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“What did you do to your skin?!” I had just sat down at my favorite ramen restaurant when my friend Tanya accosted me with this question, peering intently at my complexion. I was taken aback—had I sprouted an army of zits in the ten blocks I’d walked to the restaurant? Was the new foundation I was testing the wrong shade? Was she cruelly pointing out the grandiose size of my pores? Noticing my alarmed expression, she quickly followed up: “It’s so smooth and bright and tight…like freshly-steamed dumpling skin.” My agitation turned into unbridled joy. It was, to this day, the best compliment I’ve ever received about my appearance (and not just because I love dumplings more than most things in life). Better yet, I knew exactly where to give credit.
A week before, I was in Los Angeles visiting the Kate Somerville Skincare Clinic on Melrose Ave. Tucked in this idyllic, ivy-lined street, the clinic was celebrating 15 years of being a celeb-favorite haunt and go-to spot for anyone wanting facials that were as luxurious as they were efficacious. I was there to receive an enticing facial treatment called the Triple Threat Gold Cocktail Aquagold, which supposedly involved “stamping” a mix of Botox, filler, and vitamins into the surface-layers of my skin via needles. I was a bit apprehensive, given a previous traumatic microneedling experience where the numbing cream didn’t work (it was…excruciating, to put it mildly), but was promised the treatment would be “fairly” painless and that the results would be well worth any discomfort. As a glutton for (aesthetic) punishment and game to try anything that promises me the bounce and elasticity of a newborn’s bottom, I agreed quickly and arrived at the airy space, willing and ready for my face to be punished in the name of beauty.
As it turns out, the treatment was both painless and effective, and resulted in me receiving the best compliment of my life. Keep scrolling to find out what it was like.
Benefits of Aquagold Facial
First, though, let’s spell out the benefits—I’m not just getting punctured by needles for some vague promises of better skin. I needed tried-and-true—and most importantly, visible—results. I spoke with Somerville herself before my treatment and asked her what I could expect. “This is one of my favorite treatments because you’re going to get a result right away,” she promised. “You’re going to see fine lines dissipate. Your skin is going to feel a lot more even and smooth.” As someone who dreams of having skin with the sheen of a freshly-shined bowling ball, I could feel my excitement growing by the second.
Meet the Expert
Kate Somerville is an L.A.-based skincare guru with over 25 years of experience. She opened her iconic skincare clinic in West Hollywood 15 years ago, where she offers the most cutting-edge skin treatments in an upscale environment.
Essentially, I learned that the serum used in the treatment is a mix of Botox, filler, and skin-boosting vitamins, which the practitioner “stamps” into your skin via small needles. Somerville explained to me that the treatment is similar to micro-needling, but it’s a much gentler version that only affects the surface-level of the skin. “The Botox relaxes the top layer of the skin, so you’ll see your pore size get even smaller,” she says. “The tiny bit of filler gives you that refined look—like when you were younger and everything was just kind of plump and smooth.” There’s an additional element that you can add on, which involves drawing your blood, spinning it to extract platelet-rich plasma and stem cells, and then adding that in the Aquagold concoction that then gets stamped into your skin. As someone who gets queasy around blood (and already having experienced a surprise blood-drawing once in the name of better skin), I opted to skip this part and just go with the mixture of Botox, filler and vitamins. “It’s super healing and rejuvenating and one of our most effective treatments that really, really focuses on texture,” Somerville promised. “You’re just going to see that glow—and it lasts.”
It's one of our most effective treatments that really, really focuses on texture.
If I had any sort of superpower, it would be the ability to turn back time—mostly to take back the amount of drunk texts I’ve sent over the years, but also for the sake of my skin. Somerville was using all of my favorite skincare vernacular, and I knew that my skin was ready to get punctured.
How to Prepare for the Aquagold Treatment
There’s not really anything you have to do to prepare for Aquagold, but my esthetician recommended that I avoid chemical peels for two weeks prior and also after the treatment, as well as waxing. You’re also supposed to avoid prescription retinol products for three days before the treatment. Afterwards, you’re supposed to avoid makeup putting makeup on your skin or washing it for 12 hours.
