The Best Low Downtime Treatments for A Pre-Wedding Refresh

Photographed by Chase Sevey

It’s easy to get caught up in the razzle dazzle of wedding prep, with so much advice being hurled at you from every direction about the “best” way of making the day count. But if you practice restraint anywhere, let it be in your beauty routine. No matter what a friend, dermatologist, or plastic surgeon may suggest, this is not the time to suddenly experiment with anything that could drastically alter your true appearance in the short term (or worse, long term).

As a bride (or a groom, for that matter), you should aim to look like yourself, but refreshed, well-rested, and radiant. For this, a slew of low (or no) downtime treatments has cropped up that can eliminate a range of skin issues from laxity to hyperpigmentation, and all with an absence of the flaking and irritation that was once associated with in-office procedures. “For most brides and grooms, their wedding day is one of the most important days of their life and they want to be looking their best,” shares Dr. Arash Akhavan of New York’s Dermatology and Laser Group. “Ideally, for those wanting to make cosmetic improvements in the months or weeks before their wedding day, procedures should be low risk, with little to no downtime, and should show visible but subtle results relatively quickly.”

In the spirit of quick and natural results, we’ve put together a list of the 10 best options that won’t leave you with regrets.

1. Smoothing and Lifting: TempSure

Like a low-key lift, this painless session offers steady, subtle results that prevent any shocking overnight changes. As a wand is rolled over activating gel on the skin, “most patients, about 99%, say the treatment feels like a relaxing hot stone massage!” explains Dr. Akhavan. “TempSure helps to smooth and tighten skin on the face as well as anywhere on the body. It’s great for almost anyone, and leaves you with a smooth glow,” he notes of the cutting-edge option. With zero recovery time, opt for a package of sessions ($1,000+) about 4-6 months ahead of the big day to leave time for max results.

2. Congestion: HydraFacial

If you’re tight on time, this is a great appointment to book for the week before your wedding. “It is quite a relaxing 40 minute procedure, which completely clears the pores of buildup from makeup, past products, and congestion!” Dr. Akhavan shares of the moisture-drenching treatment. What’s the secret? “Two very light chemical peels are involved, as well as a great exfoliating cleanser to rid the skin of dead, dull cells, leaving the skin with a dewy glow for up to one month post treatment.” At around $250 per facial, this is also a perfect for calming stress-induced acne break outs.

3. Sun Damage: Forever Young BBL (BroadBand Light)

If you’ve been hearing the term “BBL” thrown around and have no idea what it means, you’re not alone. “BBL is a laser treatment that uses a specific wavelength of light to pull pigment from the skin (such as sun damage & age spots),” shares Shay Moinuddin, MHA, CANS, RN, Aesthetic Nurse Specialist at Chicago’s next-level office, The Few Institute. “It can also use heat to destroy the lining of blood vessels, which helps to make them fade away or lighten significantly, and stimulates collagen production which helps to soften fine lines and shrink larger pores.” With minimal downtime (I saw little to no redness just minutes after she flashed my face), a series of 3-5 treatments about a month apart can brighten and smooth skin at around $350-650 per session.

4. Stubborn Areas: SculpSure

Your body is beautiful as it is, but that doesn’t mean that you aren’t allowed to seek improvement on the areas that you can’t take your eyes off of in the mirror—you’re only human! For little pockets of stubborn fat, there’s now an alternative to going under the knife. “SculpSure is a completely non-invasive way to eliminate fatty problem areas with absolutely no downtime and minimal effort,” says Dr. Akhavan. “A little contour in a particular area that typically gives someone concern can be life changing, especially leading up to a big day!” Utilizing periods of heating and cooling skin over the course of about 25 minutes, results can be seen in about three months. And its $1,600 price tag makes sense when you factor in zero days missed from work, as swelling is so slight you’ll likely barely notice.

5. Texture, Scars, and Pores: HALO by SCITON

What does a new hybrid fractional laser·mean for your skin? Basically, one to two treatments with its dual wavelengths can address multiple complexion issues, from acne scars to enlarged pores to uneven skin tone. The best part? You can walk out of a medi spa or doctor’s office and go straight back to your usual plans sans makeup, returning to your beauty routine the next day—with results shown in 3-5 days and only improving in the months ahead. “Our patients love HALO results,” Moinuddin shares of its popularity at The Few Institute for its ability to offer “little social downtime and corrects multiple issues in one visit.” At about $1,300 per session, prepare to walk out with what’s been deemed “The HALO Glow.” And for speedy recovery and sun protection post-treatment, try layering Alastin’s healing Regenerating Skin Nectar with its sun-protective HydraTint Pro Mineral Broad Spectrum Sunscreen for a necessary dose of moisture and SPF.

