Scroll through celebrity Instagram pages in the weeks leading up to the Oscars and you’ll see the signs of weeks-long prep before the big night (i.e., celebs such as Gwyneth Paltrow and Mindy Kaling coloring their hair a week before the show). One essential beautification step that isn’t necessarily advertised on social media? Popping into a dermatologist’s office to get a SilkPeel.
The ultra-quick, no-downtime treatment takes just 20 minutes to hydrate skin and reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation and acne. It leaves skin so glowy, stars get away with wearing minimal base makeup on the big night, making it a favorite of seemingly low-maintenance celebs such as Tina Fey and the Olsen sisters. But what makes this treatment most appealing is its surprisingly affordable price point: a doable-for-us-regulars cost of about $150.
It all sounds a little too good to be true, so I checked in with Los Angeles–based dermatologist Rebecca Fitzgerald, who treats an A-list clientele, to try it for myself. There, I learned that the SilkPeel, also known as a Diamond Facial, isn’t a peel at all. But it provides peel-like results—bright, evenly toned skin that renders foundation makeup non grata—with a stepped-up version of microdermabrasion.
After medical aesthetician Bekah Parga cleansed my face, she got to work with the SilkPeel machine. Like microdermabrasion, it uses a wand equipped with a diamond tip and vacuum technology to remove dead skin, excess oil, and gunk. But while it exfoliates the grime away, it simultaneously deposits a high-concentrate serum that helps skin better heal and repair itself—something that erases irritation and renders same-day results. The treatment’s proprietary serums are made to balance skin by targeting hyperpigmentation, acne, or dryness. Parga rightfully employs a solution spiked with salicylic acid for my acneic skin with very un-Oscar worthy large pores.
As she moved the wand across my neck and face, I was lulled into a blissful state of calm. The wand’s end had the gentle, sandpaper-like quality of a cat’s tongue. The machine emitted the quiet hum of a distant paint mixer. And even though this was clearly no fluffy spa treatment—I was still wearing my street clothes, and in a 20-minute session, massage was definitely not on the menu—I experienced no burning, uncomfortable skin tugging, or tingly irritation like with peels and dry dermabrasion.
Still, as I felt the wand doing double time over a particularly nasty cystic zit, I suddenly panicked: Won’t this spread bacteria across my face, like dry dermabrasion might? Will I see an infestation of zits instead of that glow in the next few days?
Parga assures me otherwise. Because the SilkPeel infuses bacteria-fighting serum into the skin as it goes, acne won’t spread. Further, spot-treating these congested areas helps unclog pores. Later, Fitzgerald confirms, adding that because the machine is preset to a consistent speed and roughness, all human error is taken out of the regular dermabrasion equation, which prevents the machine from creating wounds deep within the skin.
Immediately after the quickie treatment—which ended right at the 20-minute mark, following extractions and the application of antioxidants and SPF—I can see the results not only in my skin, which is brighter and healthier-looking, but in the SilkPeel’s see-through reservoir, which has collected all the pollution, grime, and zitty gunk into one gray, liquidy mass. I’m able to head to my next appointment without that greasy, pink-skinned “just came from the derm” look, and just a day later, see that red-carpet glow that Oscar-goers famously flaunt. Indeed, my acne didn’t spread and somehow, my pores look smaller.
Fearing I drank the SilkPeel Kool-Aid, I follow up with Fitzgerald: Did this no-frills lunchtime appointment really deliver such results? “Sucking out all that debris in the hair follicle will cause pores to tighten,” she says about my smaller-than-normal pores. And that insta-glow is achieved by exfoliating the skin’s upper layer—where cells dry out and curl up. “By taking the skin down to a place where the layers of cells are much more moist and lay flat, like wet leaves, it reflects light more confluently,” she explains. “And that gives you the glow.”
The skin pro sends me home with ZO Medical Cebatrol Oil Control Pads ($62) to extend the session’s benefits. And here’s where she shows her cards as a derm who tends to celebrity skin long past awards season: Fitzgerald explains that while skin-renewing treatments like the SilkPeel may help undo months of nasty dead-cell buildup, it takes a little at-home maintenance for the results to last beyond the special occasion you might be getting it for. I promise to keep the deep cleaning on point and stretch my red carpet–worthy skin for months to come. Glow-chella, anyone?