The Ultimate Guide to HydraFacials: Benefits, Risks, and More

We’re breaking down everything from the cost of a HydraFacial to who's a good candidate for the in-office treatment.

woman getting a hydrafacial in a spa
(Image credit: Svitlana Hulko/Getty)

Sometimes my skin hates me. It chooses to rebel in a variety of ways, including but by no means limited to: dry patches, clogged pores, and complete and utter dullness. Switching up my skincare routine can help, but when it comes to a quick fix, I always choose to take a trip to my derm’s office or a medispa for a HydraFacial. While I repeatedly profess my love for HydraFacials (the benefits are beyond), people always ask me: What is a hydrafacial, exactly? Does it hurt? Will I break out? Is it dangerous? 

To keep it brief, a HydraFacial is actually a specific type of machine used by dermatologists and estheticians that’s designed to work in four steps. It cleanses and exfoliates the skin, extracts gunk (you even get to see the grossness that was sucked out at the end, which in my opinion, is oddly satisfying), and hydrates your complexion. “The entire treatment takes about 45 minutes and clients leave absolutely glowing,” says Deirdre Strunk (opens in new tab), licensed esthetician and Vice President at Canyon Ranch

While I can personally attest to the fact that the benefits of this treatment are the real deal, knowing the nitty-gritty details are important before signing yourself up. To get the breakdown on every question you could possibly have, I talked to a handful of pros. Here, they’re laying it all out: from who’s a good candidate for the treatment to which skincare infusions you should ask for. 

What Is a HydraFacial?

For starters, there’s no at-home variation of a HydraFacial. It’s a medical-grade, in-office treatment that's administered by a licensed and trained professional. That being said, make sure you do your research on who will be doing your HydraFacial. When it comes to the actual process, Strunk explains that the first step is to cleanse the skin. That’s followed with gentle exfoliation using a mix of glycolic and salicylic acid to reveal a new layer of skin. “We then remove dirt and impurities from your pores with gentle suction,” she explains. While the whole thing is “completely pain-free,” there is a bit of noise in the background that can be a bit jarring.

Once all the gunk is removed, your skin is primed to get the most benefits out of any skincare applied thereafter. That’s where the infusion process comes into play. “From here, the treatment is entirely customizable with boosters and serums designed with specific skin concerns in mind,” adds Strunk. All in all, the whole shebang is going to take around 30 minutes to an hour. 

What Are the Benefits of a HydraFacial?

The biggest plus with a HydraFacial is that, unlike some other intense facials, there’s absolutely zero downtime and no-pain involved. Typical extractions leave the skin red and irritated from pushing and pressing, but thanks to the device’s suction power, the skin remains calm. “When clients leave the treatment room, they immediately see a glow that lasts for several days or weeks,” says Strunk. Skin might be a tinge red and it’s best to avoid makeup directly after, but by and large you can go about your day as per usual. 

Another benefit? The benefits are completely customizable. While cleansing, exfoliation, and extractions serve as the baseline, suction power and the level of acid used are up to your esthetician. Then, the boosters and serums can be individually cocktailed to deliver specific benefits including brightening, firming and restoring, smoothing and refining, hydrating, calming, or clarifying. HydraFacial works with a variety of skincare brands like SkinCeuticals, Murad, and more, so you can even decide exactly what products are being put on your skin. 

And these benefits aren't limited to the skin on your face. "The HydraFacial device can truly be used almost anywhere on the body. HydraFacial can cleanse, exfoliate, and hydrate the skin on your back, hands, neck, and décolletage—even the derriere," explains HydraFacial's Executive Vice President of Global Strategy and Partnerships Dr. Jwala Karnik (opens in new tab). "HydraFacial also offers PERK lip and eye treatments, which are specially designed to treat the skin in these delicate areas. The PERK lip treatment can plump and hydrate your lips, and the PERK eye treatment is specifically designed to tighten, moisturize, and hydrate the delicate skin around the eyes." 

Are There Risks Associated With a HydraFacial?

Aside from some potential redness, the side effects are pretty minimal and low-risk—that’s what makes the HydraFacial so enticing. That in mind, you may experience some breakouts following the treatment. “Due to the fact that HydraFacial leverages a combination of salicylic and glycolic acids, which go into the skin and help loosen debris and unclog pores in tandem with the vacuum action, it is possible that consumers might see a few blemishes afterwards. While this can happen after any extraction treatment, it’s not a typical side effect," says Dr. Karnik. 

Who Is a Good Candidate for a HydraFacial?

Since the HydraFacial is so customizable, it’s a good option for anyone looking for a little pick-me-up. It works across all skin tones and types—from those that are super dry to oily and acne-prone. "HydraFacial treatments are safe for all skin types, ages, genders. However, we’d suggest avoiding a HydraFacial if you have an active rash, sunburn, or have especially irritated or sensitive skin from using certain topical ingredients," says Dr. Karnik. "It’s always best to consult with your provider if you’ve recently had injectables or laser treatments or have other active skin concerns." 

Do I Need to Change My Skincare Routine for a HydraFacial?

You’re not going to need to make any crazy changes to your routine, but Strunk does recommend going off of any prescriptions or over-the-counter skincare products with retinol four to five days before your HydraFacial. This will minimize any potential irritation. Following the treatment, she suggests using a gentle face wash, moisturizer, and sunscreen.

How Often Should I Get a HydraFacial?

Because the benefits are immediate, you’ll see results after just one session. For consistent and long-lasting benefits though, Strunk suggests getting a treatment once a month. That way, you can alternate boosters depending on your skin at a given point in time. HydraFacials are also easy to get while traveling. “It is so consistent and repeatable, regardless of the locations,” she adds. “A client may get HydraFacials at their home spa and can have the same experience when they visit Canyon Ranch [or another destination]. It really is the best travel beauty treatment.”  

How Much Does a HydraFacial Cost?

The cost of your treatment is going to depend on two main factors: location and duration. But overall, a HydraFacial should fall within a range of $150 to $300. 

Samantha Holender is the Beauty Editor at Marie Claire, where she reports on the best new launches, dives into the science behind skincare, and keeps up with the latest trends in the beauty space. She has previously written for Us Weekly, Popsugar, Makeup.com, Skincare.com, and Philadelphia Wedding. Follow her on Instagram @samholender.