Question: Do facials work?


Woman getting a facialWhether or not a facial will make your skin better depends on what kind of facial you get. If it’s just a soothing one where the aesthetician or facialist cleans your skin, applies nice smelling products, and pampers you for a few hours, then not really. Those kinds of facials are more relaxing and luxurious than effective. They might give you a glow for the day, but that’s about it.

However, if you’re talking about facials that include chemical peels, microdermabrasion, laser, acne extractions, and other facial procedures, then maybe. These procedures can help improve some skin conditions, but more than one treatment is usually necessary to see results. They don’t perform any short-term miracles.

Be aware that you don’t come out looking pretty from any of these procedures either. Many of them require some downtime in order for your skin to heal. Most likely you’ll be red and blotchy for a few hours or even a few days. If you are getting more intensive facials, you must make sure whoever is giving you the treatments (dermatologist, plastic surgeon, or aesthetician) is a reputable one and knows what he/she is doing. Most spas and dermatology offices will not hold themselves accountable for any damage done to your skin.

For more aggressive facial treatments, it's best to ask for a test treatment around your hairline or below your ear to see if there are any allergic reactions or to see if the treatment is at the right strength or setting. You don't want something too strong right away because that could really damage your skin. If you reacted adversely to the test spot, it's better to have it happen to a small, inconspicuous area than your whole face.

I have been to a few aestheticians who tried to convince me that spot tests were unnecessary, but I am pretty risk averse and I know my skin is extremely sensitive, so when I do get facials, I always make sure they know beforehand that I want to do a small test before getting the actual facial done. If they are not okay with that, I go somewhere else.

If you are thinking about using facials as an acne treatment, prepare to be disappointed. Facial procedures such as chemical peels, microdermabrasion, laser, and "acne surgery" are generally better for red marks and scars instead of active acne. These kinds of facials usually just help your skin exfoliate faster and bring stuff from the bottom of your skin to the surface. This is similar to what over-the-counter and prescription acne treatment products do.

In my experience, facial procedures are not a quick fix for acne. The ones I've gotten to try to clear my skin have always caused irritation and more breakouts. I would not recommend getting a facial especially if you have active acne, but everyone's skin is different. Plus, if facials do end up working for you, you'll most likely have to keep getting them done to continue getting the good results.

Generally, it is better to invest your money in quality products (i.e. prescription retinoids) that you can use every day. Your skin will benefit from daily application instead of just one intensive treatment. Slow and steady wins the race.

Facials can help your skin, but it depends on how your skin reacts, the kind of facial you get, who is giving you the facial, and how often you get them done.

Last updated: September 19, 2012

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