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Along with manicures and massages, facials are one of the most accessible and beneficial spa treatments available to men. They’re certainly one of the most enjoyable, and compared with eyebrow threading and back waxes, they’re also one of the least painful.
They’re also definitely not just for women. “Men can benefit from facials just as much as women can,” says Brandith Irwin, MD, board-certified dermatologist and founder of SkinTour.com. “Dull skin, clogged pores, non-inflammatory acne, and some aging issues can all be addressed with facials. Plus, they’re relaxing, and self-care helps with stress!”
So, if you want to look your best for an upcoming event, need to address a specific skin issue, or just fancy a little pampering (and let’s be honest, who doesn’t right now?), a facial might be just the grooming treatment you need. “Men want and deserve great skin,” says Irwin, and we definitely agree, so read on to discover what a decent facial can do for you.
Meet the Expert
- Brandith Irwin, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist, founder of SkinTour.com, and author of Your Best Face: Looking Your Best Without Plastic Surgery. A member of the American Academy of Dermatology, she is also one of the few nationally known dermatologists not to derive income from pharmaceutical, skincare, and cosmetic companies, enabling her to give unbiased information.
- Enrique Ramirez is a licensed massage therapist, esthetician, and waxing expert. The founder of Face to Face spa in NYC, which offers a wide range of facial treatments, he also works in California, and his 15 years in the industry have brought clients such as Ellen DeGeneres, Cardi B, and Neil Patrick Harris.
Why Consider a Facial?
Having a facial is a lot like dining out at a restaurant: You probably could replicate the experience at home, but it wouldn’t be nearly as good without the necessary tools, ingredients, and required expertise. Put your face in the hands of a facialist, however, and they’ll cleanse, tone, exfoliate, mask, extract blackheads, safely squeeze zits, massage, and moisturize your skin until you not only look your best but feel it too—and you’ll enjoy your skincare adventure all the more because, well, you’re not the one doing the cooking.
Do Men Have Different Needs Than Women When It Comes to Facials?
It’s widely known that men’s skin is different from women’s—it’s oiler, hairier, ages differently, and is thicker for starters, but fundamentally, there are more similarities than differences. “This means that, generally speaking, the same facials that work for women also work for men,” says Irwin. “The one exception involves the beard area, where sometimes men need specific products or treatments that help keep the hairs from getting ingrown or irritated from shaving.”
Do You Need to Prepare?
According to licensed esthetician Enrique Ramirez, who practices in L.A. and New York, no preparation is necessary and you needn’t worry if you have a beard. “Most professional aestheticians are now familiar with bearded men, so shaving before getting a facial is not a necessity either,” he says. Once you’re there, all you have to do is surrender yourself to the facialist’s expert hands. “Meditate, breathe, and just let go,” Ramirez advises. “And remember—it’s okay to have someone else in charge, which is often the root of men’s nervousness!”
Can I Still Get a Facial if I Have a Breakout?
“Yes,” says Irwin. “In fact, we recommend it!” (If you have acne and it’s very inflamed, she recommends getting it under control first with the help of a board-certified dermatologist.) “Facials with microdermabrasion can be helpful for treating and preventing breakouts because they exfoliate the dead skin cells that plug your pores.”
Picking the Right Facial
According to Irwin, there are three main types of facials, though spas often put their own unique spin on them to make them stand out.
- Standard: This usually involves cleansing, the use of a face mask to remove impurities, extractions (the process of manually clearing clogged pores), and then topped off with a light massage. “If you just want to de-stress, a standard facial might be the best option,” says Irwin.
- Standard plus microdermabrasion or a peel: A tiny suction device (think tiny painless vacuum cleaner) deep-cleans pores in a way a brush or exfoliant can’t and removes dead skin. Peels remove the outer layer of skin, revealing brighter, younger-looking skin underneath. “Please only receive peels from experienced professionals!” she says.
