These Are the Best Noninvasive Treatments to Make Your Face Glow

There are plenty of noninvasive options out there for a fresher looking face before your wedding day—here are our faves.
by Katie Kortebein
iStock

We all want to put our best faces forward, especially on our wedding day. A picture lasts forever after all, particularly on Instagram. You may want a little refresh, but the thought of going under the knife terrifies you. We get it and we’re here to tell you there are plenty of noninvasive options to unveil your most radiant, smoothest skin to get that wedding glow. We’ve rounded up the best treatments to help you look like the best version of yourself (after talking to your doctor, of course).

Microneedling

It may sound scary, but trust us, microneedling is basically like sticking your face in one of those pin art toys we were all obsessed with as kids. “Microneedling is a minimally invasive procedure in which multiple tiny needles prick your skin, opening the skin barrier so vitamins, peptides, growth factors and hyaluronic acid can more efficiently be absorbed by the skin,” says Melissa Doft, MD, a plastic surgeon. It also prompts collagen and elastin growth, which improves fine lines. Collagen (a protein) production declines as we age, resulting in looser skin, so improving development helps your face bounce back (literally) so you look even younger. Expect to be in your doctor’s office for close to an hour for the procedure. “Topical numbing cream is applied for 20 minutes, then the procedure takes another 20 minutes,” Doft says. As for the recovery, there’s no need to worry. “Your skin will be red that evening, but most or all will dissipate by morning. If you have any residual redness, you can easily cover it with powder.” Your skin will look brighter the next day and will continue to improve over the next four to six weeks. Some people will have a treatment every three to six months, while others may choose to have it monthly. As for any possible risks, “I would not have it done if you have an active infection or outbreak of acne. One or two pimples are fine and easily avoided,” Doft says. (To learn more, check out our beauty editor’s microneedling experience right here.)

Average Cost: From $400 per session


Microdermabrasion

In a microdermabrasion treatment, a dermatologist will use tiny crystals to gently exfoliate the uneven outer layers of your skin, says dermatologist Howard Sobel, MD. This reveals healthier skin below the surface and stimulates collagen production. The ultimate goal is to improve fine lines, wrinkles, light scarring, enlarged pores and discoloration, says Lian Mack, MD, a dermatologist. A session can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, according to Sobel, and you may feel a non-painful sanding sensation. Your dermatologist will apply a moisturizer, and afterward you’ll need to continue moisturizing and avoid the sun for at least 48 hours, Mack says. She also suggests wearing SPF 30 or higher—protecting your skin from the sun will help you maintain your results. Thankfully, there’s no real recovery period. “It’s a safe and relatively gentle procedure and has minimal downtime. You may experience mild redness and peeling,” Mack says. Basically, it’s the same as having a sunburn for a day or two, so you’ll be free to go about your life ASAP. Most people receive anywhere from 5 to 16 treatments, depending on the issues you’re treating. It’ll usually take a few sessions to see significant improvement, according to Mack, but you can’t rush the process to your #bestfaceever. Bonus: Microdermabrasion allows antiaging products to penetrate the skin more easily, so don’t forget to load up on your favorite serums.

Average Cost: From $200 per session


Chemical Peel

We suggest a “lunchtime” peel in this instance, aka a lighter treatment where “you can even come in on your lunch break,” according to dermatologist Dennis Gross, MD. A chemical peel is when a chemical exfoliating agent is applied to the skin to “improve cellular turnover for a brighter, clearer, younger appearance,” Gross says. The skin typically sheds old, dull skin cells every 28 days. This shedding slows with prolonged sun exposure and aging, but chemical peels cause it to speed back up, helping to stimulate the growth of new collagen. “They also allow skin care products to absorb more evenly and effectively,” says Lisa Airan, MD, an aesthetic dermatologist. This should improve scars, irregular pigmentation, rough skin and shallow wrinkles, though the results do depend on the type of chemical and the technique used. This procedure can sting, but you shouldn’t be dealing with a lot of pain. After all, it typically only takes between 5 and 15 minutes, according to Airan. You may need three to five treatments to get the desired results, and she says they can be repeated as often as every other week. In the case of stronger peels, Airan suggests spacing it out to “once a month for two months with a six-month break in between.” The healing process for a superficial peel is anywhere from one day to one week. Your skin will be red and may be dry and flaky, but makeup can usually be worn the next day. “With light chemical peels, the skin might feel tingly and turn slightly pink afterward, but this goes away immediately,” Gross says. “Medium depth or deeper chemical peels can cause slight stinging and redness, like a sunburn, which could last for several days. He also notes you should avoid direct sunlight for up to two weeks after a more intense peel. Like with microdermabrasion, you’ll want to keep your skin hydrated and apply sunscreen daily. “Chemical peels are generally safe, but could (rarely) cause burning or changes in the color of the skin,” Airan says. For those with darker skin tones, you can definitely still get a chemical peel, though you should go to a professional who has expertise treating darker skin tones to avoid possibly developing permanent pigment issues. Expert tip: “Consistency is key for maintaining optimal results,” Airan says. “I always suggest patients maintain their results with an effective skincare regimen.”

