What is involved in a Facial?

One of the best gifts you can give to yourself is the luxurious and practical self-care treat: a facial.

We all know from popular media that it can be one of the most enjoyable and relaxing spa or salon services available, but a facial can also be highly practical and results-oriented.

Besides improving skin tone, texture, and appearance, facials often fit into the preventative or corrective categories.

Two basic facial categories

A preventative facial

Maintains the health of the skin by cleansing correctly, increasing circulation, relaxing nerves, while activating skin glands and metabolism through massage and cleansing techniques.

A corrective facial

As the name suggests, corrects some skin conditions like dryness, oiliness, comedones, aging, and acne-related imperfections. The latter facial category typically involves professional products, and more powerful techniques to increase circulation, activate glandular activity, relax nerves, maintain muscle tone, and strengthen weak muscle tissues.

If you have never received a facial before, you might be wondering what one in either category entails. So, what is a facial exactly?

Facials, generally speaking

While there are some basic and general elements that all facials share, there is also a wide variety of facial treatment types for targeting specific aspects of our clients’ individual needs. 

Most facials will involve: cleansing and exfoliating the skin, improving circulation, reducing stress and tension, removing toxins, extractions, reducing aging skin factors, and, of course, a relaxing massage.

However, the skincare products used, the methods applied, and many other details can vary greatly depending on what your skin is telling the esthetician. Since there is no one “perfect skin,” and many of us will seek out facials for highly specific reasons at different times, there can also never be just one facial treatment that is perfect for everyone.

For that reason, the best facial will always be a treatment that is customized just for you based on a client consultation before your session. This will be where you discuss with your esthetician a variety of details -from skin type to lifestyle and even skincare routines- in order to create your customized facial that is perfect for you.

Pre-treatment consultation

A consultation should always be offered to you before a facial. If this is not offered, that is a strong red flag to run, and fast. Book your facial at a salon where an esthetician wants to take some time to learn more about what is best for you.

Even when you are not a first-time client at a spa or salon, the skin care specialist should still do a private consultation with you. All skin can change over time, and the concerns you may have had even just a month or two ago can change drastically depending on the season, lifestyle changes, products, hormones, or even just the passage of time.

During the consultation, your esthetician will ask questions like if your skin is dry, normal, oily, dehydrated, or aging, as well as if you are concerned with any signs of aging, comedones or acne, hyperpigmentation, or dilated capillaries. All the information gathered at this stage will be recorded in client notes with a treatment plan and your consent form.

Your esthetician will then explain the steps of your treatment, as well as the prices and any discounts available to you, and you will get to ask any questions you might have about the process. This information will all be kept on file for future reference and to ensure consistency in your treatments. At the end of this step, your esthetician will invite you to get ready on the bed, put on relaxing music, and adjust the lights.

During your facial

It will start off with relaxing deep cleanse and facial massage that should last several minutes – sometimes up to 10 minutes. Take this time to relax and sink into the gift you are giving your mind and body with a facial.

The esthetician will typically use an oil-based cleanser, and then a water-based cleanser to massage your face, before toning, and then exfoliating. Float away into the music, but make sure you are comfortable. The skin care professional should make sure to check in with you about your comfort level.

After this, a skin analysis is generally performed. Your esthetician should take the time to analyze your face at this stage, some times using a Wood’s lamp, magnifying lamp, infrared lamp, skin scanner, or other equipment. These tools can help him or her analyze smaller details like pigmentation, texture, fine lines, skin tone, and other issues beneath the surface of the skin.

Depending on the type of facial you receive (determined by the results of your client consultation and skincare analysis), there is some equipment you are likely to experience during your facial.

For example, a steamer is pretty common, and is used in all facial treatments unless the client is getting microneedling at the time. This is used to help open the pores to ease the later exfoliation and extraction process. Your esthetician might also use galvanic or tesla brushes, ultrasonic scrubbers, ice rollers, and many other gear options skincare professionals have in stock for a variety of specialized procedures.

All professional facials should also include the application of a personalized mask left on for 10 to 15 minutes, and the use of moisturizing products such as eye cream, face lotion, and sunscreen depending on the specific needs and time of day.

Immediately after your treatment

When the facial treatment stage is complete, your esthetician will let you know by adjusting the light and the music. They will ask you to change and leave the room so you can do so, while they prepare some at-home products you can sample for your post-treatment routine in the weeks to come. It will be important for you to use the correct products to maintain the results of your facial for as long as possible through continued daily care.

Once you are dressed again, the esthetician will return to the room with samples of the products they believe will be best for you, so you can try them out on the back of your hand. You will discuss the skincare routines you currently have in place, and your skincare specialist will help you make the best choices about which products can be easily supplemented into your current routine or what changes can be made within your process, application, or frequency so that your post-facial glow lasts longer in the weeks to come.

The immediate effects of your facial will last between five and seven days. Your skin will look and feel plump, hydrated, and radiant. You can, however, make it last longer with some helpful tips your skin care professional will advise.

Post-facial and client aftercare

The best skincare treatments will always include at-home products and maintenance follow ups. To extend the results of your facial, you will need to keep your skin hydrated daily with a gentle cream. Your esthetician will let you know that you should not wash your face that night right after your facial. As well, do not wear make up for at least a day afterward. Any redness you might be experiencing post-facial is normal, so don’t worry. Drink plenty of water. You will also need to exfoliate weekly, but not right away. Wait 10 days after your facial before you exfoliate, and choose a gentle scrub. You should also incorporate into your routine a vitamin C serum to boost collagen and reduce the appearance of wrinkles, and/or nourishing oils. Ensure you wear sunscreen generously as always and reapply every two hours.

Absolutely do not pick at your skin. And be sure to avoid any at-home peels or retinoids for the first week after your facial. Since your facial will have included a steaming, you will want to avoid any opportunities for irritation or broken capillaries. This means, you should not go to the gym for at least 48 hours post-treatment. The same thing goes for saunas and steam rooms since these could over-exfoliate and burn your already thoroughly deep-cleansed skin. 

Additionally, you should not: tan, wax, shave, or do any laser hair removal treatments. Another thing you can do to ensure longevity of your facial treatment is book your follow-up appointment right after your session. For best results, facial appointments should be about four to six weeks apart. At the very minimum, facials can be scheduled at least quarterly.

A facial is for you and only you

If this will be your first facial, it is good going into it knowing exactly what will be in store for you. While most facials will work to improve skin tone, texture, and appearance, there are many different types of facials, even more so than just the two basic preventative and corrective categories.

They can be pampering self care gifts offered to loved ones (including yourself), but they can also be highly results-oriented with dozens of approaches, equipment, products, and application options that are best offered customized to the specific skin you are in.

Most importantly, a facial is a luxurious and practical self-care treat because it is highly customizable, meant for you and only you.

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