Top 5 Tips for Choosing a Spa Facial

choosing a facial
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A relaxing facial with steam and massage can be a great way to renew your spirit and skin from the outside in. When you're contemplating a little pampering, though, don't make the mistake of thinking that all spas are created equal or that all potential facials will offer what their ads promise. Spa facials come in all shapes, sizes and price tags. Be sure to understand what you want, and evaluate the potential offerings carefully.

You may need heavy-duty help in dealing with an acne problem or just want to clean and hydrate your slightly oily skin. Your special needs and the ambiance offered by the spa will have a lot to do with the services you receive and how much you end up paying for them.


Some spa related benefits have to do with atmosphere more than results, so take that into consideration, too. An aromatherapy treatment to go along with your facial may be one of the little extras that makes your visit feel special, but remember that it's part of a service and will typically cost more than a simple trip to the day-spa at the mall. If you think soaking up the lush atmosphere is part of the experience, then enjoy the heated towels and sandalwood candles. Otherwise, select a spa with a more no-frills style.

Let's proceed to the next page where we'll take a closer look at understanding your skin care needs.

5: Evaluate Your Needs

Even though you may want an aesthetician, or beauty expert, to give you advice on the best treatment for your skin, you'll save time and money by understanding your basic needs before you visit the spa. Spas are in the business of making money, and to that end, they often encourage patrons to undergo treatment extras. If you visit expecting a basic cleansing and massage and experience pressure to add treatments, like a bio lift or alpha-hydroxy acid facial to tighten your skin and reduce discoloration, you may be getting more than you bargained for or wanted.

Make a wish list of areas you'd like to address, like dark circles under your eyes, peeling skin or acne around your nose and chin. If you're visiting a spa for the first time, start with a basic package and add features during subsequent visits after you know you like the service.


Facials and facial treatments can blend a number of different features, from simple massage to oxygen therapy designed to plump the skin. Some of these practices have been around for centuries, while others may be so new that there's little or no research supporting claims that they do anything to help your skin at all. Before you sign on for any extras, take a deep breath. Once you're sitting in the chair, everything will sound wonderful, so recognize now what your priorities are.

If a treatment sounds unfamiliar or just plain wacky, ask for more information, do your homework and maybe even consult a dermatologist before proceeding. Facial treatments using deep massage or cleansing can cause skin irritation or even damage, leaving your skin worse off than before the facial. Even if a treatment is completely safe, like adding exotic food ingredients to a mask, if there's no support for its benefits, it may end up being an expensive way to wear your lunch instead of eating it.

In making an honest assessment of your needs and resources, you may discover that you would be happier with another option, too, like choosing a med spa licensed to perform laser skin therapy, wrinkle filling or Botox treatments instead. Over time, expensive facials can add up to the cost of other, more long lasting solutions. On the flip side, you may discover you can beat the price of a spa facial with a home treatment instead.

On the next page, we'll take a look at a few basic spa facials.

4. Understand the Offerings

chemical peel
Don't let them talk you into a chemical peel, if all you want is a simple facial.

Like restaurant food, facials are offered as a complete meal or a la carte. Packaged deals are often a better bargain, but they may not offer all the options you need, so understand what you're getting before you buy. A basic facial will usually involve removing dirt and oil, rehydrating your skin and some massage. They're designed for normal skin with few problems. If you want a facial that's relaxing and mildly rejuvenating, a basic treatment will usually do the trick.

A good choice, if it's available, is a customized facial designed to treat all the items on your facial to-do list. If you're dealing with an experienced aesthetician, she'll be able to make the right recommendations, but if you're on a budget, avoid piling on services you didn't put on your wish list because the extras are seldom free.


The categories below will give you a basic idea of different types of frequently offered facials, but the market is always changing, and specialty preparations and procedures designed to tempt skin conscious consumers are being developed all the time:

  • The Works -This facial may be listed under a different name, but it's usually a step up from the basic no frills package. It might include the use of hypoallergenic creams, special exfoliants, aromatherapy or be an expanded version of the basic advertised facial lasting from a few minutes to a half an hour longer.
  • AHA - A chemical exfoliant, AHA is a mild acid that achieves some of the skin rejuvenating effects of a more caustic acid peel, like removing dead skin and lightening age spots. It works by breaking down the bonds that hold dead skin cells together, making them easier to get rid of.
  • Bio Lift - This treatment uses a tiny amount of electricity to help tighten skin and reduce puffiness. It can create favorable short-term results.
  • Anti-Oxidants - These facials use vitamins A, E, beta-carotene or other antioxidant compounds to repair the skin in a two or three step process that begins with deep cleaning. It's popular for use on sun and wind damaged skin.
  • Acne Cleanse - Designed to deep clean, acne facials use strong ingredients, like glycolic acid and steam to clear clogged pores. This type of facial should be repeated a number of times over a period of weeks to be effective.

