The Lowdown on HydraFacials: Everything You Need to Know

2024-02-01 // LePodium.NET
Discover the benefits, process, and results of HydraFacials—a popular in-office skin care treatment.

If you could drop your face off at an esthetician’s office to thoroughly cleanse and treat your skin the way you do your car at a car wash—would you? Realistically speaking, it’s impossible to do so, but there are a slew of in-office skin care treatments that proffer similar results, and one stands out from the rest: HydraFacial. Here at ELLE.com, we take skin care very seriously. We love recommending must-have products, from sunscreen to moisturizers for oily skin, and learning about new skin care innovations like exosomes. What’s more, we relish testing out skin care treatments that deliver results you can see, feel, and love—that’s why HydraFacial deserves your full and undivided attention.

What is a HydraFacial? According to board-certified cosmetic dermatologist Dr. Ariel Ostad, “The HydraFacial is the only hydra-dermabrasion procedure that uses patented technology to cleanse, extract, and hydrate.” And yes, HydraFacial is a branded experience. Spas have to be registered and licensed to market themselves as offering HydraFacials. The treatment is divided into three key sections, the first being Cleanse + Peel.

“HydraFacial uncovers a new layer of skin with gentle exfoliation and relaxing resurfacing. The Activ-4™ serum removes dead skin cells to reveal healthy skin and the GlySal™, a mixture of glycolic and salicylic acids, delivers the benefits of a peel without post-peel scaling,” Ostad explains. The second step is to Extract + Hydrate. The HydraFacial removes debris from pores with painless suction and nourishes with intense moisturizers that quench skin.

“The patented, automated vortex suction painlessly cleans out pores with the exclusive Beta-HD™ serum and Antiox+™ serum nourishes and protects with antioxidants, peptides, and hyaluronic acid,” Ostad continues. And finally, the third step is to Fuse + Protect. “A HydraFacial saturates the skin’s surface with antioxidants and peptides to maximize your glow. Targeted, proprietary skin solutions are delivered to address specific skin concerns. Patients maintain results at home with Daily Essentials™ featuring the same ingredients used in the treatments,” he adds.

What do HydraFacials do? For those who wear makeup a lot or simply want a deeper clean than usual, HydraFacials are a great way to cleanse the skin. According to board-certified dermatologist Dr. Anthony Rossi Jr., “Facials such as HydraFacials are a way to remove the buildup of sebum and debris that cover the top of our skin.

It helps to loosen and unclog pores, and combines an exfoliation process of removing the top layer of dead skin cells, the stratum corneum, with hydration and cleansing of water.” HydraFacials help to brighten the skin. “After treatments like [HydraFacial] or any that help to exfoliate the top layer, skincare will penetrate better, and makeup will be applied easier. The stratum corneum is the epidermis’ layer of protection and one of the main barriers to the penetration of topicals,” he adds.

Are HydraFacials different from microdermabrasion or chemical peels? There are a few key differences. For example, microdermabrasion treatments use manual extractions, while a HydraFacial uses a vacuum-like tip to cleanse deeper down than traditional extraction. Additionally, chemical peels use acids and are most effective on lighter skin tones, whereas HydraFacials can be used on all skin tones.

“[The treatment] takes its name from the root word hydrate—this ability to moisturize the skin separates the HydraFacial™ from all other skin resurfacing procedures,” explains Boston-based, board-certified dermatopathologist Dr. Gretchen Frieling. “The treatment is soothing, refreshing, non-irritating, and immediately effective.”

Do HydraFacials hurt? HydraFacials shouldn’t be painful. Essentially, the machine’s handpiece holds spiralized treatment tips with vortex technology, which acts like a mini vacuum on your skin. The most uncomfortable part of the treatment is definitely the exfoliation in section one. Camkiran likened the feeling to a “cat licking my face.” That’s a cute way of saying it was sandpapery, but not excruciating.

Somewhere between not painful and not pleasant lies the HydraFacial. However, this is an active facial, meaning in the words of another prominent beauty editor, Deanna Pai: “The HydraFacial device is a huge machine with various attachments that whirr and suck and spin.” In summary, it’s noisy—and if you fall asleep during this treatment you are on a different level of zen that I definitely envy.

Is it safe for all skin types? HydraFacials can be performed on most skin types, including very sensitive complexions. But, those with active rashes, sunburns, or rosacea should abstain from HydraFacials, which can cause further damage or flare-ups. “You also should not do this if you have open wounds or excoriated areas. These areas are already prone to inflammation,” Dr. Rossi adds. Also, pregnant woman should always consult with their doctor first. “Some of the ingredients used during the HydraFacial, such as salicylic acid, haven’t been tested or proven safe during pregnancy,” adds Frieling.

Can you customize your treatment? What’s great about a HydraFacial is that it’s a completely customizable facial. “There are different serums within the HydraFacial system. Each office administering the treatment is able to choose what solutions they’d like to use,” says Michelle, aesthetician at Ever/Body Scarsdale. If your skin has been more dehydrated than normal, or you’re prone to acne and looking for a little extra boost of actives, your skin care professional will choose specific acids (glycolic, lactic, etc.) to treat your skin.

How many treatments do I need to see results? “Many patients report seeing visible skin refinement and an even, radiant skin tone after just one treatment,” explains Frieling. And yes, I co-sign this. My skin has receipts. 60 minutes and change later I emerged a glow-ier, dewier version of myself that lasted into the latter half of the week. The good news? The smooth results and hydration may last five to seven days or even longer. The bad news? ““If you have good maintenance at home, you don’t really need frequent HydraFacials.

This treatment is great for chemical peel post-care. You can come in after [you’re done peeling], which helps exfoliate the remaining dead skin on the outer layer,” says Maria, aesthetician at Nicole Frontera Beauty.

Can you couple the service with other treatments? Yes, HydraFacials can be coupled with other equally effective treatments, including chemical peels and lasers, like Aerolase. At Nicole Frontera Beauty, Maria says results-driven treatments are the focus and Aerolase is one of the more popular treatments to get with a HydraFacial. “You can do it on a baby,” Maria says of the gentle laser treatment, not literally, of course. “It’s recommended to do every four weeks, and sooner if you’re treating inflamed acne prone to control excessive sebum in the skin. This laser helps to control oil production and kill bacteria; it’s a quick-pulse laser, so it doesn’t cause damage to the other layers of the skin,” she adds.

Are HydraFacials worth the money? With a price tag ranging from $199-$300, it’s certainly an investment. It’s wise to book a treatment before a big event or quarterly to reset your skin after a seasonal change. But if you have the bread, ball out because your skin will look lovely. Interested in booking one? Find a certified HydraFacial practitioner on the official website.

Meet the Experts:

- Dr. Ariel Ostad is a cosmetic dermatologist practicing in New York City.

- Dr. Anthony Rossi Jr. is a board-certified dermatologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.

- Dr. Gretchen Frieling is a Boston-based, board-certified dermatologist.

- Deanna Pai is a beauty writer based in New York City.

- Michelle J is a licensed aesthetician at Ever/Body Scarsdale.

- Maria Bove is a licensed aesthetician at Nicole Frontera Beauty.

Why Trust ELLE Beauty? Nerisha Penrose is the Beauty Commerce Editor at ELLE.com. Since joining ELLE.com in 2017, she has interviewed countless skincare professionals and has personally tested the latest and greatest products across makeup, skincare, and hair care.

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