Most facials are relaxing, luxuriant and painless. They involve steam, lotions, buffing, exfoliating and gentle massage, and most skin care practitioners can perform them well. Clinical facials, however, are a slightly different story. They can be uncomfortable, and they require a higher level of expertise. The difference is the extractions.
Extractions require some skill to do correctly. Finger or tool placement, appropriate pressure, and squeezing technique are all learned during hands-on training, and not all estheticians are equally adept. What's more, the skin must be properly prepared before beginning extractions. This process often includes steam, exfoliation, and treatment afterward with a mild disinfectant and a pore-minimizing wash, usually in the form of toner or cool water.
Done well, this process can lead to clearer skin. But extracting incorrectly, such as with pressure that's too firm or in the wrong direction, can lead to increased irritation, broken capillaries and additional acne problems. In a worst-case scenario, inappropriate extractions can even cause infection and scarring. Poorly performed extractions can also be pretty painful: When done correctly, extractions may be a little uncomfortable but shouldn't hurt.
These are good reasons not only to avoid performing your own extractions at home -- amateurs rarely do extractions correctly -- but also to check the credentials of the person performing your facial. Depending on where he or she practices, your esthetician may need a license from a state cosmetology board or board of health. He or she should be accredited by a legitimate cosmetology organization, and a little research might be in order to make sure the person working on your face has the appropriate level of training and experience.
In matters of the face, the safest route is the smart one. If researching an esthetician doesn't sound appealing, it might be wise to avoid the local day spa. Instead, just visit a dermatology office for your extractions, where it's pretty likely you'll find a suitably qualified doctor or esthetician to pop your zits.
For more information on extractions, facials and general skin care, check out the links on the next page.