Facials are fabulous: better-looking skin, an instantaneous glow and pores that seem virtually invisible. But, for the best result (as anyone who has ever left the table with a complexion that’s more red than radiant), it’s absolutely essential to know what to look for—and what questions to ask beforehand. Below are some of our favorite no-fail tips, straight from the experts.
Communicate Your Concerns
The list of facials on any menu can seem overwhelming, and not every facial is right for every skin type, or condition. “Always communicate your main skin concern to your aesthetician to properly select the appropriate facial,” says celebrity aesthetician Renee Rouleau. “Facials can do so many things including gently and safely cleaning out pores, absorbing active ingredients deeper into skin, exfoliating to accelerate cellular turnover, smoothing skin and refining pores, and invigorating and stimulating blood circulation to get skin glowing.”
Honesty is Key
One of the golden rules for life is also relevant for getting a facial. “My advice is to tell your aesthetician about all of the allergies you have or even think you may have, including allergies to things like latex, dairy and seaweed, for example,” says celebrity aesthetician Mandy Epley. “It’s better to be safe than sorry.”
Pause Some Products
According to Smithtown, NY, dermatologist Marina Peredo, MD, prior to having a facial, it’s important to discontinue the use of vitamin A derivatives such as retinol and retinoic acid for three to five days. “In addition, don’t forget to tell your aesthetician if you have been using any DIY home peels or microdermabrasion,” she says. “Medical history is also important. There are certain conditions that are just not compatible with certain treatments.”
Don’t Skip the Stress Relief
Do not underestimate the power of touch. “Stress is one of the major factors that contribute to skin issues like acne and sensitivity,” explains Anna De La Cruz, licensed aesthetician and brand manager for glo therapeutics. “During a facial, lighter touch movements will help to stimulate microcirculation and deeper massage will help to relieve tension and stress. You will leave feeling renewed both inside and out.”
You May Be Too Sensitive for Steam
Think steam is the must-include step of a facial? Not necessarily. A steam-emitting machine, positioned close to the skin, can “open up” pores and soften oil that has hardened within them. “Steam prepares the skin for extractions,” says celebrity aesthetician Joanna Vargas. “But, some skin types are too sensitive for it. And, if not done properly, it can cause extreme redness and even burn the skin.” Adds Boca Raton, FL, aesthetician Cheryl Staurowsky, “Some clinicians like using alphahydroxy acids to soften sebum and cellular buildup, as opposed to steam, making extractions easier and less traumatizing to the skin.”
Not All Facials Are Created Equal
Facials are offered almost everywhere, from salons and spas to dermatologists’ and plastic surgeons’ offices—but there are differences between them. Generally speaking, a spa facial is a more relaxing and pampering experience, one where skin problems can be tackled, but the ingredients and overall experience is typically more soothing. And while these types of facials can be effective, they may not be as strong or medically based as what you can get at a doctor’s office. “Medical facials are great for those with specific skin concerns who need a clinical approach to get the results they want,” says Staurowsky. In these types of facials, stronger concentrations and prescription-strength ingredients, like retinoids and hydroquinone can be used, as well as light- and laser-based treatments, more aggressive peels and microdermabrasion.