Quick: Off the top of your head, name someone you know who's perfectly happy with his or her skin. It's not so easy, right? Even people who seem to have perfect, glowing skin will probably tell you they hate their (invisible to you) crow's feet or point out some barely visible zits or freckles. This, in a nutshell, is exactly why the facial business is booming. There aren't too many people out there who would turn down a chance to improve their skin -- or at least get an hour of relaxation while sweet-smelling lotions and potions are applied to their face.
People get facials for any number of reasons, and most facial treatments do have the same basic setup. They usually include cleansing, exfoliation, extraction, massage, a mask and moisturizer (not necessarily in that order). But beyond that, they vary wildly. If you're just looking for a skin pick-me-up and some quality relaxation time, you'll have your pick of the basic treatment options. But sometimes you need a little more.
And just what can you expect when you have a specific skin problem you'd like to target? Corrective facials are intended to improve any issue you might have -- from acne to aging. All spa menus boast an impressive list of benefits, but facials aren't FDA-regulated. And if you ask dermatologists and other skin experts, the jury seems to be out as far as the long-term benefits of facials.
At the very least, you should be able to expect temporary improvement from a corrective facial. And if your facialist is worth his or her salt, you'll gain some insight into your skin type and learn about how to take care of your skin. The key is to keep your expectations somewhat realistic: No matter what the spa claims, if you anticipate a permanent cure, you're bound to be disappointed.
Here are five of the most common benefits of corrective facials, based on the type of skin problem the treatment is targeting. A word to the wise: If you're heading to the spa with a specific skin issue in mind, be sure that your facialist first provides you with a full consultation and skin analysis.
The main thing acne-prone skin needs is a thorough deep-pore cleansing, often with an antibacterial product, to remove impurities and get rid of excess oil. A good acne facial will emphasize exfoliation (maybe through microdermabrasion), and you should steel yourself for a major extraction session. Acne facials can also include steaming and a salicylic- or glycolic-acid healing mask.
Oily skin facials are similar in many ways to acne facials. Congested pores need to be cleaned out, and exfoliation is also a must. Fruit acids, which help eliminate dead skin cells, are common elements of an oily skin facial. The exfoliating portion is often done chemically, with a glycolic- or salicylic-acid product instead of a physical exfoliant. Citric, lactic, malic and tartaric acids are often included in the mask to control oil and even out skin texture.
Dry-skin facials obviously include heavy doses of moisturizer and rich, oil-packed cleansers, but gentle exfoliation is just as important. Exfoliation clears all the dead, flaky skin cells and primes the skin for moisturization. The facialist might apply a cleanser or moisturizer and then cover it with a rubberizing mask, which pushes the product into the skin.
There are a number of facial treatments that aim to combat uneven pigmentation. Blotchiness and discoloration can be a problem with just about any skin type, so any service that includes natural products and gentle techniques will probably have the effect of calming irritation and soothing redness. Facials that deal with more specific issues, like rosacea, can include ingredients like green tea, cucumber, oatmeal and olive oil. They might also feature intense pulsed light (IPL) sessions and laser treatments to target damaged capillaries.
There's big business in anti-aging facials, which are designed to reduce wrinkles, inject moisture, improve circulation and generally perk up the skin. There are too many variations on this theme to count, so here's a short list of elements that are commonly included: microdermabrasion, brisk massages, vitamin-infused serums, glycolic-acid peels, laser treatments, collagen creams and light therapy. Chances are you won't leave the spa looking 20 years younger, but if a temporary rejuvenated appearance is OK with you (plus that hour of quiet relaxation we keep talking about), it's probably money well spent!
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- Clark, Ellen. "Corrective Facials." Control Corrective. July 26, 2011. (Aug. 6, 2012) http://www.controlcorrective.com/news/corrective-facials/
- Martinenko, Tanya. "How do Galvanic Facial Treatments Work?" Daily Glow. (Aug. 6, 2012) http://www.dailyglow.com/how-do-galvanic-facial-treatments-work.html
- Padykula, Jessica. "Best Spa Facials for Your Skin Type." She Knows. Feb. 18, 2010. (Aug. 6, 2012) http://www.sheknows.com/beauty-and-style/articles/813599/best-spa-facials-for-your-skin-type-1
- Saint Louis, Catherine. "An Expression of Doubt about Facials." The New York Times. March 18, 2009. (Aug. 6, 2012) http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/19/fashion/19SKIN.html
- Spa Finder. "Facial Spa Treatments." (Aug. 6, 2012) http://www.spafinder.com/facial.htm