“I tried the vacuum facial that’s all over Instagram, and this is what happened”

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Hanna Ibraheem
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HydraFacials have become so popular that one treatment is performed every 15 seconds. But what exactly does a HydraFacial involve? What are the benefits? And does it hurt. We tried one to find out…

One lazy Saturday afternoon, I found myself idly scrolling through Instagram to the same type of posts. A mixture of #ootds, pastel nail art and bejewelled barrettes alternated on my screen in what seemed to be a never-ending loop – until I came across something that struck me as a little… strange.

An overhead video showed a woman lying flat on a dentist-like chair, while another woman wearing white gloves swiped a tool over her skin that can only be described as a tiny vacuum pen. Over the next few weeks, similar videos kept appearing in my feed and now, months and months later, I can’t get through a single Instagram scroll without seeing that vacuum pen crop up.

The treatment in question is called a HydraFacial – and it’s blown up in popularity so much that one HydraFacial is performed every 15 seconds globally. In fact, there are over 491,000 Instagram posts under #hydrafacials - and it’s only growing. So, when I was given the chance to visit Waterhouse Young Clinic in Marylebone, London, I was keen to see what all the fuss was about. The first thing to note about HydraFacials is that they are results-driven. If you like facials that are all about calming scents and relaxing massage; this isn’t the facial for you. If you don’t care about frills but consider yourself an ingredients buff, this is worth a look-in.

HydraFacials have earned a reputation for showing instant results, without any downtime. Rosie explains that while they can be customised accordingly, all HydraFacials revolve around the same things: cleanse, exfoliation, extraction, a peel, hydration and LED light.

I enter the chic white treatment room and sitting in the middle is that familiar dentist-like chair I’ve seen all over Instagram. I’m greeted by the incredibly friendly Rosie Waters, senior aesthetic practitioner at Waterhouse Young Clinic. Waters directs me to the chair and instantly makes me feel at ease, asking question questions about myself while she gently cleanses my skin – the facial equivalent to getting your hair washed at the hairdressers.


Once I’m cleansed, she moves onto exfoliation. “The main ingredient is called glucosamine, which is a non-acid exfoliant,” Waters explains, “The serum lifts the dead skin cells, then I move the vacuum over the area to remove the dead skin cells. I do a couple of rounds of these on the face and neck.”

I mentally prepare myself to feel discomfort, pain, irritation - but none of it comes. In fact, it feels very comfortable and the vacuum feels like a weaker version of when you would place your hand over the hoover as a child.

A tiny vacuum is run over Hanna's skin to get rid of dead skin cells


Next up is extractions, the part I’m most excited for. The tip of my nose has been riddled with hard-to-budge black dots for as long as I can remember. I’d always thought these were blackheads, until Waters tells me they’re actually lots of tiny hairs, something that is very common with Asian skin.

Waters flicks a switch to change the serum that funnels into the vial in her handheld machine. “For extractions, the main ingredient is salicylic acid, which is really antibacterial. I’ll release the serum onto the skin and it helps to soften the impurities in the pores,” she says, “Then I move my vacuum over. The tip has a spiral effect, so it’s designed to draw out the impurities. It’s a little bit more of a stronger vacuum than the exfoliation one, but it actually feels far more pleasant.” And it does; the suction from the vacuum feels like a gentle massage for my cheeks and forehead.

Once extractions are done, Waters says customers are asked whether they’d like manual extractions done. This is completely optional, but after discussing congestion on my nose and cheeks, I go for it. I’ll admit, this part of the facial did feel uncomfortable and slightly painful – but remember, manual extractions are an additional part of your facial and not the actual HydraFacial itself. So, I stand by my claim that HydraFacials do not hurt. At all.

The peel

After my skin is ridded of blackheads and tiny nose hairs, Waters applies a peel to my skin. “This is a mixture between glycolic acid and salicylic acid. The glycolic speeds up the cell turnover and stimulates collagen production. It also encourages the production of new skin cells, so it really brightens up the skin.”

Once the peel is on, I do feel slight tingling but, again, it doesn’t hurt. “That’s just the active ingredients,” explains Waters. The peel is removed and my skin tingles even more, but Waters reassures me that this is normal.

To give my skin a much-needed hit of hydration, Waters uses a mix of hyaluronic acid and antioxidants, which she also runs over my lips. Once it’s absorbed, we finish with a quick session of LED lights; anti-bacterial blue light and anti-inflammatory red light. And then, we’re done.

The HydraFacial machine delivers different ingredients with the flick of a switch

The results

Hanna straight after her HydraFacial

My dentist chair whips upwards, Waters hand me the mirror and, in all honesty, my skin has never looked so fresh and healthy. My nose no longer bears more black dots than that Zara dress. It’s actually completely clear. My skin isn’t even that red, meaning there’s zero downtime.

I’m told that I need to be even more strict with applying SPF, particularly over the next few days. As the week goes on, my skin maintains its glowing and fresh appearance – so much so, I’m enjoying going make-up free over the week. Though Waters says in order to maintain this, she recommends a course of six sessions spread out every couple of weeks. Once this is done, she suggests a treatment once a month. At £230 for a single treatment, it is on the slightly pricier side but the results are hard to fault. Plus, when you consider all of the steps taken and the range of ingredients used, you can take comfort in knowing your money is going towards, literally, glowing results. 

HydraFacial is available at Water House Young clinic in Mayfair and costs £230 per session

Main image: Hanna Ibraheem / Stylist