Medical Review By: Alyse Penninger, LMA
If you’ve never gotten a facial, you may be missing out. But what exactly is a facial?
A facial is a deep cleansing treatment that sloughs away dead skin cells and removes debris from deep in your pores. The techniques and products used vary depending on the type of facial and the provider. Facials are best performed by a licensed aesthetician and may include targeted treatments such as dermaplaning or microdermabrasion.
“When you get a facial, you’re treated with medical-grade products that are designed to penetrate the epidermis and affect the deeper layers of skin, unlike drugstore products that sit on top of your skin,” says Alyse Penninger, a licensed medical aesthetician at Water’s Edge Dermatology. “You also get the expertise of an aesthetician, who evaluates your skin and tailors the products and techniques included in the facial to best address your concerns.”
An aesthetician can tailor your facial to achieve the results you want. Here are some of the types of facials commonly offered by dermatology practices.
A classic facial typically involves four steps: cleansing, exfoliating to remove dead skin cells, extracting debris from your pores and hydration.
“If your pores are very clogged, your aesthetician may also steam your face before doing extractions,” said Penninger. “This softens your epidermis, which makes it easier to remove the debris that’s deep in your pores.”
Benefits of a classic facial include clearer, more radiant skin. Anyone can get a classic facial, regardless of skin type, since it’s easy to customize the products used. If your skin is oily, for example, your aesthetician will hydrate your skin with moisturizers that are lighter than those used for people with normal to dry skin.
When to get one: Every four to six weeks.
If you have acne or milia — small, hard bumps that develop under the top layer of skin — you may be tempted to “pop” them yourself. But it’s much safer and more effective to get a facial designed for these concerns.
The reason: When you get an acne or milia facial, your aesthetician will use special tools, such as a lancet, to gently break the skin and expel the contents of the lesion or milia with minimal pressure. To draw out blackheads and whiteheads, the aesthetician may also use ultrasonic tools, which create gentle vibrations in the skin.
“People are sometimes tempted to squeeze acne themselves, but they often apply too much force,” Penninger says. “This can cause irritation and broken capillaries, making skin look even more rough and blotchy.” Squeezing won’t get rid of milia due to their pearl-like hardness and location beneath the surface of the skin.
When to get one: Every four weeks. People with severe acne can get one more often.
Oxygen therapy facial
This type of facial is appropriate for all skin types, though it’s particularly well suited to dry skin. After cleansing and exfoliating your face, the aesthetician uses a wand-like instrument to deliver streams of pressurized oxygen combined with hydrating serums to the skin. This allows the serums to penetrate more deeply.
“Oxygen therapy facials hydrate and plump your skin, making it look more lifted and firm and diminishing fine lines,” Penninger said.
When to get one: Every four to six weeks.
Dermaplaning can be added on to any facial. The aesthetician uses a small surgical blade to exfoliate the top layer of skin and remove peach fuzz.
“People love to get dermaplaning before special events because it makes skin look so smooth, almost like it’s airbrushed,” Penninger said.
Your skin may look red for a few days after treatment, so it’s best to schedule the treatment a few days before a special event.
When to get it: Every three to four weeks.
Microdermabrasion delivers more powerful exfoliation compared to classic facials. The aesthetician uses a small, mildly abrasive tool to remove the top layer of skin, diminishing age spots, hyperpigmentation, acne scars and enlarged pores. Microdermabrasion also causes the collagen in skin to thicken, making your face look tighter and smoother.
For more aggressive treatment of hyperpigmentation, fine lines, wrinkles, acne scars and sun damage, your provider might recommend a chemical peel, which is not generally performed in conjunction with a facial. Chemical peels use an acid to slough off the top layers of skin.
When to get it: Twice a month at first, then once a month to maintain the results. Get a mild- or moderate-strength chemical peel once every six to 12 months. Get a deep peel once in your life.
In this type of facial, the aesthetician uses a wand-like device to perform every step of the treatment. Cleansing and exfoliating are combined into one step; the wand dispenses clearing serum to your face and washes away dead skin cells with a special spiral tip. Next, the aesthetician uses the wand to apply a gentle peel that loosens the debris in your pores, then uses suction to remove the debris. Last, the wand delivers antioxidants and peptides (amino acids that make skin look more plump and firm) to your skin.
While the name implies that the treatment is best for people with dry skin, anyone can get a HydraFacial because the serums used can be tailored to your skin type, Penninger said. Benefits include a brighter, more even complexion and less-noticeable fine lines.
When to get it: Every two to four weeks depending on your skin type.
Article Written By: Jessica Brown, a health and science writer/editor based in Brooklyn, New York. She has written for Prevention magazine, jnj.com, BCRF.org and many other outlets.