This Derm-Office Facial Taught Me Everything About How to Apply My Skin Care

Among the beauty myths that I've come to believe, I've always surmised that the only way to get your skin to really drink up beauty ingredients extra well is via a microneedling treatment. This works by puncturing your complexion with uber-tiny micro-tears that stimulate your skin's collagen and also help products to sink in better. And yet—I've heard lots of beauty brand founders and dermatologists tell me that you need to be patting and pressing products into your skin for better absorption, too.

So I'm on a quest to find out how fingertip pressure—of all things—can help ingredients get into your epidermis. My first stop? To Dennis Gross, MD's dermatology practice on New York's upper east side, where he's offering a brand new technology via his "Infusion Facial." It literally uses a new pressured jet stream technology to infuse potent ingredients into the complexion.

After my esthetician cleanses my skin, she uses this machine, which has a pen-like stick that blows into my face. She goes over section of my face various times, each one infusing a different active ingredient into my skin. "This is a new amazing technology," Dr. Gross gushed to me afterwards. "I always say that facials are not an anti-aging treatment, if you really think about it. For something to be anti-aging, it has to do something—like build collagen, help with redness, give internal hydration, or plump the skin."

His take? Regular facials will not do these things. "Conventional facials just use water," he says. "The infusion facial takes ingredients that are actually actives that go deep into the skin by using pressure through a jet stream. It's basically taking steam but accelerating the speed of the steam's delivery to your skin, and mixed with that stream are ingredients." As I was getting the treatment, it just felt like localized air blowing into my face. It was cold, and I felt a little bit of moisture, but that's really it. Afterwards, though? My complexion was brighter, as if it just received its own direct IV drip. Really, you could say that this pressurized infusion facial is like microneedling—without the need for any needles. I could also tell afterwards that the vitamin C, peptides, and hyaluronic acid that my esthetician infused was in my skin, not just sitting on top of it.

Besides getting this sort of infusion facial, though, you can utilize pressure for your own beauty benefits from the comfort of your own bathroom. What you'll need? Your hands and some elbow grease. "Rubbing in skin-care products all the way definitely helps absorption," says Purvisha Patel, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Visha Skincare. "Applying the product to your skin and wiping up your face, around your eyes, and up your neck helps the product absorb, as long as you're going in against the hair follicles and against the direction of collagen degradation."

Celebrity facialist Joanna Czech also agrees, noting that a certain pressure method when applying your skin-care products can help them work more effectively—when done correctly. "If you use a press-and-release motion, just press and release a few times in one area with your skin-care product, and it opens the skin and your skin basically grasps everything that you apply," she says, noting that you don't want to drag the skin. "It's a little microscopic-level deeper and faster penetration of the product. But when you spread and stretch your skin and use a lot of friction, it can create redness and fragility." So the key is to be gentle and simply press the product into your skin so that it is better able to work its magic below the surface—no actual need to get into a derm's office (although that's a great option too).

This post was originally published on April 27, 2019; updated on July 31, 2020.

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