Average Cost: From $225 per session


Laser Resurfacing

In this procedure, your doctor is using a targeted light to heat and destroy (sounds scarier than it is, we promise) to trigger the skin’s natural healing response, resulting in smoother, more even skin, according to Estee Williams, MD, FAAD, an assistant professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. The first thing you need to know is the difference between ablative and non-ablative treatments. Ablative removes outer layers of skin, is more invasive and requires more recovery time, according to the Mayo Clinic. Non-ablative is a “nonwounding laser,” stimulating your collagen by passing through the skin, not removing it. The most common laser treatments are carbon dioxide (ablative), erbium (ablative or non-ablative), fractional (ablative or non-ablative) and IPL (intense pulsed light), which is actually not a laser, but a wavelength of different lights. The laser you go with will mostly depend on the skin issue you’re concerned with. This procedure is commonly compared to a rubber band snapping against your skin, but it does depend on the laser, the depth and area of treatment and your tolerance for pain. “Pain scores are commonly rated 5 or 6 out of 10,” Williams says. “The majority of patients tolerate the procedure very well.” Your doctor will typically apply topical numbing cream an hour beforehand and your eyes will be protected. According to Williams, the actual procedure takes about 10 to 15 minutes with an additional 15 minutes for prep and post-care. “For a typical laser resurfacing, the average amount of downtime is five days,” she says, but it does vary depending on how strong the treatment is. Ablative lasers can have a two to three week healing process, according to Sobel, while non-ablative lasers often require nearly no downtime at all. The trade-off being you’ll likely need more treatments with non-ablative. It’s recommended you undergo laser resurfacing during the winter months when the days are shorter and you’re indoors more. However, no matter what time of year you have your procedure, wear sunscreen. But you knew that already! This not only helps keep your results looking their best, it also provides protection against skin cancer and helps prevent additional premature aging. You’ll likely see results in roughly three weeks, Williams says. Lighter resurfacing treatments can be done twice every three to six months and stronger ones should be done no more than twice a year. Those with darker skin tones may need to discuss other options, like microneedling, as there is a higher risk for cell damage or discoloration. Williams recommends doing a spot test first.

Average Cost: From $1,550 per session


Neurotoxins

We know, we know. Who wants to put a “toxin” in their face? But this is actually one of the most common procedures out there. The three neurotoxins used for cosmetic procedures (and approved by the FDA) are the well-known Botox, along with Xeomin and Dysport. They’re “injectible medications that block the signal from the nerves to the muscles preventing muscle contraction,” says Konstantin Vasyukevich, MD, a facial plastic surgeon. Wrinkles are caused by repeated contractions from facial expressions, so these injections are able to smooth out the wrinkles by reducing muscle movement and allowing the skin to regenerate and repair itself. This is probably one of the quickest procedures on our list. “The actual injection takes only 5 to 10 minutes. However, between the application of a numbing cream, prepping and sterilizing the skin, and icing injection sites afterward, you can expect the whole process to take about 20 to 30 minutes.” Plus, there’s really no recovery time (unless you lean toward “like a peach” on the bruising scale). Vasyukevich recommends applying ice to the injection sites for a short period of time, but “in an hour you should forget that you had injections and just move on with your daily life.” You’ll typically see results three or four days later and the pros recommend you repeat the treatments about every four to six months. This does depend on your muscle strength, response to the neurotoxin and the consistency of your treatments. These injections are generally very safe and have few side effects, but there are some to be aware of. The “most common unwanted side effect is a change in a pattern of facial expression that might lead to an ‘artificial’ appearance of the face,” Vasyukevich says. The other is “droopy eyelid,” a rare complication caused by a temporary paralysis of the muscle elevating the eyelid. “This condition is self-limiting and typically resolves itself four to six weeks later,” he says.

Average Cost: From $500 to $1,000 for 50 units


Professional Facials

Last, but certainly not least, is the most noninvasive of them all. You may be wondering, what’s the difference between a pro facial and the ones you can DIY at home? Yes, there are a lot of great options you can buy now, but there’s no comparison between slapping on a mask and having an actual esthetician look at your skin, customize the procedure to your needs and approach them on a deeper, informed level with professional grade products and tools (yes, this makes a big difference). A facial massage is also fairly important for sculpting and relaxing your muscles, and it’s nearly impossible to do yourself. A typical facial is either 30 minutes or an hour, but we recommend splurging for 90 minutes, because #selfcare. As for results? Well, they’re pretty immediate for about two days, but “when you keep up with monthly facials you’ll see a major change anywhere from three to six months. This, of course, depends on the issue you’re working on and how diligent you are with your home care routine,” says Natalie Fairchild, a skin therapist at Heyday. “A good home routine is key.” She recommends coming in once a month because “skin cells change over (on average) every 28 days,” so your pro will be able to see changes in real time and adapt as needed. As for recovery, “at most you’ll see a bit of redness, which isn’t always a bad thing,” Fairchild says.

Average Cost: Around $100 per session, but depends on time and type—and don’t forget to tip.

Now go get your glow on! Might we recommend beginning with a relaxing facial for a much-needed planning break?

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