When I received an email bearing the words "cactus facial," my attention was piqued. A combination of "extreme length microneedling and intensive skincare ingredients," the clinic wrote. What could that mean? I imagined monstrous needles poking and prodding my delicate skin and the searing pain associated with treading on a cactus. (Trust me, I know what it feels it like.) Little did I know I was about to be proven very, very wrong. Here's what happened when I tried a cactus facial.
Pioneered by London's New York Laser Clinic, the cactus facial is designed to nourish the skin and give an envious glow while providing the benefits of traditional microneedling. (This treatment is known "for providing results for ageing skin, wrinkles, scarring, and stretch mark concerns," a staff member tells me before I go in for my appointment.)
It's suitable for most skin types, but may aggravate active acne and ultra sensitive skin. However, cactus product ingredients are ideal for acne-prone individuals, so an alternative treatment minus the microneedling can be recommended.
When I arrived at the clinic's Baker Street location, I was a little apprehensive to say the least. I was new to microneedling and was worried that the intensity of the treatment would exacerbate my skin's tendency to go a nice shade of tomato red. But Roxie, the clinic's manager, immediately put me at ease, explaining exactly what the facial entailed and the benefits of each part.
First, my skin was prepped with a mild glycolic solution. Then a cactus serum — high in nourishing vitamin E and antioxidants to ward off photoaging — was administered to aid the microneedling. Before the painful-sounding part, a numbing cream was applied for around 20 minutes. "Most clients can't feel anything," the clinic told me before my appointment, and I found that to be true.
Although Roxie told me that I may feel the microneedling more on the bony areas of the face, I could barely feel a thing throughout the five-minute process. In fact, the sensation was oddly soothing. For this particular deep facial, the needles are of a longer length than usual procedures and are slowly rolled over the face in three directions.
Once that was done, a Korean cactus sheet mask was applied and left on for 20 minutes. This aims to push the serum deeper into the skin and gives even more cactus-based replenishment. Again, a super relaxing experience that almost left me asleep.
The last step was applying sun protection; Roxie told me to do so everyday to protect my skin. She warned me that my face was looking pretty red and handed over a mirror to prove it. (She also said that a degree of redness could remain for the next 24 hours.) Admittedly, I did get a few strange looks on the tube but, an hour later, the redness had completely subsided. I also didn't experience stinging once the numbing cream had worn off, but others may.
Aside from protecting skin from UV rays, something else that was important to remember, Roxie said, was to avoid makeup and products containing intense active ingredients for the next 24 hours. This didn't apply to hydrating products. She also noted that I should wait between five and seven days to apply anything containing retinol or vitamin A.
It's easy to form quick conclusions with any kind of beauty treatment, but I patiently waited a day before making a judgement. Now red-free, I could clearly see that my skin was glowing a lot more than usual. And over the next week, I noticed that the dryness that always popped up around my nose and forehead was no longer causing a problem. Makeup glided on like a dream and my face continued to feel soft.
Roxie did tell me that I would see a difference after just one treatment, but the clinic would usually do a course of three, with sessions taking place once every four to six weeks. Cost wise, one session will set you back £199.
The cactus facial isn't the only weird and wonderful treatment offered by New York Laser Clinic. A beer facial is also on the innovative menu along with one involving camel milk. If this experience is anything to go by, I'd gladly try out the rest.