What is a HydraFacial? – Steps, Cost & Benefits of HydraFacials 2023


If you’ve ever wanted to feel like your skin has gone through a dishwasher cycle–that deep clean, steamy goodness–it might be time to consider HydraFacial. This magical 30- to 60-minute treatment tackles everything from dehydration to discoloration, aging to acne, and uneven skin texture. Ready to book? Honestly, same. But before you take the plunge, our team of experts is here to explain everything you need to know–like the cost, downtime, and results you can expect.

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.

before and after image of HydraFacial 

Courtesy of Dr. Ariel Ostad

“[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.

Despite the official website’s claim that “patients compare the sensation to a light massage,” I would say it’s a bit more like a dental cleansing for your skin (and p.s. I love the dentist). 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?

“The treatment is highly customizable,” explains Ostad. “Your skincare professional will work with you to understand your unique skin concerns and recommend a personalized treatment for you.” An aesthetician can use the exfoliator at varying intensities, and leave acids on the face for differing durations.

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.

Before and After HydraFacial chin area

Courtesy of Dr. Ariel Ostad

The good news? The smooth results and hydration may last five to seven days or even longer. The bad news? One treatment per month is recommended for improving the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, brown spots, oily and congested skin…which ain’t cheap people!

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.

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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Janell M. Hickman-Kirby is a writer and editor based in New York.

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Beauty Commerce Editor

Nerisha is the beauty commerce editor at ELLE.com, covering all things beauty (and fashion and music). She has a penchant for sneakers and nude lip glosses, and spends way too much time re-watching 90s sitcoms.



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