- Hydrafacials: These cleanse, suction out the pores, and exfoliate. Infusions like antioxidants (anti-aging), those that fight acne, or uneven pigment problems can be added to create a more bespoke, targeted treatment. “I always recommend pore cleansing facials, as most men do little to take care of their skin at home and pore cleaning, while advanced treatments like microdermabrasion or fruit acid washes will give the skin that squeaky-clean feeling,” adds Ramirez.
What Are Extractions?
Extractions are one of the best, not to mention one of the most fun, aspects of facials. During extractions, the esthetician clears clogged pores and blackheads either manually (with their fingers) or with special devices (think a tiny painless vacuum cleaner that cleans pores). “Done professionally, extractions improve the drainage of pores, makes topical medications, cleansers, etc., penetrate better, and reduces bacteria, helping prevent problematic blemishes in the future,” says Irwin.
Even facialists themselves are fans: “I love extractions!” admits Ramirez. “Any facial with plenty of extractions is fine by me!”
When's the Best Time to Get a Facial?
For many men, their first facial is in preparation for a special event. Maybe you want to look your best for a date, wedding, birthday party, or presentation at work. And why wouldn’t you? Thing is, facials are treatments. They often involve products and cleansing techniques your skin might not be familiar with, which is why they sometimes leave skin temporarily irritated, flushed, and blotchy.
Occasionally, they cause minor breakouts a couple of days later. “This is very common but don't panic!” says Ramirez. “After all, your facialist just went under, over, and in between your skin to get the grime and debris out, and this dermal movement can stimulate the bacteria that is housed by your skin. Obviously the bacteria leaves, but not before leaving its own mark.”
This is why getting your timing right is essential. “Never get a facial the day of a big event,” he says. “Time it for a week before instead.” By then, skin will have settled and will be looking its best.
How Often Should You Get a Facial?
The great thing about facials is that you can reserve them for special occasions, or as a pick-me-up, or if you have the money, build them into your skin regimen as a regular thing. “Maintenance time needed varies, but every 4–12 weeks is a good idea depending on your individual skin issues,” says Irwin. “A 4- to 6-week interval is helpful for acne-prone skin."
How to Find a Facialist
Both our experts agree that the best way to find a good facialist is by word of mouth and by personal recommendations. “You can start by asking your gal pals for a recommendation, as women are quite spa/salon-savvy and will know all the good esthys in town, or will at least know how to find one,” says Ramirez, who also suggests checking out whether your chosen spa offers men’s treatments and are experienced in men’s skincare.
“The web is the worst way to find healthcare in general,” adds Irwin. “Anyone can put up a nice website, and it’s hard to verify credentials there. If in doubt, ask your dermatologist if they have any recommendations.”
Facialists and estheticians might not be able to diagnose medical skin problems (“their license prohibits any diagnostics, and it’s best to visit a board-certified dermatologist if you have a skin disease,” says Irwin), but they are a font of knowledge when it comes to skincare because of all the skin they see in their job–so make use of their insights. Always ask questions about what regimens and skin-saving strategies they recommend for your skin.
How Much Do Facials Cost?
Costs vary depending on esthetician, location, and complexity of the treatment, but expect to pay around $80–$90 for a basic, hourlong facial. Facials at Ramirez’s Face to Face NYC spa range in price from $100 to $275 for one designed to renew and revitalize skin and tackle the signs of aging. If cost’s an issue, or you just want to see whether facials are right for you, try a 30-minute express one, which is often less expensive and will give you a flavor of what’s on offer.
The Final Takeaway
So now that you have the skinny on facials, you’re probably weighing whether to take the plunge and get one. In the short term, facials are a great way to give skin a buff and polish for a special occasion (a bit like taking your favorite suit to the dry cleaners), but they’re also good for guys who are too busy to bother with fancy skincare routines at home.
“The best part about facials is that they give you a fresh and healthy glow,” says Ramirez enthusiastically. “You’ll look like you just stepped off the cover of Men's Health magazine!” The abs and pecs you’ll have to work on yourself, of course.