My Skinworx Experience: Getting the Hydrafacial and VISIA Digital Skin Analysis
I’ve been busy with wedding prep (I’m getting married later this year!) and wedding errands kept bringing me to the Cow Hollow district of San Francisco. On a few such errands, I’ve noticed a neat little shop called “Skinworx” on Union Street that looked like it had recently opened for business. Its bright, airy interior beckoned invitingly, and in their shop windows bottles of Grown Alchemist and COSRX products gleamed. And these are some of my favorite skincare brands of the moment! It felt like they were calling out to me. “I’ve got to go in and check this place out,” I kept telling myself.
One long night, I finally took the time to do some research on Skinworx, and found out that they do facials, mainly, the Hydrafacial, designed to deeply extract dirt and dead skin cells locked in pores, kill harmful acne-causing bacteria, all the while nourishing skin with hydrating serums and treatments. On top of that, Skinworx uses VISIA complexion analysis, an imaging system that also analyzes skin’s true age, surface and subsurface conditions to give the patient/client an in depth understanding of current and potential future skin issues. Part of the VISIA analysis includes utilizing UV photography to provide complete data for sun damage assessment and analysis, including UV fluorescence imaging to reveal porphyrins. (Note: Porphyrins are bacterial secretions that can become lodged in pores and lead to acne, and it can be the reason why skin looks oily.) The cherry on top of the cake for me is how you can track and compare results on how your skin is doing on VISIA every time you go to Skinworx for the Hydrafacial.
I was there bright and early as Skinworx’ first appointment of the day. Rachel, the aesthetician who will later do my VISIA digital skin analysis greets me, and took my details down. Quickly, I was ushered into a room where Janessa, my Hydrafacial aesthetician, welcomed me with a warm smile, making me feel a little more relaxed for what is to come (for I have a not-so-great track record with facials in general — they often indirectly cause eczema outbreaks for me). Janessa, or J-Flo (as I came to call her), also seemed extremely well-informed about the science of the procedures and serums she was going to use on me, enlightening me on the different steps of the Hydrafacial treatment and what it would do for me.
In the first step, Janessa used a “deplaning” tool that opened up my pores and sucked away the dirt and debris on my stratum corneum. It was a cold and oddly satisfying sensation, sort of like rubbing an ice cube over my face. Then she applied a chemical peel which did not sting (a first for me in facials!) and only faintly tingled, the tingling completely going away after cleaning the peel off. While she worked, Janessa informed me that Skinworx’ Hydrafacial uses lactic acid, glucosamine, and hyaluronic acid to deliver a combination of plumping, hydrating, and cell renewal properties. Lactic acid is a popular AHA that exfoliates and brightens skin, allowing for an even skin surface and clearer skin with use. Glucosamine is found in the exoskeleton of crustaceans, and what it does is it strengthens the connective tissues in our skin, hair, and nails. Used effectively, it stimulates collagen production, which will lead to suppler, healthier skin. Hyaluronic acid, of course, is one of the best hydrators in the industry, holding up to 1000x its own molecular weight in moisture. Janessa stressed to me that Skinworx uses a molecular form of hyaluronic acid that can penetrate the stratum corneum and stay in the epidermis for longer periods than those we get over the counter.
For the extraction part of the facial, Janessa used a tool that actually sucked and held onto the surface of my skin, creating a vacuum, instead of manually extracting the dirt and debris in my pores. It felt pretty good to me as the tool moved over my face; I pictured my skin looking really clean, like a freshly-vacuumed carpet. Then came the last part of the Hydrafacial — an antioxidant and vitamin-rich serum was applied to my skin, and then my face subjected to a lab-grade LED light treatment (at the most exacting wavelengths) so that my skin received all the right benefits. Other than the red, and then blue light treatment which promoted collagen production and zapped bacteria respectively, Janessa also made sure to give me the yellow light treatment, as it would purportedly help to soothe ultra-sensitive skin prone to eczema and rosacea, like mine. I felt rather relaxed the whole time I did the treatment and almost fell asleep, if not for our conversation on Korean skincare breakthroughs.
Post-treatment, I stepped out into the airy brightness of the reception area of Skinworx and took a good look at myself. A noticeable difference was how much brighter my skin looked! “Wow,” I thought, “That was only one treatment!” I don’t think I can say this for all of my facial experiences, and most importantly, my skin did not feel sensitive and weird (note: still doesn’t) like it’s on the brink of an eczema attack!
The VISIA Digital Skin Analysis
Up next is my VISIA digital skin analysis. Other than some of the cool things I’ve mentioned at the start of this article, Rachel explained that VISIA's patented comparison to norms analysis uses the world's largest skin feature database to grade your skin relative to others of the same age and skin type. “With VISIA, you can measure spots, wrinkles, texture, pores, UV spots, brown spots, red areas, and porphyrins, relative to people similar to you.” I was intrigued and excited, partly because I love gadgets and partly because I’m really curious to see what is up beneath the surface.
I placed my head onto the headrest and looked into the camera. “You can close your eyes — there’ll be three bright flashes, and then you can relax and come over here,” Rachel said.
On the computer screen post-imaging, I see multiple images of my face with color coded information that made them look like graphs from a space probe. There’s a lot to go into with VISIA’s technology, but since this is my first time and there isn’t much of a comparison (i.e. with treatments over time), I’m going to offer some of my takeaways from this experience:
- I was surprised by how little UV damage I have compared to people with my age and skin type (I’m in the 95th percentile — the higher the less UV damage), given that I grew up near the equator, was extremely outdoorsy, and never protected myself from UV rays as a youth. Heck, my dermatologist even diagnosed me with a sun allergy! I surmised that sunscreening in my recent years must’ve worked. So everyone, if there’s one thing you do after waking up before leaving the house, it should be putting quality sunscreen on your face!
I do have hyper-pigmentation/brown spots and I will continue to struggle with that — thanks, mom. That means more freckles over the years, which unfortunately only my fiancé seemed to really like. I asked how this analysis is different from the one related to UV damage, and Rachel explained that this has more to do with a genetic disposition to melanin production levels than the ones caused by sun damage.
- I have some enlarged pores at the apex of my cheeks, which mildly surprised me, given how I’ve always been told otherwise by the various aestheticians I’ve been to in the last three years. But, Rachel told me, it is likely due to the fact that I just got done with a treatment and my pores are still in the process of retracting after being purged of dirt and bacteria. I tell my fiancé about this over the phone and he says, “What pores? You have no pores!”
- My porphyrin mass is low, which is a great thing because that correlates to less bacteria and thus less acne, but also, mostly because I just got my skin cleansed.
All in all, I think I will be going back for a second Hydrafacial and VISIA analysis to see if there’s been progress. In the meantime, I will be sunscreening religiously and also look into shrinking some pores. While the results I’ve observed is relatively minor in the grand scheme of things, the clarity and brightness I’ve been able to see on my face with just one treatment has been encouraging to say the least — I’d definitely recommend doing this combo at least once if you’re in SF!