Moisturizer is the little black dress of skincare: a beauty basic that can become an obsession, with most of us buying countless bottles and never feeling completely satisfied—or completely supple and smooth. According to the New York dermatologist David Goldberg, that’s because, to truly address dry skin, we need to delve beneath the surface. And the best way to do that, he believes, is with help from a device called Aquagold. “It takes a prune,” he says, “and makes it look like a plum.” Aquagold penetrates the skin using 20 short, thinner-than-a-hair micro-needles with channels that allow ingredients to seep into the skin’s second layer, or dermis. According to Goldberg, who serves as chief medical officer for Aquavit Pharmaceuticals, the company behind Aquagold, the process inflicts very little pain and requires no downtime.
Since its introduction in the United States this past spring, Aquagold has been used to administer small, diffused amounts of everything from Botox to pre-procedure anesthetics. But in conjunction with hyaluronic acid (HA)—the natural skin-lubricating substance our bodies produce less of as we age—it gives skin a dewy, youthful glow that lasts about two weeks. “The next day, people look so radiant,” enthuses the New York dermatologist Fredric Brandt, who recommends Aquagold for patients of any age with dry, crepey skin.
Hyaluronic acid, of course, is no newcomer to skincare. It’s found in fillers like Belotero, Restylane, and Juvéderm, and has been used in topical products for decades. On their own, those creams can’t bring about the quick and lasting results achievable with Aquagold, but they are certainly more convenient and less invasive—and they’re becoming more and more effective to boot. Teoxane, a Swiss line that was recently introduced Stateside and is sold at doctors’ offices, claims to be the first topical in the U.S. to employ the cross-linked form of HA, which is the type used in fillers. As compared with the loose HA in most creams, cross-linked HA breaks down less rapidly and also has the ability to act like a molecular net, holding in water and other active ingredients such as anti-aging peptides, niacinamide, copper, and zinc. “I’d heard about Teoxane from dermatologist friends who’d stock up when they went to Paris,” says the New Orleans dermatologist Mary Lupo. “When I got it, I had a few patients sit for before-and-after pictures—and, in an hour, the changes in pore size, texture, and fine lines blew my mind.” Teoxane will soon have competition: In October, Perricone MD launches a Hyalo Plasma cream, which also contains a cross-linked HA.
Still, for most doctors, nothing can beat the needle. “Topical HA cannot penetrate to the dermis or give the volume to reduce lines and wrinkles,” says the Manhattan plastic surgeon Stafford Broumand, who performs his own deep-moisture treatment, which he calls “airbrushing”: He injects tiny droplets of diluted HA filler into the dermis with a fine-needle syringe. The plump, dewy skin that results can last more than six months—longer than with Aquagold, because, as he explains, using a traditional syringe allows him to inject a thicker, more resilient form of HA. There is, however, a risk of bruising.
Broumand’s approach will sound familiar to beauty buffs in Europe and Asia, where similar injections—like Juvéderm Hydrate, Restylane Vital, and Teosyal Redensity One—have been popular for years. Those products aren’t approved in the U.S., but Broumand is working on an innovation that may soon see the light of day: “The ideal would be a system with many small needles that you could push in with a syringe,” he says. Yet another way to take the plunge.