Are We There Yet?
Your Beauty Treatment Countdown
How much recovery time you have for 15 popular treatments, from laser hair removal to Fraxel, fillers, and Botox.
After facing the COVID-19 pandemic for almost a year now, the introduction of a vaccine has finally given the world hope and a semi-timeframe of when (semi-)normalcy might return. And as you ride out the final months of the pandemic, it's also a good chance to get a beauty treatment that has enough downtime to let your skin heal in the privacy of your home before you begin venturing out IRL again.
Has the constant stress about a globally spreading virus aged your skin? (Check.) Have your eyebrows been raised 24/7 from the shock and horror of watching the news every day? (What's up, frown lines?) Got maskne that won't go away? (Raises hand.) Whatever your skin woes have been in The Year We Shall Never Mention Again, there's an in-office facial you can turn to for help.
"Now that quarantine may be over, it feels like, 'Quick — gotta erase the signs of the last year,'" Dr. Kavita Mariwalla, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist, tells Bustle. All you have to do is time your procedure so that any redness/flaking/peeling/downtime that's in question can take place right before IRL Time comes.
To help with your scheduling, allow this beauty treatment countdown — featuring everything from microneedling facials to laser hair removal — to be your guide.
If You Have Six Months
- Laser Hair Removal: If laser hair removal is on your radar, give yourself several months' buffer for full results. Dr. Adarsh Vijay Mudgil, M.D., founder of Mudgil Dermatology in New York City, says it requires a series of roughly one-hour-long treatments — usually five or six — to get the desired effect, with an average of one month between each session. You may have a few days of downtime: Dr. Desai Seemal, M.D., founder and medical director of Innovative Dermatology in Plano, Texas, says that Nd:YAG lasers are used for darker skin tones, which can cause some pigmentation, swelling, and redness. "Some patients are able to go right back to work, while others are concerned about that discomfort so they take a few days for downtime," he tells Bustle. "This is especially the case when you're treating larger body surface areas."
If You Have Three Months
- Ultherapy: If you're looking for something that targets your jawline, Ultherapy is a one- to two-hour FDA-approved ultrasound treatment that creates a more defined profile. Mariwalla says it requires just one session and brings best results in a three-month window. "This laser uses technology to help rebuild and tighten up collagen, and can be used for the sides of the face and underneath the neck area and chest," she tells Bustle.
- Kybella: Kybella, another FDA-approved jaw area-targeted treatment, uses tiny injections of an acid to break down fat. Though it takes just 20 to 30 minutes, Dr. Marina Peredo, M.D., a New York City-based board-certified dermatologist, says downtime can last anywhere from two days to three weeks. "You may notice a burning sensation, swelling, pain, or redness after the procedure, but these are all temporary," Peredo says. "Any inflammation should subside in about two days, but for some it takes several weeks for the area to go back down to normal." For the best results, she says most patients need two to four treatments, which can be spaced about six weeks apart — meaning it's ideal to begin the process three months out.
If You Have Two Months
- Retinol: Retinol, a vitamin A derivative, is one of the most scientifically-backed skin care ingredients, known for increasing cell turnover, fighting breakouts, and smoothing fine lines. But some people shy away from using it in their routines because it's notorious for sometimes causing irritation. "If you can afford downtime, retinol may give you redness and peeling, and the benefits may not be achieved until four to eight weeks into use," says Dr. Loretta Ciraldo, M.D., a Miami-based board-certified dermatologist and founder of Dr. Loretta Skincare. Let that flaking happen in peace and privacy.
If You Have One Month
- Ablative Laser: Intense laser treatments, like Erbium and CO2 — resurfacing lasers that work to combat acne scars, uneven texture, and deep wrinkles in one 30-minute session — have their share of downtime. Dr. Sheila Farhang, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist and cosmetic surgeon, says your skin can be pink for at least a month after one of these professional-grade facials and have a "social downtime" of two weeks or more (aka a period of time when you might not want to see anyone).
If You Have Two Weeks
- IPL Treatment: IPL, or intense pulsed light, is a pro-level facial that takes 20 minutes and targets dark spots on the skin. Mariwalla says downtime takes about 10 days. "The spots get a little crusty and then start to go away as if they are coffee grounds," she says. (Yikes.) "Some people react a bit more strongly than others, so a good safety net is 10 days."