What to Expect During Aquagold
The Aquagold treatment took all of 45 minutes, including the 15 to 20 minutes it took for me to wait for the numbing cream to kick in (a Kate Somerville-exclusive blend of lidocaine and “very strong” numbing agents, I was promised). After I was nice and numb, my very nice nurse named Cassie pulled out a small clear device the size of a thimble and announced she was going to start stamping. I made her show me the tip of the device, and sure enough, there were tiny needles protruding out—tiny needles that would soon be puncturing my skin and (hopefully) turning it into the texture of one of those shrimp dumplings I order in excess at dim sum. I told her to go for it before I started feeling lightheaded like I usually do around needles. I closed my eyes, bracing for the pain…and felt a barely-noticeable prick. “There, that’s not so bad, right?” she asked soothingly. I was surprised—unlike micro-needling, it wasn’t painful at all. There were a few areas around my eyes and forehead where I felt the needles a bit more, but for the most part, the “stamping” was painless—and more importantly, over before I knew it.
Before and After
My skin is oily-combination, and my biggest concerns are texture (I have some unevenness and light acne scarring on my forehead) and pore size (the pores around my nose and on my cheeks are offensively large). Supposedly, this makes me the ideal candidate for an Aquagold treatment. “It’s for everyone who has textural issues, or fine lines or wrinkles,” Somerville explains. “It’s not for melasma, it’s not for acne. It’s for someone who might have acne scarring, or large pores.” In other words, Aquagold and I were a match made in heaven.
“It’s for everyone who has textural issues, or fine lines or wrinkles."
After the treatment, I peered closely at my skin in the mirror. It was only slightly pink in some areas, but for the most part, looked calm and smooth. I didn’t notice an extreme difference right off the bat, but it did look slightly brighter. I went home that night, taking care not to touch my face or get it wet until the 12 hours had passed.
The next morning, my skin felt as smooth as a Fuji apple and I skipped my usual foundation, instead just dabbing a bit of concealer around my nose and under my eyes. I still didn’t notice a result that was truly mind-blowing, however, but was told it may take a few days for the full effect of the treatment to kick in.
Fast forward to a week later, and I was sitting down at ramen with Tanya, basking in the pleasure that only occurs when your skin is compared to that of a dumpling.
The Final Takeaway
I’ve gotten a lot of facials in my time as a beauty editor. Some gave me noticeable results right off the bat that quickly faded in just a few days (or hours); others felt nice in the moment, but ultimately lacked substance and left me disappointed (I swear I’m still talking about facials and not my dating life…). And then there were a very select few that delivered both immediate and long-term satisfaction, surprising me with their ability to make my skin/self brighter and happier over time. Aquagold is definitely one of the latter, and I’m thoroughly pleased with the results. Though Somerville promised instant results, I think it took a few days before I saw a noticeable reduction in pores and smoothing over of skin texture. No, my skin didn't suddenly turn into a pearly orb overnight (sadly), but it did look unmistakably smoother, brighter and more even. Somerville recommends getting the product a few times over the course of the year to see the most visible results.
The price tag is steep—$775 for the treatment, which honestly makes my wallet quiver in shock—but if you have the money to spend, you’re much better off using it on a no-frills treatment like this that makes a noticeable difference in skin texture instead of a fancy-schmancy facial that only feels nice in the moment. Plus, it'll give you skin like a dumpling, and honestly, what's the price tag on that?
If you don't have a casual $775 to spare, I recommend trying one of these resurfacing, retexturizing products—I stand by all of them 100%.
This exfoliating scrub from Somerville's namesake line tingles upon impact and leaves your skin feeling ridiculously soft.
I'm always impressed with how much tighter and smoother my skin looks after using this acid-rich mask.
There's a reason this is a cult product. The results take longer to procure, but it works just as well as pricier counterparts in balancing my skin and gently exfoliating for a brighter glow over time.
For more information about Kate Somerville's facials and to book one yourself, click here. To book an LA treatment, call (323) 655-7546. To book a treatment in NYC, call Nordstrom’s Beauty Haven Concierge at (212) 295-2220.