What Is a Hydrafacial?

The Hydrafacial is done almost exclusively with VortexTip technology
The Spa at Whiteface Lodge

HydraFacial MD bills itself as medical-grade facial rejuvenation that cleanses, detoxifies, exfoliates, extracts and hydrates in one treatment that is appropriate for all skin types—normal, oily, sensitive, aging. It also promises help with fine line and wrinkles, pore size, and hyperpigmentation. Of course, this is what an esthetician is supposed to do in a customized facial, so one wonders–does HydraFacial really yield superior results? 

There's a 25-minute version (just the basics) and an 80-minute version ($265 for 80 minutes at The Spa at Whiteface Lodge in Lake Placid) with all the Hydrafacial extras plus facial, hand and foot massage. Afterward, my skin looked bright and hydrated, my puffy eyes were back to normal, and I was very happy with the results. It was 

How Does A Hydrafacial Work?

The Hydrafacial is a machine with a handheld device that uses four different HydroPeel tips and various skin care solutions (chemical exfoliants, antioxidants, and hydrating serums like hyaluronic acid) to achieve its results. The spiral design of the tips used in conjunction with the HydraFacial vacuum technology creates a vortex effect to easily dislodge and remove impurities while simultaneously introducing solutions that exfoliate, hydrate and infuse your skin with antioxidants.

The 25-minute version, which isn't a particularly relaxing treatment. Basically the esthetician is moving the VortexFusion tips over your face, delivering different solutions at varying degrees of pressure, and sucking them back up again (along with dead skin cells and sebum). It's hard to tell the difference between the four basic steps because it all kind of feels the same -- wet and slurpy.

A Hydrafacial in Four Steps

1) Cleansing

Both Hydrafacials start with a quick manual cleanse by the esthetician, followed by the VortexFusion treatment with Activ4. This combines exfoliating lactic acid and glucosamine HCI with anti-oxidant-rich algae, softens and conditions skin. 

2) Deeper Exfoliation

To give the skin a deeper exfoliation, two different tips are available -- one more aggressive than the other -- delivering one of three different levels of glycolic acid (7.5%, 15% or 30%) combined with 1.5% - 2% salicylic acid. The combination of physical exfoliation from the tip and chemical exfoliation from the peels gives a good result quickly, without the wait and tingling that you might experience with a traditional peel.

3) Extractions

 This step utilizes a different tip and Beta-HD to soften sebum with salicylic acid and suck away blackheads and sebum in open pores. At the same time, honey extract hydrates and spiraea ulmaria flower extract calms and soothes. If you have a milia, which is an overgrown whitehead, HydraFacial can't get that out.

4) Serums

Your cleansed, extracted, exfoliated skin is now ready for an infusion of antioxidants (horse chestnut seed and green tea extracts), peptides (copper, magnesium, and zinc) and hyaluronic acid, which actually attracts water to the skin and helps keep it hydrated and plump. The proprietary blend called Antiox also has arnica flower extract to calm and soothe the skin, and red algae extract to brighten the skin. 

Hydrafacial Add-Ons

At the beginning of the facial, you can get mechanical lymphatic drainage that moves lymph fluid out of your facial, reducing puffiness and helping to speed toxins out of your system. During the treatment you can add an even more powerful anti-aging peptide complex serum to help smooth the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and enhance skin elasticity. And at the end of the treatment you can opt for an LED treatment -- red to soothe the skin and stimulate cell turnover, or blue to kill bacteria if your problem is acne-related.

The Bottom Line

This is a great treatment for brides or anyone who wants to look refreshed and hydrated for a night out. Estheticians tell me it is fantastic for people with acne, in part because the extractions don't use pressure that disturbs the skin. It's a good anti-aging treatment because of the peels and antioxidants, but because it involves an expensive piece of equipment, it's going to be more expensive.

The 25-minute version is usually about the same price as a 50-minute European facial, and the add-ons add up. If you like the products, there are now consumer versions you can take home to keep up the results between treatments.

The manufacturers claim that it helps with hyper-pigmentation (brown spots), but I wouldn't expect much progress with that. IPL is the treatment of choice to make brown spots fade or go away completely. 

Where To Get A Hydrafacial

Hydrafacials are offered at resort spas, day spas like Euphoria Spa in NYC, as well as medical spas and dermatologist offices. To find a Hydrafacial near you, go to Hydrafacial's website and enter your zip code. 

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