Facial menus can be confusing: Too much jargon can make you wish you had a medical degree, and all the food references can seem as if you’re ordering dinner along with your treatment. When you’re choosing a facial for your skin issues, here are the things to consider.
• Know the basics. A classic facial usually involves cleansing, exfoliating, extractions, a mask, and a moisturizer, and is great for anyone with normal to dry skin. Extractions are safe for most people, as long as the aesthetician first uses steam to soften the pores, and covers her fingers with gauze. Extractions do pinch, but if the pain is intense, ask her to stop. Too much pressure can break capillaries. Never let her use an extractor; these tools can cause scarring and discoloration. Anyone with rosacea or eczema should ask the aesthetician to skip steaming (which can exacerbate those conditions) and use a warm cloth instead.
• Treat it right. If you have acne, the lotions in a classic facial—and even the massage itself—can cause a breakout. The words “clarifying” or “purifying” on the treatment menu usually mean that the facial is designed for acne-prone skin. It should include a cleanser with salicylic acid, a clay mask, and a lactic acid peel. Make sure the aesthetician avoids scrubs; applying these can irritate the skin and cause scarring.
• Get a glow. To address fine lines and other aging issues, pick a facial with a little extra exfoliation. Glycolic, lactic, and enzyme peels are all great ways to get rid of that layer of dead skin that makes pores look larger and wrinkles look deeper. I’m not a fan of microdermabrasion, though. It’s too harsh—and a gentle acid peel will give you the same result. If your concern is dull skin, look for a facial that combines a mild peel and brightening ingredients such as vitamin C or kojic acid.
• Splurge on the right things. Treatments that sound a little crazy, such as ones with caviar, snake venom, or gold dust, are usually gimmicks. However, there are a few extras that do produce real results. LED facials that use red and blue light will kill bacteria and help heal acne, while red-and-white-light treatments stimulate collagen production with no recovery time.