If you think facials are just a means to unwind, pamper yourself, and maybe perk up a tired complexion, think again. It’s the little-known details that separate a good facial from a real J.Lo glow-imparting one. However, it’s precisely those finer points that rarely get discussed when you’re slipping off into spa serenity. We’re sure your trusted facialist wouldn’t keep such valuable information from you intentionally, but there are certain things no one really tells you about facials—until you ask. Katherine Tomasso, director of brand education for Yon-Ka Paris, is here to spill the secrets to a successful facial.
“Nothing improves the skin more strikingly than a deep pore-cleansing treatment that will eliminate and control blackheads,” Tomasso says. But did you know there are steps you can take to make the best part of your facial even better? “To help to ensure all of the skin’s congestion and oxidized oils can be removed during your treatment, use a hydrating concentrate with sodium PCA, vegetable glycerin, brown algae, and lactic and citric acids, such as Yon-Ka Booster Hydra + ($62), before your treatment. About seven days prior to your facial, start applying a few drops of hydrating concentrate after cleansing each night. Tomasso says this will soften and prep the congested areas, so your facialist can successfully remove pore-clogging debris. As an added bonus, it'll also help to reduce the ouch factor during extractions. “Think of this step simply as a pre-treatment home care step that will enhance your facial results.”
Coffee jitters and total relaxation don’t mix. So avoid caffeine beforehand to make your facial more enjoyable. Tomasso recommends cutting back on your coffee intake and switching to herbal tea for at least 24 hours prior to your treatment. “This will help keep you more relaxed, enabling the professional aesthetician to optimize your service,” she says. Your post-facial beverage choices need a little adjusting too. Tomasso says you should double the amount of water you typically drink. “This will assist with the removal of toxins, and will help keep your skin clear and radiant.”
This feels obvious, but it's important to note: maximize your time in the spa by showing up bare-faced and ready to go. “Wearing little to no makeup will free up more time for your aesthetician to work on correcting your skincare concerns and flaws,” Tomasso says. “A good facial treatment is worth every penny spent; this will help your aesthetician get right into the real therapeutic parts of your service.” You don't want to waste those precious minutes you're paying so much for by forcing your aesthetician to do something a cleansing wipe could also do.
If you’re making a day of it, don’t negate the benefits of a good spa day with poor scheduling. Get your massage first. Nestling your face into the massage table after it’s just been cleansed, exfoliated, and treated isn’t going to improve your skin’s glow. Do your steam post-massage and pre-facial. Steaming after a massage aids the muscles in the drainage process they go through, and also helps open up your pores, prepping them for a thorough cleansing. However, steaming after a facial prevents the products from absorbing into your skin.
“A highly customized, deep pore cleaning can alleviate your primary, secondary, and even tertiary skincare concerns,” Tomasso says. “With this in mind, it’s best to schedule at least one deep pore-cleansing treatment prior to any specialty treatments. They also help to provide a true read of your needs, which helps the aesthetician direct you to more specific treatments.” Another aspect of facials that’s even easier to customize is the facial massage. The massage portion of your service is key for draining waste and toxins from your lymph system. Feeling puffier than usual? Haven’t been sleeping well? Drank too much? Just getting back from a trip where you overindulged in vacation meals? Tell your facialist, and ask for a few more minutes of massage time to stimulate your lymph system.
“Your aesthetician should not stack more than two gentle chemical exfoliators during the same session,” Tomasso says. Double exfoliation with gentle chemical exfoliators or very lightly textured products is usually perfect for most skin types, but stacking chemical with physical exfoliation should always be avoided. “Adding any other exfoliating steps, such as microdermabrasion, is too aggressive and could lead to irritation and even hyperpigmentation in the worst case.” Your facialist should usually tell you what she’s doing, but if she doesn’t walk you through the steps, just ask.
Extractions, even when preformed by a professional, can irritate the skin. Steaming beforehand can help ease the process, but you should also be sure to use antibacterial products on all of the areas your facialist addressed for the next few days after your service to protect against additional flare-ups. If you have a big event coming up, don’t schedule your facial in the days leading up to it. Plan to do it about a week out, as a really intensive facial will often leave you a little red or blotchy for a day or two before the glow kicks in. And that said, if there's lasting irritation, go see a dermatologist—a facial should never leave you with negative results.