Article by: Paula Begoun
Hype and Hope
Aside from the hype you read in fashion magazines and the pictures you see of women serenely wrapped in a towel with a mask on their face and cucumber slices over their eyes, the reality is facials can be hurtful or helpful, depending on the person who performs your facial, what exactly they are using, and what they are doing to your skin.
Without question, facials are not mandatory for you to have beautiful, healthy skin, but for some skin types, and when done right, facials can be a beautiful addition to your skin-care routine. On the flipside, when done wrong, they are a waste of time and can even damage your skin.
Benefits of a Facial
Many women who've had facials comment that they get them because it's a relaxing experience. But, ideally, a facial should be about skin care, not just relaxation. If the relaxing experience is the sole reason you get facials (meaning you don't see much of a difference in your skin from the experience), then you're better off getting a full body massage instead. That's far more relaxing and it doesn't put your skin at risk. Here is what a great facial can provide over and above a relaxing experience:
• Thoroughly cleansed skin.
• Softening and removal of blackheads and whiteheads (called milia) via manual extraction.
• Temporary improvement of severely dehydrated skin with rich, emollient products that begin restoring skin's natural barrier function.
• Plumping skin with a well-formulated moisturizer, which temporarily smoothes out wrinkles.
• Exfoliating skin with a gentle scrub, a light chemical peel, or a peel-off mask to achieve a smoother surface.
• Help to fade brown discolorations, improve skin tone, and significantly reduce wrinkles with a professional-strength AHA or BHA treatment.
It's important to keep in mind that what you do daily to take care of your skin is more important than what you do occasionally, but the combination of a great facial and a great skin-care routine can have impressive results.
What a Facial Cannot Do
Many people look to facials to address a range of skin-care concerns, from acne to wrinkles. A skilled aesthetician, using superior techniques and products, can help you address most of these issues, at least to some extent, but facials are not cure-alls, and they absolutely do not replace what you use at home on a daily basis. Here is what a facial cannot do:
• Eliminate acne.
• Permanently fade discolorations.
• Replace cosmetic corrective procedures such as Botox, lasers, or dermal fillers.
• Treat rosacea or persistent redness (oftentimes the products and the amount of manipulation involved during a facial make sensitive, reddened skin worse).
• Lift sagging skin.
• Eliminate dark circles or puffy eyes.
• Decongest skin and/or eliminate "toxins." (Skin cannot become "congested" and it doesn't contain toxins that your body cannot eliminate on its own via the liver and kidneys.)
Good vs. Bad Aestheticians
A good aesthetician (and there are many) will know how to help repair and maintain a healthy skin surface. This is important for all skin types, but especially if you have reddened skin, rosacea, eczema, acne, or sensitive skin.
A well-trained aesthetician also should ask you detailed questions about your skin, including what you do to take care of it and whether or not you're using any topical or oral prescription medications. Your answers to these questions will affect how the aesthetician treats your skin, including what type of products he or she will use. Above all else, a good aesthetician will take every precaution to avoid causing needless irritation to your skin. He or she should know that irritation can cause a host of problems, such as the following:
• Steaming skin, especially with abnormally hot steam, can worsen redness and potentially result in broken capillaries that show up as thin, spider-like lines.
• Being too aggressive with extractions for acne or blackheads can make clogged pores worse and push acne lesions deeper into your skin.
• Using essential oils, all of which may smell divine, but fragrance isn't skin care. All fragrance, synthetic or natural, causes irritation, and irritation harms your skin.
• Using products that contain irritating ingredients such as alcohol, camphor, or menthol. Even if you cannot see or feel the irritation, it's happening beneath the skin's surface. The result? Damaged collagen production and destruction of vital substances your skin needs to look young and healthy.
• Using "facial rejuvenation" devices without proper training or a working knowledge of what the client can realistically expect.
There are several types of facial rejuvenation devices an aesthetician may use during a facial.
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