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Should You Get a Facial?

Is getting a facial worth your time and money? The reality is that facials can be helpful or a waste of time (even hurtful), depending on the skill of the person performing it and the products they use. Here’s exactly what you need to know before you book a facial.

Are Salon/Spa Facials Necessary?

While salon/spa facials can deliver noticeable short-term results, they’re not essential to having great skin. It’s much more important to care for your skin on a daily basis at home, rather than to rely on an occasional facial.

Think of it like exercise: Working out once a month with a trainer won’t maintain your health, but a consistently healthy lifestyle will. The same goes for your skin. Putting together a great daily skincare routine far outweighs the benefits of an occasional facial.

That said, we totally understand that it’s fun to be pampered, and the instant results of a facial can be alluring.

The Potential Benefits of a Great Facial

  • Removal of blackheads and small, hard whiteheads (called milia) via manual extraction.
  • Temporary improvement of severely dehydrated skin with rich, emollient, nourishing masks.
  • Plumping of skin with a well-formulated moisturizer, which temporarily smooths out wrinkles.
  • Exfoliation with a gentle scrub or microdermabrasion to achieve an extremely smooth surface.
  • Reduction of discoloration and the appearance of wrinkles with a high-strength AHA or BHA chemical peel.

Facial Treatments to Avoid

A good esthetician will take every precaution to avoid needlessly irritating your skin by overdoing peels, microdermabrasion, extractions, or using harsh scrubs. But there are some facial treatments that even the pros don’t realize are hurting skin. Watch out for:

  • Abnormally hot steaming of skin, which can worsen redness and cause broken capillaries.
  • Overly aggressive extraction of acne lesions or blackheads, which can make clogged pores worse and push acne lesions deeper into your skin.
  • So-called “essential oils;” they may smell great, but they cause irritation and leave your skin worse off in the long run—even if you don’t see or feel signs of irritation on the surface of skin.
  • Products that contain skin-aggravating ingredients such as alcohol, camphor, or menthol, which deplete vital substances that keep skin healthy.
  • Facial massage, if you have broken capillaries, rosacea, or sensitive skin; massages can overstimulate circulation and exacerbate these issues.

What About Chemical Peels and Facial Devices?

High-strength chemical peels can be helpful for advanced skin concerns such as discolorations, acne scars, and wrinkles, but they’re expensive, and aren’t cures. If you’re curious about other procedures and devices often used during facials, most lack published research showing they have any benefit for skin.

At-Home Facial Treatments

If you’re wondering if there are facial-like treatments you can do at home, the answer is absolutely, yes!

One of the most noticeable benefits of a facial is achieved by regular use of a leave-on exfoliant. A well-formulated alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) or beta hydroxy acid (BHA) treatment is great for evening out skin tone, building collagen, and revealing smoother, younger-looking skin.

The best part about AHA and BHA treatments is you don’t need a facial to get them. Check out our favorite AHA and BHA exfoliants, which you can (and should) use as part of your normal skincare routine. These are lower strength than those you can get in a professional setting, but they’re gentler on skin, and (when used daily) they deliver results that are just as good.

What about facial masks? Quality-wise, these are no different from what a spa or salon facial can provide. Find the best facial mask for your specific skin type by searching our favorites here.

Of course, every good facial ends with a sunscreen rated SPF 30 or greater. Find our recommendations for brilliantly formulated daytime moisturizers with sunscreen here.

References for this information:

Skin Research and Technology, January 2017, ePublication
Clinical, Cosmetic, and Investigational Dermatology, August 2015, pages 455–461
Biochimica et Biophysica Acta, May 2012, pages 1410–1419
Jundishapur Journal of Natural Pharmaceutical Products, January 2012, pages 9–10
Evidence Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, June 2011, ePublication
British Journal of Dermatology, November 2000, pages 923–929