Everything You Want To Know About The HydraFacial

Photographed by Lara Callahan.
Yes, thoroughly-cleansed post-facial skin feels great... but the blotchy, flushed aftermath that renders us housebound for hours after extractions and a peel? Nobody has time for that — not me, not you, and certainly not Beyoncé. So it makes perfect sense that the A-lister (and a number of other oft-photographed women, including The Bachelor contestants) reportedly turns to HydraFacial to brighten skin with zero irritation ahead of big events.
"The treatment has become extremely popular because it has virtually no downtime and can improve skin glow, hydration, and radiance in just 30 minutes,” says dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, MD. Not to mention how accessible it is: There are hundreds of spas, clinics, and dermatologists all over the world who are licensed to perform HydraFacial.
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The tech-driven facial’s magic trick starts by prepping skin without the use of pore-softening steam, which some experts say can exacerbate redness and sensitivity by dilating the blood vessels in the skin. Instead, the treatment clears dead skin cells, loosens pores, and primes them for extraction by infusing the skin with glycolic acid, salicylic acid, and botanical extracts. Then, when it’s time for the extractions themselves, manual squeezing and lancing of the skin is bypassed for a unique vacuum-powered extraction of gunk, which hurts far less than the poking and prodding that can lead to residual redness.
Photographed by Lara Callahan.
Both of these maneuvers — along with most of the other heavy-lifting in the facial — are done via a cleverly-designed treatment wand that boasts a double-helixed vortex. One chamber draws dead skin cells and dirt from the skin, replicating light extractions along the way. The other simultaneously pumps skin-soothing nutrients (like hyaluronic acid, vitamin C, and growth factors) into freshly-cleared pathways for deeper penetration.
For all the sucking it does, the device treads surprisingly light: Because liquid is being deposited with every swipe of the smooth, plastic-tipped wand, clients never feel the scraping and skin-pulling that comes with diamond-tipped dermabrasion, the poking of microneedling, or the pinching of manual extractions. In other words, it’s a dream for those with sensitive skin who are looking for a deep clean that won’t lead to inflammation.
When trying the treatment recently — which can range from a quick, 30-minute lunchtime session (about $150 and up) to more involved versions that add in LED light therapy, oxygen, and more (about $200 and up) — I found the process so gentle, I wondered if it was doing much of anything at all. Then my facialist popped a receptacle out of the machine to show just how hard she and that multi-tasking tip had been at work: The bowl contained murky gray water dotted with floating particles for a view both satisfying (yay! Look at all that muck no longer in my pores) and gross (was all that mess really in my skin?).
Though HydraFacial’s performance is largely automated, customization can be dialed to address an array of skin concerns. "The treatment uses boosters customized to the patient’s needs,” Dr. Zeichner says. “Depending on the specific actives used, the treatment can improve hydration, radiance, and even skin texture and pore size. It can be used across patients of all different skin types, ranging from acne-prone to sensitive.”
After my skin pro calibrated the treatment to address uneven skin tone, clogged pores, and dryness, I indeed saw an immediate surge in hydration and clarity. What’s more, I was able to roll into my next meeting completely fresh-faced. I’ll still keep my go-to esthetician's number for chemical peels, targeted extractions, and milia removal, but come my next turn as a bridesmaid, it’s amazing to know that HydraFacial can painlessly ignite glow in the span of a single appointment.
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