Somewhere in the world, a HydraFacial is performed every 15 seconds. Don’t even try to do the math: This essentially amounts to 2 million treatments given globally last year alone. That’s more than the total number of Botox injections administered in the U.S. in 2018.
This is a facial, people. A FACIAL.
Aiming to further expand its mega following, the company just kicked off a summer tour of sorts. From May through October, the HydraFacial Treatment Truck, which converts into a cozy spa, will be offering free treatments at various pit stops across the country, including Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Denver, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Dallas, Atlanta, Miami, and more (the complete schedule is on hydrafacialnation.com.) Catch it if you can, as the service ordinarily averages around $200 in spas and doctors’ offices.
For the few remaining humans still unfamiliar with the HydraFacial, here’s the deal: It’s a “medical-grade hydradermabrasion device that carries out a patented three-part regimen — cleansing, exfoliating, and then infusing skin with intensive serums,” explains Sameer Bashey, a clinical instructor in dermatology at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.
Back up: Hydradermabrasion? Yep. Rather than blasting the skin with grit, à la traditional dermabrasion, this gentler approach vacuums out pores while simultaneously pushing in potent actives, which moisturize, brighten, plump, and protect. The machine’s handpiece holds patented spiralized treatment tips equipped with “vortex technology” — the whirling force that both giveth and taketh away. Beyond the standard three steps, there are targeted add-ons, or boosters, which take aim at unique skin concerns, like brown spots or nagging lines.
Further elevating its profile, HydraFacial has recently teamed up with superbrands like SkinCeuticals and ZO Skin Health — having technicians incorporate key products directly into the scripted process, or sending patients away with specific kits to use between facials to enhance the benefits and add a bespoke feel to the entire experience. Notable dermatologists, like Anne Chapas, a clinical instructor of dermatology at the Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City, and Zoe Diana Draelos, a consulting professor of dermatology at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, have even conducted clinical trials on these branded amplifiers — Chapas weaving various SkinCeuticals’ formulas into the procedure, and Draelos having subjects bolster a series of HydraFacials with a multifaceted ZO home protocol. Their results show everything from spikes in hydration and radiance, to improved firmness and texture, and reductions in oil and pore size. Next up is a HydraFacial x ColoreScience collab, based on a treatment called Total Eye 3-in-1 Therapy, launching late summer 2018.
Here, leading dermatologists weigh in on precisely what makes this facial such a phenomenon.
It appeals to nearly all ages, complexions, and concerns
“This is nice for teenagers with acne; adults with pimples, wrinkles, and hyperpigmentation; and for older patients with sun damage and even flaky pre-cancerous spots (as part of more serious treatments),” says Ellen Marmur, an associate clinical professor in both the department of dermatology and the department of genetics and genomic research at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. While it wins definite points for inclusivity, there are some who should abstain — namely those with active rashes, sunburns, or rosacea, along with pregnant patients, as “some of the ingredients used during the HydraFacial, such as salicylic acid, haven’t been tested and proven safe during pregnancy,” explains Arash Akhavan, an assistant clinical professor in dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City.
The experience and results are super-consistent
Whether you get Hydra-ed at a swanky Park Avenue plastic surgeon’s office or a suburban strip-mall medspa, you’re guaranteed “a high-tech facial that delivers consistent results, because it’s not as technician-dependent [as other kinds of facials,] so you can count on it time and time again,” says Shereene Idriss, a clinical instructor in dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Equally predictable: the safety factor. “Many dermatologists are wary of offering traditional facials in the office, as outcomes can vary, with some patients getting quite inflamed, or even scarring from overly aggressive techniques, but the HydraFacial is consistently safe and effective,” says Akhavan.
Extractions without side effects
How many times have you told a facialist to skip the extractions for fear of redness or next-day eruptions (or simply because, duh, they hurt like hell, and…isn’t this supposed to be relaxing?)? HydraFacial has a strict no-torture policy: “It’s one of the most popular procedures in our office, not only because it combines elements of workhorse treatments, like microdermabrasion and chemical peels, but also because it truly is a relaxing, feel-good experience,” says Akhavan. “It’s never painful — in fact, patients compare the sensation to a light massage.” By combining vortex pressure with a clog-purging solution of salicylic acid, willow bark extract, and anti-inflammatory Tasmanian pepper, “the device suctions gunk from pores — no squeezing or pressing required — and, at the end, you can actually see all that was removed, which people seem to like,” says Tresa Acosta, an aesthetician at Marmur Medical in New York City.
Instant gratification in 30 minutes with zero downtime
“HydraFacial hits the sweet spot — it’s more than a basic spa facial, but less than a laser treatment,” says Marmur. Making it a rare unicorn among no-downtime offerings, its payoff is immediately apparent: “We can quickly improve texture and tone, and even help conditions like acne, without any residual irritation or peeling,” Akhavan adds. Even better, everyone we interviewed gushed about the tool’s unparalleled radiance-imparting properties, which is what make it “so highly requested before red-carpet events and weddings — it really delivers that extra glow,” says Idriss.
It plays nicely with other procedures
This, to me, is pretty critical, because if I’ve managed to hit pause on life long enough to get myself to a derm’s office for a fancy facial, there’s no way I’m leaving without topping off my Botox and fillers. I mean, that would just be silly. Happily, notes Idriss, the HydraFacial can be done the very same day as injectables and non-ablative light and laser treatments, like the V-Beam, which knocks out redness, and intense pulsed light, which some use to treat sun damage. It’s also a godsend, like, one week post-Fraxel when your face is literally falling off, as “it speeds up the shedding process that resurfacing devices inevitably induce while also deeply hydrating the skin,” says Akhavan.
It’s infinitely customizable
The aforementioned boosters, which come at an extra cost, are just one way technicians can tailor this treatment “to really focus on the person’s priorities,” says Marmur: Do you need vitamin C-caliber brightening, or an infusion of growth factors for fine lines? During step one of the HydraFacial (“cleanse + peel”), your doctor or aesthetician can also choose from three different strength glycolic-salicylic acid peels “based on your previous experience with peels, your skin type, and your desired outcome,” says Bashey, noting that the strongest 30-percent acid option is available only to physicians. Some derms will tack on a short round of LED light therapy following the facial, again personalizing it to the individual, shining blue light on acne, or red light to build collagen and calm the skin.
“We can even customize the tool’s suction power, toning it down to tackle more delicate areas, like under the eyes, if we need to carefully loosen millia or boost circulation to clear dark circles,” says Acosta, who — insider secret! — always recommends a light vacuuming of the lips to plump them up, sans syringe, and cast off flakes.