The menu of possible pre-wedding beauty treatments is, simply put, way too large. If you listen to the internet you should be prioritizing everything from liposuction to lash growth serums in equal measure. As someone getting married myself, and as a longtime beauty editor, I find most of the treatments suggested to be meh if not negligible. If all you’re worried about is getting longer lashes and things like crow’s feet or arm tone don’t concern you, that’s excellent — you’ve already got your game plan. But if you’re looking at this vast world of possibilities, wondering how to get radiant glass skin for your wedding, I’ve put together a few recommendations of popular and impactful beauty treatments that you may find worth your time and money as a bride-to-be.
“First, everyone is so different with their goals, including their timeline, budget, and what they care about aesthetically,” says dermatologist Dr. Sheila Farhang who practices in Tucson, AZ and Los Angeles. “With my brides, we’re usually talking about texture like wrinkling, looking wide awake, a skin care plan, maybe dabbling with Botox and lip filler.”
For plastic surgeons, since their purview is different, the common requests can be more body focused. “The most common thing I see brides come in for is concerns about their dress fitting,” says Dr. Carolyn Chang, a Bay Area plastic surgeon.
As far as the timeline, ideally, you should see your dermatologist at least six months before your wedding day and your surgeon closer to a year before (many surgeries have months-long healing periods). This way you’re not getting, say, an injection for the first time just a month before your wedding and realizing you actually don’t like it with no way to reverse it. Plus, a lot of good derms and plastic surgeons may also have waitlists, so keep that in mind.
Below, I’ve taken advice from top doctors in different parts of the country, as well as my own experience so far, to compile a short list of truly effective treatments worth consideration before your wedding or any big event. (But just to note: Nothing beats a visit to a doctor to help you navigate what’s worthwhile and healthy for you.)
Intense pulse light (IPL) is often referred to as a laser but technically it is a super specific nanometer of light that targets different issues depending on the wavelength and is blasted into the skin in bursts. “IPL is good for overall skin improvement, whether it’s background sun damage or achieving that bridal glow,” says Dr. Dendy Engelman, a dermatologist in New York City. “It feels like tiny little smacks over the course of five to six minutes, but immediately you hand [clients] a mirror and they love the result.” I’ve received IPL from Dr. Engelman many times over the last 10 or so years for my post-acne red marks and not only does it work fast for those spots, but it also gives my skin a wonderful glow. The typical treatment plans includes two or three IPLs every month for two to three months. If you’re struggling with hyperpigmentation, you want to go at least six months before the big day but you can get really nice results with IPL even if it’s only six weeks before (it just may be more minimal results).
“IPL really helps reduce flushing, [so] you need less makeup,” says Dr. Farhang. “I used it when I was worried about being too flushed at my own wedding in Greece [in hot weather].” It’s also a good option for your chest to get rid of the brown and red splotches and spots, says Dr. Engelman. And it can also help smooth those tiny lines on the décolleté.
Something important to remember, however, is that not all IPL is the same. It is fairly easy to find cheap IPL treatments (sometimes referred to simply as “photofacials”) but you may find that they are not very effective because either the machine is not kept up or it is being used by an inexperienced practitioner who is instructed to use a very low energy setting in order to mass treat all kinds of people without adverse reactions. You may also find that in untrained hands those adverse reactions could include long term scarring. TZR recommends going to the office of a board-certified dermatologist for any and all cosmetic treatments.
At a dermatologist’s office IPL can be $500 to $1,000 and more per session depending on the size of area treated.
Neurotoxins, Your Way
It may feel like people just universally refer to “Botox” like it’s always referencing the same thing, but it is a brand name, like Kleenex. There are other neurotoxins on the market like Dysport and Xeomin. All of these neurotoxins work in the same way — by blocking neurotransmitter releases that cause muscle movement, resulting in short-term deliberate and targeted paralysis. (Feel free to get really deep in the weeds with this Botox explainer for first-timers.) Secondly, neurotoxins can be used in numerous ways to address a cosmetic concern that’s on your mind. While neurotoxins are only FDA approved for specific uses, doctors are allowed to use them “off-label” in other parts of the face besides the forehead and crow’s feet, including the jawline, nose, and chin.
“For example, sometimes people don’t want to do lip filler for budget reasons or aesthetic reasons, so we can sometimes do a ‘lip flip’ where we inject the top lip with neurotoxin and it helps that lip curl up and look more plump,” says Dr. Farhang.
But, just like an outfit fitting before your wedding, your first time doing a neurotoxin should be well before your wedding date — at least six months. Since it takes about three months for the results to wear off (and they are not reversible), you want to make sure you’ve experienced the effects at least once before the day to determine whether or not you like it.
