What Kind of Facial Should I Get?
“I am 22 and having trouble deciding on what kind of a facial treatment — my first — to get from a Day Spa on my vacation. I have read the brochures and talked to my friends, and when I read and hear about an aromatherapy facial, that’s what I want. Then I read about a mud mask and then that’s what I want. Then I read about a vitamin facial, and that sounds good too. My skin is pretty normal most of the time, but at other times has pretty bad acne breakouts. Help!!!” — Angel R.
You’ve indicated your spa treatment will be while you are on vacation. This suggests you won’t be able to establish any kind of history with your provider, who therefore can’t really “get to know your skin” or you for purposes of developing a specific plan for your skin, which is very important. Were I age 22, going on vacation, and having a spa treatment, I’d choose something relaxing, enjoyable, fun, or restorative, rather than something therapeutic for acne prone skin. The proper time for that kind of appointment is when you return back home.
With that said, you’re certainly not alone in your confusion in the array of facials now being offered at Day Spa and Skin Care facilities. In the survey we featured on Spa Index a year ago, results showed more than 40% of spa visitors are specifically seeking a facial for beauty treatment or a skin condition (the second most popular treatment being pedicures). With the treatment packages growing longer and longer, it can be difficult to decide not only which facial you want, but which facial is most appropriate for your skin type and age.
Fortunately, the aestheticians you will meet — when you are ready to begin caring for your skin with the services of an aesthetician — have the best answer for you. In your case, because you have youthful skin and you’ve never had a facial before, you should tell the aesthetician this information in advance so he or she may plan time accordingly. While many day spas may require you to book a specific treatment in advance, you’ll find a quick skin care consultation may dictate a change of plan. Your skin care provider will likely (and should) give you a questionnaire to fill out when you arrive at the spa, and he or she will review this with you, and examine your skin, and make a recommendation. Plan on arriving early to complete this form, and to assure the time allotted for you is enough to cover both the consultation and the treatment.
So how do you weigh a decision between recommendations from an aesthetican and treatments best left to a dermatologist (a medical doctor specializing in diseases and cosmetic problems of the skin, scalp, hair, and nails)?
With more and more Day Spas offering advanced skin care services, it’s important to understand what can, and cannot, be offered by an aesthetician. Your day spa aesthetic provider can deep-clean, smooth and soften your skin, and can treat both stress symptoms and skin problems on the face, scalp and shoulder areas through massage and use of aromatherapy or skin conditioning agents, including chemical peels and microdermabrasion. Your day spa provider should NOT treat or deflate deep or large pimples and cystic acne, offer cortisone injections, or perform laser peels to remove wrinkles or sun damage — unless these services are being performed in a medical spa environment under the supervisor of a licensed medical provider or dermatologist.
We can’t emphasize enough the importance of sitting down and having an earnest discussion with your skincare provider (whether that be at your dermatologist’s office or your day spa). Don’t be vague — tell him or her your expectations, what you’d most like to achieve, and what you can afford. Don’t be shy about this. The more candid you are up front, the less chance you’ll be disappointed when you leave with a moist face, but an empty purse.
Do tell your skin care provider of any medical conditions, including rosacea, eczema, allergies, pregnancy, and high or low blood pressure. Do tell your skin care provider about any over the counter products you currently use — some ingredients in these products can react with the potent products used at a spa facility. Do ask how long the treatment lasts. Some treatments only require 30 minutes, while others require two hours. Depending on how long your consultation will last, take a bag of your skincare products and make-up with you, or if that’s not convenient, snap a photo with your phone so you can refer to brands, if asked. Your provider may wish to counsel you on ingredients (which can be pretty horrifying).
Now, with that out of the way, on to the facials! Those intoxicating descriptions we read in a Day Spa brochure all sound so wonderful, we want to sample from the Facial Buffet. Here are some basic facts about what to expect from the different types of facials available at most Day Spas. Most of your higher end Day Spas will offer premium skin care products, but we have listed some very basic types of skin care products as they are most readily available at all budget levels. Naturally, methods and details depend on the provider, and this a very general guide.
European Facial — deep cleans skin and unclogs pores. This is an extraction facial, where blackheads are removed and a mask (usually charcoal, mud or clay) is applied. Hand extraction is preferred for delicate skin.
Acne Facial — controls breakouts. This is usually a steam facial with manual extraction of blackheads and whiteheads, usually followed by a mask which may include tea tree oil or other natural antiseptic properties, benzoyl peroxide, zinc or sulfur. If you have severe cystic acne, this facial isn’t for you.
Aromatherapy Facial —
offers relaxation and stress reduction. This is usually an extraction-free facial. Your face, and possibly your shoulders and scalp, will be massaged with aromatic products and oils such as lavender, ylang-ylang, or herbal remedies. If you have sensitive skin and your eyes water easily at the discomfort of extraction, but you crave the pampering, this is a facial for you.
Glycolic Facial —
offers glowing skin. The dull, dead cells from your face will be removed with a glycolic acid mask, lotion, or gel, followed by a moisturizer.
Vitamin Facial —
firms up your tired skin. Your skin will be exfoliated with a mask, followed by a soothing vitamin gel or serum mask. Sometimes high-frequency and painless electric wands are used to speed ingredient penetration to the deepest layers of the skin (a process called iontophoresis). This is sometimes called a “Galvanic Facial” and I really enjoy the results of this method.
Paraffin Facial —
hydrates very dry skin. Your skin will be bathed with a rich emollient such as sweet almond oil, avocado, algae or shea butter. The warm paraffin mask is applied to seal in the moisture and increase ingredient penetration.
Hot Stone Facial —
for the Yoga enthusiast. Warmed stones are gently placed on chakra energy points while you are massaged with warm oils.
Good luck, and come back and write after you’ve had your first facial, and let us know all about it.