Imagine hydrating steam infusing your skin, a massaging touch moving across your forehead, cheeks and chin, and a nourishing serum working its way into your skin as the muscles in your face relax and soften. A skillful facial offers all of these, not to mention the chance to let your mind and body rest. While there are plenty of face treatments to choose from, the main purpose of most facials is to thoroughly clean your skin, rid it of impurities and feed it with vitamins, minerals and nutrients such as vitamins A, C, and E, as well as peptides and hyaluronic acid—a process that brings other benefits and will leave your complexion refreshed and radiant.
Before your facial starts, be sure to speak to your esthetician about any concerns you may have, from dry skin to products or ingredients that you’ve had bad reactions to in the past. Tell her if you have allergies and what your current skincare regimen is, including any medications you take (whether internally or applied to the skin) that might cause a reaction or increase your skin’s sensitivity. She will also be able to choose appropriate products for your skin type by doing an analysis at the beginning of your treatment using a magnifying lamp. Additionally, she can educate you on which products to use (and not use) at home that will benefit your needs and concerns.
Benefits of Facials
You can expect even a basic facial treatment to deliver these rewards:
A Deep Cleanse Using cotton pads or wipes, your facialist will begin with an overall cleansing of the skin on your face, neck, and décolletage. Exfoliation is essential to preparing the skin before extraction. Then, warm steam is used to soften the skin’s surface and pores, which allows bacteria and dirt to escape; this makes pore extractions easier. Steam also increases perspiration, helping your skin’s blood vessels to dilate, which improves circulation beneath the surface, aids in lymphatic drainage (the natural release of fluid from your tissues) and contributes to a glowing complexion. Speak up if the steam is too hot or you are otherwise uncomfortable. You may want to ask your esthetician to skip the steam altogether if you have a skin condition, like rosacea.
Unclogged Pores Even the most basic facial usually includes pore extraction. This can sometimes be uncomfortable as your facialist gently squeezes blackheads or whiteheads—early signs of acne—from your pores. This is commonly done with a sterilized blackhead extraction tool (a device with a small metal loop on the end), otherwise known as a comedone extractor; nails can damage the skin or transfer bacteria, so your facialist should wrap her fingertips in cotton or tissue if using her hands.
A Glowing Appearance Whether it’s done with a gentle, grainy scrub or a chemical peel (such as salicylic acid or a fruit enzyme), exfoliation removes the top layer of dead skin cells to reveal healthier, more radiant skin underneath. This step, which often involves a feel-good massage of facial muscles, also enables any serums or moisturizers applied later to penetrate the skin more effectively. If your esthetician uses a salicylic acid scrub, it's normal to feel a slight tingle, but it should never burn or sting.
Softer, Smoother Skin A facial should not only help your complexion look better, but it should feel better, too. Products applied during your treatment, like serums, moisturizers and masks—and, in particular, collagen masks—help hydrate your skin, making it appear plump and smooth and less prone to irritation from pollution, UV rays and inflammation-producing foods.
Here are four specific types of facials that offer various results that you may see on your spa menu:
Acu-Facial This treatment may combine acupuncture with a classic facial or rely on acupuncture alone. Benefits of facial acupuncture include improved muscle tone and circulation, and a decreased appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Check to see if your facialist is a licensed acupuncturist.
Anti-Acne Facial This deep-cleansing facial is designed to treat breakouts and reduce future ones. You can expect extra extractions, a salicylic acid peel (also called a beta hydroxy peel), a detoxifying mask—often clay—and a light moisturizing treatment. Likely, a toner will be applied after extraction or a high-frequency machine will be used to sterilize skin at a deeper level.
Anti-Aging Facial This is an umbrella term for a variety of facials. Common age management facials include an exfoliating alpha-hydroxy peel, collagen treatments to plump the skin and vitamin C masks to boost radiance.
Galvanic Facial During this treatment, your facialist electrically stimulates your skin with a handheld device, giving it a temporary lift. The electric current also helps moisturizer penetrate skin more deeply.
You may see other facials, like Oxygen Facial, Aromatherapy Facial, Antioxidant Facial and more, offered on the menu as well. Ask your esthetician if you’re unsure which treatment might be right for you.
Your skin can benefit from an at-home treatment too. Try this simple yogurt-based facial (the natural enzymes in yogurt are gentle exfoliants) once a week for a radiant, glowing complexion:
Basic Yogurt Facial
Mix ½ cup plain yogurt with the juice from half an orange and apply the mixture to your entire face. Let it set for 15 to 20 minutes before rinsing off with warm water. If you're concerned about breakouts, mix in a tablespoon of honey—a natural astringent that can help deep-clean pores.