6. Fine Lines and Hyperpigmentation: PicoSure

One of the most popular treatments amongst aestheticians, PicoSure has become a go-to skin perfecting industry secret. I booked my session at The Dermatology and Laser Group and found it to be life changing— and painless thanks to numbing cream—though after just felt like I’d spent a day in the sun. “We take several steps pre-treatment to prep the skin and help numb, post treatment, the skin may feel slightly tighter with a subtle sun burn feeling of warmth for a few hours. “This procedure helps to build collagen to smooth fine lines and rejuvenate the skin, clear discoloration and even skin tone, minimize pore size and textural issues, lessen the appearance of acne scarring, and more!” Dr. Akhavan enthuses of his office all-star. “It is basically your one-stop-shop to gorgeous skin, especially when done several times over the course of a few months.” Start the $1,100+ treatments about 4 months before your wedding date to leave time for a complexion evolution—3-4 are best for superior results, but if you’re like me, you’ll see a difference after just one.

7. Tightening and Toning: Vivace Microneedling RF

“A lot of brides will come in before their bridal shower and bachelorette parties, then get a second treatment a couple of weeks before the wedding,” Dr. Kelly DeWolfe of Chicago’s Elevare MD clinic shares as we discuss the futuristic microneedling option that’s become a pre-wedding phenomenon thanks to its use of radiofrequency to tighten skin. You can see results for about 8 weeks, meaning you can schedule in advance and won’t have to overlap with urgent hair and nail appointments that butt up against the date. “It is always shocking to patients when they realize the lack of pain and how minimal the downtime is yet how well they notice results,” DeWolfe notes of increased smoothness, reduction in pore size, collagen stimulation (thanks to red LED light) and acne prevention (thanks to blue LED light). Plus, with about 4 hours of downtime, the $900-1,1000 treatment is so precise that even the delicate areas under the eyes and around the mouth can be treated. What’s more, the teeny tiny channels created by its gold-tipped needles remain open for hours post-treatment, making recovery serums and PRP (platelet rich plasma used to harness the body’s natural growth factors) easily absorbable for an even more impressive long-term glow.

8. Exfoliation and Makeup Priming: Dermaplaning and Microdermabrasion

If you’re looking for a way to slough off dead skin cells, skip abrasive drug store options and turn to a professional. “Another very easy, no downtime procedure that can give a bride a beautiful glow and will also help her make-up go on smoothly and look flawless is dermaplaning the face followed by microdermabrasion,” Moinuddin notes of The Few Institute’s signature exfoliation procedures. According to Moinuddin, the now-buzzy procedure is more than just shaving your face with a sharp scalpel: “Dermaplaning removes the cellular debris and excess sebum from the hair follicle, while microdermabrasion exfoliates the excess dead skin while infusing serums into the tissue. The result is healthy, soft, hydrated skin.” Best utilized the week before the wedding, a combined $300 session for both can provide silky smooth skin that’s perfectly prepped for a glassy photo finish.

9. Loss of Volume: Fillers

A procedure only to be trusted to the most advanced professional, well-placed filler can help restore fullness that’s been lost over time. “Fillers can give an instant boost of volume in the cheek, smooth facial folds, help to hide any under eye circles, or give the lips a subtle pout!” shares Dr. Akhavan of the treatment for which his light touch has gained a following. With a longer downtime of about two weeks, this option should be handled with absolute care. “Fillers are generally well tolerated by patients, as lidocaine in the solution helps on its own to ease any discomfort,” he explains, though topical numbing cream and ice is still part of office protocol. The $850 treatment is best wielded 6 weeks before the wedding to be sure that swelling and possible bruising has completely subsided in time for the party.

10. At-Home Options: NEWA and ReFa CARAT FACE 

If a bevy of appointments is just too much to handle with all of the wedding prep stressors, rest easy knowing that consistent use of new at-home options can approximate results of certain treatments. NEWA’s handheld microcurrent device can be swept over skin while you binge on rom coms to create a boost in collagen and subtle lift, while ReFa CARAT FACE is gaining a cult following from makeup artists for its toning abilities. “You can’t overuse the ReFa!” Enthuses celebrity makeup artist Jamie Greenberg, known for perfecting the complexions of clients like Rashida Jones and Busy Phillips. “I often find myself using it a few times a day on my face, arms and shoulders. In the months leading up to the wedding, I encourage my clients to use it before bed each night and in the morning after they wash their faces.” Known for its signature Double Drainage rollers, the sparkling tool firms and rejuvenates. “After using the Refa, you can expect your skin to look firmer and more toned, which gives you a more youthful appearance,” Greenberg assures. “What else could you ask for on your wedding day?”

—Arden Fanning Andrews