185.
RELATED: 10 Things Your Skin Is Trying to Tell You — and How to Respond
One Last Thing About HydraFacials
The HydraFacial is a treatment that is suitable for all skin tones and requires no downtime. In fact, your complexion will likely look better walking out the door. “Many patients report seeing visible skin refinement and an even, radiant skin tone after just one treatment,” says Dr. Frieling.