I recently had dinner with a group of girl friends and was surprised to learn that more than half of them hadn't ever been for a facial. The reasons varied from not wanting to spend the money to being worried someone would judge their appearance. While at a base level, I'd be willing to bet that most of us share similar insecurities, it shouldn't stop you from reaching out to a pro if you want to (or if your skin needs it).
I've been a regular client of a range of professionals, from student estheticians at beauty schools to the esthetician of the First Lady of the United States. While there are vast differences, the basics are similar across the board. A facial usually includes a proper facial cleansing, extractions to one degree or another, a bit of facial massage and then specialty treatments hand picked for your skin. Many facials also include a moisturizing treatment for your hands.
Here are some of the basics that usually cause facial virgins concern. Most of these happen before the esthetician lays a hand on your skin. When you arrive, you'll most likely have to fill out a form that details your skin history and may ask you about health concerns. You must be honest at this point. Many medications can alter how your skin behaves or even interact with products. It's imperative you tell the truth. You will then be taken your treatment room. You should be quiet and respectful of others already receiving a spa treatment. Loud talking and giggling is disruptive to other patrons. If you get a nasty look from a spa manager, don't say I didn't warn you.
Once you've arrived to your room, you'll most likely be handed a banded towel-like top or asked to slip into the bed. This means you are taking off your shirt, your bra and all jewelry on your ears, neck, wrist and rings you can easily remove. If you really don't feel comfortable removing your bra, you can leave it on; just put the straps under your arms. If you are more comfortable leaving on your pants, you can certainly do that. Or if you prefer, you may remove them for comfort. No one will be looking at your bottom bits in a traditional facial. You can leave your socks on or off. This is up to you. But the shoes should come off.
Your provider will enter the room after a soft knock at the door to make sure you are decent. Then your treatment will begin. A good esthetician will ask you what you are hoping to get from the treatment and as you about any concerns you may have. You will be examined under a bright light and a magnification mirror. Do not feel self-conscious about this step. They have seen it all and a good esthetician is only interested in improving your skin. They will also ask what skin care routine you currently use. Be honest. it will give your provider an idea of what your skin tolerates, as well as your expectations.
Now it's time for some relaxation as the actual service begins. This can vary from spa to spa, but the basics are the same. They will cleanse you, treat your skin, remove some impurities (after asking permission as this can cause discomfort) and apply additional beneficial treatments. They will usually end with a massage of some sort to encourage lymphatic drainage. A good one will slim your jaw line like nothing you've ever seen. It's important to understand that they will likely be treating your face, neck and chest area (down to the start of your cleavage). Your service may last anywhere from 30 minutes to over an hour. It depends on the type of facial you selected when you booked the appointment. You can not arrive for a thirty minute facial and then ask for a two hour facial, so be sure to explain what you want for when booking the appointment. I should also mention that not all facials are designed to be relaxing. Depending on what your skin needs, it may be uncomfortable from time to time or include less massage.
At the end of the service, they may make product suggestions. Provided it wasn't stipulated in your price, you are under no obligation to buy anything. You can ask for samples, and if the spa has them available, they will be happy to give them to you.
Since not all spas are created equally, here are my guidelines for what I look for. I'm picky, so if certain things don't bother you, then carry on.
1. The esthetician must take time to ask you how you are hoping to benefit from the appointment (unless you are a regular client and they know you really well).
2. If they glower at you when you mention you use drugstore skincare, I would not return again. Nothing irks me more than snobby estheticians who try to profit by making you feel less, looking down on because of how much you spend on your products. Skincare can be very expensive. Many drugstore brands work beautifully and many very expensive brands do not. It's a personal decision and anyone that makes you feel less than for not using expensive products is missing the point. They should be concerned with what is best for you. It could be that a Kate Somerville product may be perfect for you. But if you can't afford the price tag, it should not affect the quality of care you receive.
3. The treatment rooms should be quiet and clean. Your esthetician should not smell of smoke, including her hands, or chew gum. Call me picky, but these two things make me insane and feel dirtier, not more clean.
4. They should always observe your modesty.
5. They should be knowledgeable about all products they use or recommend. Skincare is changing at lightning speed, and like any professional, it's important to stay on top of what's available and how it works. This includes products as well as treatments like lasers, peels and other medi-spa options.
Finally, if you are happy with the service, you should tip 20%. If you were uncomfortable or unhappy with your service, you should politely tell them why, so they can change and suit your needs better. A good spa will want to know how to improve your experience. While it's great if you can financially swing a facial each month, it does your skin good even if you can only go quarterly. Did something surprise you at your first facial? Have any questions? Let me know!
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