If You Have One Week
- Fraxel: Fraxel is a non-ablative laser treatment that targets wrinkles and uneven skin texture in a roughly 45-minute long session, and Farhang says it comes with about a week of downtime (you typically need just one session). Expect some swelling, redness, and minor pain afterward — but a totally rejuvenated glow once that part's over.
- Non-Ablative Fraxinated Resurfacing: This major facial is mainly used to get rid of acne scars and is similar to Fraxel. It takes anywhere from 20 minutes to two hours in one session, depending on the area you're treating, and it's up to you whether you want more than one treatment. Mudgil says that doing it once "will do the trick for a little pop," but generally a series of sessions is required. He recommends spacing them out for four weeks if you're fair-skinned or six weeks if you have darker skin. "For at least a week after [the treatment], there will be redness, crusting, peeling, and the skin will be in a very healing state," says Desai.
- Non-Surgical Rhinoplasty: According to Peredo, this alternative to nose reshaping surgery has a downtime of about three to seven days. "It's a non-surgical rhinoplasty that's a non-invasive way to reshape the nose using fillers," she tells Bustle. "It only takes about 20 minutes to see immediate results, but after the injections you may notice some minor swelling or bruising."
- Filler: Depending on where your filler was injected, downtime can last up to a full week, says Farhang, although the injection takes just a few minutes to do. If you're not familiar, filler uses a needle to inject hyaluronic acid for an immediate plumping effect, and it's typically used in the lips, cheekbones, jawline, and forehead. "Swelling lasts a few days to a week, and bruising lasts about a week," she says.
- Botox: "Neurotoxins like Botox, Dysport, and Xeomin kick in pretty quickly, usually about a week, and can make pandemic worry lines smooth right out," says Mariwalla. These treatments are quick and take a few minutes to half an hour. The main risk? Minor bruising, which she says can take up to a week to completely resolve.
If You Have Three Days
- Clear & Brilliant: To smooth signs of aging, minimize pore size, and improve skin tone and texture, this roughly 30-minute laser treatment works wonders. "This laser is designed to make millions of microscopic treatment zones which then boost collagen production and resurface the deeper layers of the skin for a fresh, youthful glow," says Peredo. Though she says best results call for several treatments (one every month for four to six months), you can get it with just one to two days of downtime. "You will notice some redness post-treatment and will need to avoid direct sunlight, and avoid applying any creams, moisturizers, or makeup for 24 hours afterward," she says.
- Chemical Peel: Chemical peels are basically the most potent exfoliating treatment you can get, and you can book a pro-level one with your dermatologist or facialist — it takes just a few minutes to do. Ciraldo says a 35 to 70% glycolic peel "will have you up and running" in about 24 hours, while deeper ones (like trichloroacetic acid) call for three to seven days of downtime (aka extra dryness and sometimes peeling). Go with glycolic for a brighter glow and trichloroacetic acid to fix pigmentation or sun damage.
- Microneedling: Got a long weekend? Then Ciraldo says you've got the perfect amount of time for a microneedling treatment, which uses tiny needles to stimulate collagen and improve skin texture. The session can last anywhere from 30 minutes to a couple of hours, depending on the area you're treating. "This does have a little downtime because skin will look very crusty, red, and inflamed, and can even have bloody hemorrhagic crusts," says Desai, who tells patients to expect a sunburn-like reaction post-treatment.
- Foot Peels: Ever heard of Baby Foot? The famous peeling mask — and others like it — use chemical exfoliants to slough dead skin and calluses off your feet. These quickie home treatments are notorious for making you shed like a snake, leaving trails of callus and flakes all over your house. Yes, it's gross, so fold in a few days of downtime.
Dr. Adarsh Vijay Mudgil, M.D., founder of Mudgil Dermatology in New York City
Dr. Kavita Mariwalla, M.D., board-certified dermatologist based in West Islip, New York
Dr. Loretta Ciraldo, M.D., Miami-based board-certified dermatologist and founder of Dr. Loretta Skincare
Dr. Marina Peredo, M.D., New York City-based board-certified dermatologist
Dr. Sheila Farhang, M.D., board-certified dermatologist and cosmetic surgeon