Each brand has slightly different pricing but it can range from several hundred dollars per appointment to a few thousand.
There are a few different versions of microneedling facials, which are treatments that use multiple super tiny needles to puncture the skin all at once. The idea is similar to a Fraxel laser: By creating several small controlled punctures in the skin, it stimulates healing, which means more collagen and skin cell growth. The result is better skin texture, tone, glow, and firmness.
One such version sends radiofrequency through the needles to amp up the impact (you can read everything about radiofrequency microneedling here). Another is the famous “vampire facial” where they use your blood on top of these micro injuries to help improve that healing response. If you’ve heard of it before, don’t let old sketchy headlines skeeve you out — this is a well regarded treatment when in the right hands. Just research the heck out of your practitioner before you go.
A particularly interesting version of microneedling is something called the Aquagold. This small little tool is excellent at achieving a very subtle, but noticeable *boost.* Aquagold is a small thumb-sized canister topped with 20 microneedles with invisible spirals (imagine a screw with threading, but microscopic) that disperse liquid skin care straight into skin as it’s stamped across the face.
“I’ll put in a little Botox, filler, or vitamin C, and it helps with pore size, redness, fine lines, and glow,” says Dr. Farhang. “I would do it about six weeks before [your wedding]. You’ll look red for about a week after.”
Microneedling can run from hundreds of dollars to thousands depending on the device and additional products used such as neurotoxins and fillers.
This device contracts the muscles while destroying fat cells by using radio frequency and high intensity electromagnetic frequencies at the same time, and can be used on your abs, arms, buttock, or calves. After about three months after treatment, muscles will be more visible and that area will have less jiggle. (There are contraindications if you have metal implants or a copper IUD so share that info with your doctor.) The contractions and heat come in bursts of various tempos over the course of 30 minutes per session. The treatment is done in sets — typically four sessions spaced a few days apart. Clinical studies show an average of 30% fat reduction and 25% muscle increase after four sessions of EmSculpt NEO.
Prior to my wedding in the fall, I did EmSculpt NEO on my arms. When I did it, it felt extremely weird, like my arms were being zapped into feeling asleep and my forearms would kind of jolt in front of me. The first session I kind of hated it to be honest, but by my third session, it was very bearable because I just knew what to expect. I just watched Netflix and tried my best to ignore the zapping. Now, two months later, my triceps are more visible and my push ups got better, too.
“We target the lateral tricep fat,” says Dr. Engelman about the arm application. “It doesn’t give you, like, big linebacker arms, but it does help tone and trim the arms and most bridal dresses these days do expose the arms.”
One session can run from about $700 to just over $1000.
Small Area Liposuction
“Believe it or not, the lipo that I see a lot of people really wanting is in the axilla [the pocket of fat between the breast and the armpit] and on the sides of the breasts because that’s where you can get a ledge over the top of a strapless garment,” says Dr. Chang. “It’s a little treatment, but it’s a big thing people are looking at because women feel it opens up more dress options for them.”
That said, even though it’s a small area, you need around nine months to a year prior to the wedding. There are months of recovery time so that the swelling and scar tissue can fully resolve, and most people want these changes complete before they even go dress shopping.
How does lipo work exactly? “It’s a cannula [tube-like needle] that’s sharp at the end with little holes with sharp edges and a vacuum machine sucks fat through these holes,” says Dr. Chang. Patients are typically awake during the procedure with local anesthetics. The immediate recovery requires keeping the area dry for the next few days, no strenuous activity for two to three weeks and compression bandages for at least two weeks. Remaining tender areas in the months after should be massaged and scars treated topically.
This varies widely depending on the area treated, but for smaller regions the average cost is in the mid- to high-four figures.
Upper Eyelid Lift
Because most people get married in their 20s and 30s, they are almost never candidates for face lifts, but many women, especially those in their late 30s, ask to get an upper lid lift (AKA blepharoplasty) prior to the wedding. The great thing about this surgery is it’s one of the few you could get in under six months from the big day and be well recovered.
“Some women start to lose definition around their eyes, so if you do a really subtle upper eyelid blepharoplasty, it can really perk up your entire look,” says Dr. Chang. “That’s hands down one of the most popular procedures I do.”
During the procedure — which can be done just with local anesthesia or under twilight anesthesia — the surgeon will cut away a crescent of excess skin right in the crease of the eyelid. Scarring is minimal, but still somewhat visible when the eye is closed. An important note is that your doctor should be able to help you identify whether a droopy lid is truly due to excess skin, making you a blepharoplasty candidate, or more due to a heavy brow. If you’re curious about the procedure, check out this huge eyelid lift report with everything you need to know.
Depending on your surgeon (especially their region of the country) you can expect a range from $4,000 to about $10,000