Why the HydraFacial Is a Game-Changing Treatment for Sensitive Skin

HydraFacial MD

Photo: Getty/Design by Candace Napier

It’s a classic beauty rule: Undergoing a facial right before a big event is a rookie mistake. And it makes sense: Extractions and exfoliation notoriously leave skin red and bothered. So how the hell are celebs like Beyoncé and Kate Winslet going from treatment to red-carpet-ready on the very same day?

Their trick is to tap into the gentle but effective powers of HydraFacial MD, a patented facial treatment that promises instantly clear and evenly toned skin without the precursory redness or irritation. What’s more, it carries the potential to make painful extractions a thing of the past—a particularly promising notion for those with sensitive skin.

We checked in with Gillian Garcia, treatment supervisor at The Spa at the Beverly Wilshire (A Four Seasons Hotel), for more intel and to see if HydraFacial MD’s boldface fans are on to something (spoiler alert: Beyonce is always on to something).

First, Garcia explains what makes this machine and treatment different from so many others out there: It employs a double helix–like vacuuming action to exfoliate dead skin cells and rid the skin of excess oil.

But unlike, say microdermabrasion, which employs a more abrasive, sandpaper-like tip made of crushed diamonds to clear the skin’s surface, this machine deposits a medical-grade serum to help loosen dead cells and debris, while simultaneously vacuuming its surface with a soft silicone tip. “When you’re extracting, you’re also infusing,” Garcia explains. “It works like when steam-cleaning a carpet and lifting dirt from deep down in the fibers.”

The same concept is used to perform hands-free extractions. As glycolic and salicylic acid is deposited onto the skin through the tip, the pore opening is widened, allowing the vacuum suction to dislodge and suck up nastiness from deep inside. Unlike with some manual extractions, strong pressure isn’t used, making the whole de-gunking process a heck of a lot more gentle and completely pain-free.

Beyonce Vanity Fair

Beyoncé has the HydroFacial to thank for her “flawless” skin. Photo: Getty

After cleansing my skin and giving my face a killer massage that lifted tension in my temples and unclenched my lockjaw, Garcia set the machine to cleanse my skin again, then performed lymphatic drainage—something that helps flush toxins beneath the skin.

Then came time for the big guns: exfoliation and deep cleaning that typically employ abrasion and lancing. Sure enough, when the wand touched my skin, only a very light sucking sensation was felt. And even though glycolic and salicylic acid were used—a combination that typically makes my skin tingle—I experienced no discomfort. In fact, it simply felt like I was being given cooling, wet pecks on the cheek (something, as it turns out, that feels much less gross than wet kisses to the mouth).

The treatment seemed so gentle that I worried it wasn’t actually doing much. But afterward, when Garcia showed me a container of gray, cloudy liquid—complete with floating particles—that had been collected from my pores, I could see exactly how much progress had been made.

HydraFacial MD treatments typically ring in at about $100 and take roughly 20 minutes, though my particular treatment was luxed up to a blissful 90 minutes that included massage. Afterward, my face gleamed from the deep cleaning, with absolutely no redness in sight—an effect that explains why this relaxing but results-driven treatment has become a go-to for both sensitive-skin types in need of deep cleaning and those on the go.

I took a page from the Hollywood playbook and headed out to a fancy restaurant directly after my treatment, wearing a swipe of lipstick as my only makeup. When a gentleman at the bar told me that my aura was glowing, I took the compliment, knowing what he was really noticing was ultra-clean and calm skin.