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What a Facial Cannot Do for the skin
Many people look to facials to address a range of skincare concerns, from acne to wrinkles. A skilled skin therapist, using superior techniques and products, can help you address most of these issues to some extent, but facials are not cure-alls, and they absolutely do not replace what you use at home on a daily basis. Here is what a facial cannot do:
- Permanently fade discolorations.
- Replace cosmetic corrective procedures such as Botox, lasers, or dermal fillers.
- Treat rosacea or persistent redness (oftentimes the products and the amount of manipulation involved during a facial make sensitive, reddened skin worse).
- Lift sagging skin.
- Eliminate dark circles or puffy eyes.
- Decongest skin and/or eliminate “toxins.” (Skin cannot become “congested” and it doesn’t contain toxins that your body cannot eliminate on its own via the liver and kidneys.)
Good vs. Bad skin care therapist
A good skin care therapist (and there are many) will know how to help repair and maintain a healthy skin surface. This is important for all skin types, but especially if you have reddened skin, rosacea, eczema, acne, or sensitive skin.
A well-trained skin therapist also should ask you detailed questions about your skin, including what you do to take care of it and whether or not you’re using any topical or oral prescription medications. All of these impact how the aesthetician will treat your skin, including what type of products he or she will use. Above all else, a good aesthetician will take every precaution to avoid causing needless irritation to your skin. He or she should know that irritation can cause a host of problems, such as the following:
- Steaming skin, especially with abnormally hot steam, can worsen redness and potentially result in broken capillaries that show up as thin, spider-like lines.
- Being too aggressive with extractions for acne or blackheads can make clogged pores worse and push acne lesions deeper into your skin.
- Using essential oils, all of which may smell divine, but fragrance isn’t skin care. All fragrance, synthetic or natural, causes irritation, and irritation harms your skin.
- Using products that contain irritating ingredients such as alcohol, camphor, or menthol. Even if you cannot see or feel the irritation, it’s happening beneath the skin’s surface. The result? Damaged collagen production and destruction of vital substances your skin needs to look young and healthy.
- Using “facial rejuvenation” devices without proper training or a working knowledge of what the client can realistically expect.
Unless you are having extractions performed, a good facial should include a relaxing face massage and/or hand and arm massage. Learning how to perform such massages generally is included in the training curriculum at state-accredited aesthetician schools (often with a European influence). However, you should not get a facial massage if you have broken capillaries, rosacea, or sensitive skin. And, if you do get one, it should never involve pulling or tugging at the skin because the pulling and tugging can increase sagging by breaking down the elastin in skin.
Peeling devices (not including microdermabrasion machines) are hand-held tools with a hard metal edge the aesthetician scrapes across the surface of the skin, much like you might scrape a layer of frost off your car’s windshield. Sometimes these peeling tools are combined with another type of treatment in one machine, such as a device that uses the peeling step along with an oxygen-infusing option.
- Pros:When used by a skilled aesthetician for the proper skin type (and used with extreme caution), a scraping tool can effectively exfoliate skin.
- Cons:Device is “dragged” and pulled along the skin to exfoliate. It’s an archaic and potentially damaging way to exfoliate
Microdermabrasion, also called the Lunchtime Peel, Italian Peel, or Paris Peel (among other names), is a non-surgical skin-resurfacing procedure. A machine with a small vacuum-like tip shoots a jet of small, abrasive crystals (usually aluminum or magnesium oxide) onto the skin, and then vacuums them off the skin. Depending on the pressure and intensity settings (which are controlled by the technician), you get different depths of exfoliation. The stronger the setting, the deeper the effects, but that also means more risk to your skin. Despite the “peel” names microdermabrasion also goes by, technically, it is not a peel (like an alpha hydroxy acid peel), but rather a machine-calibrated way to scrub and polish skin.
- Pros:Because microdermabrasion is an effective way to exfoliate skin more deeply, it can help refine pores, improve the appearance of acne scars, and help even out blotchy, thickened, sun-damaged skin.
- Cons:It can be too harsh on skin when overdone or done too often, leading to collagen breakdown. Some skin tones may get dark or light patches as side effects from the treatment if it is too strong.
Oxygen-infusion machines apply a concentrated amount of topical oxygen to facial skin via a small tube hooked up to an oxygen machine. Your face is covered with a special domed mask to keep the oxygen from escaping. Before the oxygen is turned on, your face is prepped with a product-infused cloth or a facial mask. Once the dome mask is secured and the machine is turned on, it’s left running for about 20 minutes. Depending on the spa and the aesthetician, a special tool that delivers concentrated bursts of oxygen to key areas may be used during the treatment.
- Pros:Although theoretically this procedure can improve circulation and promote healing, most researchers find this highly unlikely, especially if used on otherwise healthy, intact skin.
- Cons:There is no research showing oxygen-infusion machines have any benefit for wrinkles or aging skin whatsoever. Oxygen cannot pass through skin unless it is delivered in a hyperbaric (pressurized) booth. The short-term impact can be an increase in free-radical damage, thus negating any positive results.
Benefits of a Facial
Many women who’ve had facials report that they get them because it’s a relaxing experience. But, ideally, a facial should be about skin care, not just relaxation. If the relaxing experience is the sole reason you get facials (meaning you don’t see much of a difference in your skin from the experience), then you’re better off getting a full body massage instead. That’s far more relaxing and it doesn’t put your skin at risk. Here is what a great facial can provide over and above a relaxing experience:
- Thoroughly cleansed skin.
- Softening and removal of blackheads and whiteheads (called milia) via manual extraction.
- Temporary improvement of severely dehydrated skin with rich, emollient nourishing masks that begin restoring skin’s natural barrier function.
- Plumping skin with a well-formulated moisturizer, which temporarily smooths out wrinkles.
- Exfoliating skin with a gentle scrub, a light chemical peel, or a peel-off mask to achieve a smoother surface.
- Help to fade brown discolorations, improve skin tone, and significantly reduce wrinkles with a professional-strength AHA or BHA treatment.
The Facial Decision
After considering the information above, the bottom line is this: A good facial can make you look and feel better than when you arrived for your appointment, but whether done once or routinely, facials cannot perform miracles, and they have their limits. Now that you have the facts, you will get the best results possible from a facial, not waste money, and feel great!
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