Dallas woman Jennifer Bianchi didn't seem to mind as three of us crammed into a tiny room while she lay in a robe, a nurse near her head. Bianchi closed her eyes, her threaded eyelashes fluttering. This was going to hurt.
Probably. Possibly. Maybe not?
Jessica Orman held up a tiny, clear bottle of liquid. At the tip of the bottle was a bundle of 24-karat gold needles, each thinner than a piece of hair. This AquaGold micro-needling instrument was kind of, um, cute?
The treatment Bianchi was about to get is sometimes referred to as a red carpet facial, "because it makes you tighter and brighter," Orman explains. She is a registered nurse and has worked at Renew Beauty Med Spa at NorthPark Center in Dallas for eight years.
More specifically, and not for the squeamish, micro-needling is a treatment that makes injections on the face, causing dozens or hundreds of small injuries. To heal, the body produces collagen and elastin, which can plump up the skin. That process is aided by the concoction inside the little clear bottle, which often includes FDA-approved Botox and Juvederm, both which can treat fine lines and wrinkles on the face, shrink the pores, and plump the skin in areas of the face without traditional Botox injections.
There's also a much less scientific reason why micro-needling is having a moment: Gwyneth Paltrow says it turned her skin "really glowy."
Renew Beauty owner Louise Proulx has been offering the 24-karat gold needle treatment since last year at both her NorthPark Center med spa and at one inside Stonebriar Centre in Frisco. Dallas plastic surgeon Dr. John Burns, of Dallas Plastic Surgery Institute, says he does AquaGold procedures regularly, too. "I can't say enough good things about it," he says. "It can be used safely on all skin types, and it's a faster recovery."
The treatment is glitzed up with gold needles. But is it a gimmick? Burns says gold is very strong, which makes it possible for these needles to be manufactured to a very thin diameter. "I don't think you could make a hypodermic steel needle strong enough at that diameter," he says. But both Burns and Proulx agree, however, that the gold needles also make the procedure seem more dazzling, too.
As Bianchi's face was stamped with the tiny bottle of gold-flecked serum, she didn't bleed like Kim Kardashian West so famously did after a "vampire facial." Proulx suggests the AquaGold facial for people who are "needle phobic" — though it's important to note that there are needles on that dainty little bottle, they're just very small. Bianchi's face was red after the procedure, and Proulx and Orman said the redness would lessen within two hours.
"She can go on date night tonight," Proulx says.
And is beauty pain? Sort of, Bianchi says. When her skin was being exfoliated, she said it felt like sandpaper was being rubbed on her skin. Then, when the gold needles were stamped on her face, she said it was painful on her forehead and around her upper lip.
"It's less painful than getting a tattoo," Bianchi says, "but the same idea." Some micro-needling procedures hurt more than others, too; an Allure magazine editor had an InnoPen procedure and says it "hurts like crazy." Bianchi says she's "tried it all" — laser treatments, Botox and the like. She seemed relatively unfazed by the time the 10-minute stamping procedure was over. Burns notes that AquaGold is less painful than most other micro-needling techniques.
Within 24 hours, the idea is that these high-paying patients can expect to see firmer, tighter, glowy and dewy skin, Proulx says. The results are expected to last four to six weeks.
And the price: Renew Beauty charges $600, which includes a facial first. Burns charges $500, no facial. Prices vary, with one treatment in Hawaii costing $500 and another in New York City priced at $1,000.
Burns suggests AquaGold as a supplement to more extensive, and more expensive, facial treatments. "My philosophy is to maintain as much as you can — and as much as you can afford," he says.
It's expensive, that's for sure. But you only get one face. "We all look for the fountain of youth," Proulx says. "This is the fountain of youth — in a tiny bottle."