IV nutrient therapy has emerged as a trendy way to improve skin health from the inside out.
But does it work?
You’re likely familiar with IV drips and infusions as they relate to medicine. The method, which delivers an intravenous solution directly into the vein via a syringe or cannula, is regularly used to replenish fluids when patients are dehydrated, correct electrolyte imbalances, and deliver medication. On the wellness front, such treatments have long been marketed to treat hangovers and boost energy (here’s looking at you, vitamin B12 shots), so it was only a matter of time before they made their way into the beauty space, too.
“We use IV therapy for a few reasons,” says Julie Russak, MD, a New York City-based dermatologist and founder of Russak Dermatology. “It’s used to detox the body if we have found toxic elements, to decrease inflammation, or to infuse antioxidants. An added benefit is that IVs have the ability to provide instant hydration.”
All of the said uses can have a positive effect on the skin, and the 45-minute procedure is relatively straightford and painless. Patients are hooked up to the IV via a vein in their hand or arm and are simply asked to sit back and relax while the drip gets to work. Once it’s complete, the practitioner will remove the cannula, apply a bandage to the injection site, and perhaps check your blood pressure before sending you on your way.
The hydration benefits of the infusion to kick in almost immediately, and the nutrients begin to work around 12 to 24 hours after treatment.
So, which nutrients are best for intravenous skincare?
In a world increasingly obsessed with customization, beauty products have remained largely one size fits all. IV therapy, however, offers a personalized experience because nutrients can be cocktailed to treat any number of skin or health concerns.
“We specifically use vitamin C, vitamin B, and glutathione to benefit the skin,” says Dr. Russak. And there is more where that came from. IV therapy pioneer David Colbert, MD, founder of New York Dermatology Group and ColbertMD skincare, shares that drips with “magnesium chloride, zinc, vitamin B-complex, vitamin B12, ascorbic acid, and electrolytes” are also common.
If you maintain a healthy lifestyle, stay hydrated, and have a good diet, is there any point in adding IV therapy to the mix? The short answer is yes.
“The benefit of IV nutrient therapy is the direct delivery of nutrients into the body,” says Dr. Russak. “It bypasses the digestive system, which could be decreasing absorption of nutrients due to an inflamed or leaky gut.”
So while eating nutrient-rich foods is obviously paramount to overall health, intravenous delivery is the fastest and most effective way to deliver vitamins straight to where the body needs them. Similar logic can be extended to skincare. When comparing IV therapy to topical skincare, the difference lies in how the body processes the ingredients.
With topicals, there is an active ingredient and a so-called “delivery system” to transport it into the skin. While the blend of ingredients can certainly change the appearance of the complexion, topicals can’t address the root cause of many skin concerns: the gut. IV therapy, meanwhile, can.
Infusions are rich in antioxidants (namely, glutathione) that have the ability to remove toxins from the body (hence, why IV therapy is such a popular hangover treatment!). Without proper detox, such toxins can be linked to skin concerns like acne, dermatitis, eczema, and premature aging. Coupled with the additional vitamins and minerals found in IV nutrient infusions, skin health can be improved from the inside out with routine treatment.
“The ideal IV therapy patient is anyone seeking a solution to chronic problems or simply wanting their body to function at its prime,” says Dr. Russak. “The skin is a mirror of what’s going on in the gut. I see patients with breakouts or chronically irritated skin and, after they opt into our wellness program, we get to the bottom of the cause and create a step-by-step plan to rebalance the system. This plan often includes IV nutrient therapy.”
Because the effects of IV therapy are immediate, Dr. Colbert says it can be used as both a preventative and remedial method for boosting hydration and vitamin levels — whether your concerns involve skincare, hangovers, or anything in between. At his New York Dermatology Group, the aptly named Inbound and Outbound drips, for example, are formulated to relieve the stress put on the body during travel, while the Immunity Infusion is designed to help patients avoid getting sick.
Patients may utilize a one-off drip to counterbalance jet lag, get a pre-event boost, or ward off illness, but, especially as it relates to the complexion, regular compliance will yield the best results.
“We use IV therapy as part of our Comprehensive Wellness Analysis program — not as a one-time quick fix. Our program is designed with long term benefits in mind,” says Dr. Russak. “Patients notice results the very next day, and we recommend they come in once every three weeks.”
How long the effects of an infusion last depends on a person’s lifestyle and metabolism, but glowier skin is typically enjoyed for at least two weeks. Treatments cost $100 or more, and it is important to ensure you are being cared for by a trained professional.
“IVs must be administered only under a doctor’s monitoring and, ideally, with pre-blood work completed first to ensure the right ingredients are included for the patient's individual needs,” Dr. Russak shares. “Some patients can have allergic reactions due to certain IV medications, so its vital to have a professional supervise.”
Intravenous therapy cannot replace a healthy lifestyle and good skincare routine, but it can be a worthy addition to a beauty and wellness regimen that is looking to address the cause of skin health and concerns from the inside out. Whether you’re looking for a burst of hydration, multivitamin boost, or detox, IVs can offer customized solutions with benefits that go far beyond complexion perfection.