There are also many other specialized facial preparations that claim to replace the collagen in aging skin, remove discoloration from sun or age spots, promote even skin tone, tighten sagging skin, remove dark circles and reduce the appearance of wrinkles. If you have the time and the budget, you can explore all the new creams, gels, packs and peels designed to make you look better at any age.

In the next section, take a look at realistic expectations.

3. Be Realistic

A facial isn't plastic surgery, so you shouldn't expect miracles. Even though the marketing materials may make lavish claims about a spa's services, you'll be disappointed and probably annoyed if you believe the hype and sign up for a facial that seems too good to be true. Spa operators will sometimes offer low introductory rates for services and then add options on the basic price that can end up costing a bundle. These additional services can sound mighty tempting if you don't stay focused. Beyond knowing and sticking to the services you're interested in, be wary of spas that promise too much.

The glowing results of a good facial can be deceptive, too. Pink, plumped up and luminous skin may be the goal of a good spa facial, but the satisfying results that meet your gaze in the mirror after a treatment might be short lived. Hydration and massage can increase blood flow and reduce the signs of aging, but only temporarily. After that, there'll be a small residual benefit that will lessen over time.


Facials feel good, relax you, cleanse your skin, unclog pores and help renew your skin's acid balance, but they won't make you look 10 years younger. Facials can be customized to treat special skin conditions or problems, but avoid spas that suggest that they're offering much more than that. Buying into the latest and greatest claims can be risky as well as expensive. Special equipment and exotic ingredients may not have been tested for effectiveness or safety, and even if that prickly pear and caviar mask doesn't do any harm, you'll probably end up spending a hefty sum for a treatment that achieves few if any results.

Spa cleanliness matters; let's proceed to the next page to learn why.

2. Ask for a Consultation and Tour

relaxing facial
A dirty spa and a bad smell will not give you the relaxing facial you deserve.

You know that keeping your skin clean is important, but dealing with a spa where cleanliness and professionalism are priorities is important, too. Before you sign up for a spa's services, ask for a consultation and tour first. You'll be able to ask important questions about the available services and also do a quick check of the facilities while you're there.

Your first impression will give you valuable clues. When you enter a spa, it should smell fresh and look clean and well cared for. The presence of dust and clutter are signs of neglect that might extend to their services. Some indications that a facility is lazy about cleanliness are dirty mirrors, burned out light bulbs, hair or liquid on the floor, dirty towels in corners or therapists in stained uniforms.


Ask your tour guide about hygiene. A professional facility will be prepared to explain its procedures to you. Topics like the methods they use to sterilize equipment after each use should be explained in a specific and easy to understand way. If they start getting edgy when the subject comes up, you'll know you're in the wrong place. Scares resulting from the presence of harmful bacteria in salons, spas and health clubs have led to a greater awareness and concern about safety in these industries so don't be afraid to ask.

You should also ask if any of the aestheticians have a CIDESCO diploma. CIDESCO certification guarantees that a skincare specialist has completed 1,200 hours of training and passed a rigorous two-day examination. Publicly displayed certificates, current licenses and awards for merit or community service are good signs that a spa is responsible and has strong ties to the community, too [source: NCA].

If you have any special needs, this is a good time to mention them. Allergies, disabilities and other issues should be brought out into the open early so you can make an enlightened choice about a spa's ability to provide you with effective individualized service. From finding out how long a treatment will take so you can do some creative scheduling to informing management that you have an allergy to cotton, be upfront about everything and pay attention to the responses you get.

On the next, page we'll take a look at the cost of your facial.

1. Get the Best Deal

The best way to get a good deal on a facial is to know what you want, shop around and avoid the hype. If you're comparing spas, make sure to double-check the fine print. This can be a challenge because descriptions of services can vary widely from establishment to establishment. Ask how long a facial typically lasts, what types of materials and procedures are used, and how they're priced. These three areas will give you good categories for comparison. It also helps to visit proprietors' websites for more detailed explanations of the services and amenities.

Spas that package facials will also have add-on services. These are the areas you'll have to analyze by evaluating what's included in a package and what isn't. It may seem petty to concentrate on the small details, but it's easy to get confused. When you're bargain hunting, having all the right information is the only way to know you're getting your money's worth.


Shopping out of season for your area can net you a big savings on spa and facial packages, too. Like most other businesses, spas have slow periods, and you can sometimes get a 20 percent discount or better by checking sales and looking for discount certificates in your local paper. Companion services in the area, like high-end dress shops, will sometimes offer discounts to day spas with a purchase.

If you're a dedicated spa lover and get facials regularly, you might also be able to get a discount for buying in bulk, either as a credit, gift card or in individual certificates. Another strategy is to piggy-back your facial onto other spa services, like a massage or pedicure. Similar to buying in bulk, bundling services can sometimes net you a tidy savings.

Lots More Information

Related HowStuffWorks Articles


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