13 Things to Know Before You Get a Facial

by Gerilyn Manago

If you’re going to drop big bucks on a professional facial, you should get your money’s worth. (I mean, the service is basically the equivalent of a Sephora shopping spree.) Of course, I believe you should #treatyoself on occasions like birthdays—hey, if Bruce Jenner can do it, so can you—but the post-college me is all about saving money. I’ve learned to do without things that I want and find happiness in things that I need. But still — sometimes a girl just needs a really good facial.

First, let’s make one thing clear: Facials aren’t just for the ladies. There are good reasons for guys to get them, too. Now that’s said, I consider myself pretty well-versed with beauty products, and I’ve had a facial or two before. But even I have questions about what makes a facial better than cleansing your own skin at home. So I reached out to a few experts to compile this list so you don’t drop all that dough and leave disappointed. Here are the 13 things you need to know before you get a facial.

1. Facials can be called different things at different places

For example, Los Angeles-based skin care brand Dermalogica doesn’t use the word “facial.” “We use the term ‘skin treatment’ because we believe in classifying skin care as a health issue as opposed to a cosmetic concern,” says Annet King, director of global education at International Dermal Institute and Dermalogica. Reminder: It just depends on the approach of your desired facility.

2. There’s a difference between a spa facial and a medi-spa facial

Speaking of facility, don’t assume all facials involve cucumbers slices over your eyes. A spa facial will probably focus more attention on your comfort and the ambiance, King says. But that doesn’t mean places that provide medi-spa facial like Dennis Gross Dermatology in New York City treats you like a clinical patient. All it means is the latter will be more likely to avoid excessive massage and oils. Courtney Brooks, the aesthetic director, says they stick to the basics in order to decrease the likelihood of skin irritation. So when you’re searching on Yelp, don’t limit your results to just spas. See if your favorite skin care brand has in-house services.

3. Plan ahead and arrive early

To avoid sounding like your mom, I’ll just say this: In order to get the most bang for your buck, you want to give yourself enough time to set expectations—for both you and your aesthetician. In my experiences, I’ve always had to fill out a consultation card before my facials. Think: Current medication, caffeine consumption, etc. So it wouldn’t hurt if you got to know yourself before you went in.

4. Go easy on the retinol before your appointment

Brooks tells clients to stop prescription or over-the-counter retinols one to three days before to their service. “This helps to lessen sensitivity and avoid irritation,” she says.

5. Think about wearing glasses.

If you wear contact lenses and are having a facial that includes steam, consider bringing saline solution and a case or just wearing your favorite opthalmics. “The steam can irritate contact lenses,” says Elena Arboleda, head aesthetician at Mario Badescu Skin Care.

6. You can arrive wearing makeup

Unless you plan on covering your face with large sunglasses and booking a weekend appointment, you’ll probably be going during your lunch break and wearing makeup. Although it’s helpful to go to your facial fresh faced, rest assured that it isn’t imperative. Just don’t go applying mascara right before you head out the door. That just seems unnecessary—and a waste of good product.

7. But consider rebooking if you have an open sore

It’s best to postpone a facial while you have a cold sore. “Most people don’t realize that cold sores are viral and can be introduced to other areas where there are mucus membranes, like the nose and eyes,” Arboleda says. So, take the high road. Your skin will thank you.

8. Communication is key

Think of your aesthetician as your regular doctor. He/she will want to know if you’re allergic to any common skin care ingredients or if you’re using prescribed medications from a dermatologist. Likewise, if you tend to have problematic skin, consult your dermatologist first. He/she can advise whether a facial tomorrow or a facial in two weeks would be best for your rosacea or cystic acne.

9. You probably won’t be nude

My suggestion: If you’re uncomfortable taking everything from the waist up off and only wearing a terry cloth wrap, opt for a strapless bra. Different spas and facials and offer different types of robes or blankets for clients, but it’s common for your neck and shoulders to get wet and be massaged during your treatment. So be prepared. Also, it isn’t required to take off your pants, but if you’re lying under a blanket for your facial, you’d probably be more comfortable in just your underwear. I know I am.

10. Things might heat up

Steam is often used to help facilitate removal of debris, open up follicles and soften the skin for better manual extractions, King says. But it also allows greater penetration of active ingredients.

11. You don’t need to come back weekly

Brooks recommends one professional facial with extractions approximately once a month. Follow-up treatments at-home are fine, she says, but leave the extractions to the experts. You wouldn’t dye your hair in your bathroom tub after getting it professionally highlighted, would you?

12. But you won’t leave poreless

“Some people are surprised that extractions can be a bit uncomfortable,” King says. “But it’s normal to be a bit red and blotchy after a treatment.” For this reason, your aesthetician may not be able to extract from every pore in one session. It all depends on the congestion of your skin. So don’t forego regular care. A facial every month doesn’t replace daily cleansing.

13. It’s customary to tip

So don’t be rude. 15 to 20 percent gratuity is a nice gesture—and a small price when you think about your skin’s health. Your face looks bomb.

Images: RelaxingMinds/Fickr; Giphy