Spa Facials: What is a Facial?

What is a facial? Most people can tell you that a facial is a spa treatment for the face. That's obvious. But if you've never had one, odds are you don't know all that comprises a facial treatment. There are, in fact, multiple steps that go into giving a good facial, and, for the most part, the process is standardized at all spas.
Spa Facial Treatment
Licensed esthetician should perform all facials at spas; these special therapists have gone through vigorous training to learn all about facial care. Check to make sure the person performing your facial has a license; some of the steps can be uncomfortable if your esthetician isn't fully trained.
Most spas offer many different kinds of facials, but all standard-length treatments can be broken down into seven basic steps: cleansing, analysis, exfoliation, extraction, massage, mask, and moisturizing. If you get a mini facial, the extraction and mask segments may be left out.

What to Expect When Getting a Spa Facial?

Facials will vary from spa to spa, but all should have a few basic elements in common:
Step 1: Cleansing
The esthetician will begin your treatment with a basic cleansing ritual. She'll open up the pores on your face with warm water, apply a special cleansing product, and then rinse it off. This step is much like how you would wash your face at home, but the products used tend to be of a higher quality than a traditional bar of soap.
Step 2: Analysis
Next, the esthetician will cover your eyes and look at your skin up close with a bright light. Depending on how your spa is organized, you may be either lying down or sitting for this step. In the analysis segment, the esthetician is trying to determine your skin type so she can choose which products will be best for you. She'll probably tell you if your skin is clear, whether it's dry or oily, if it's firm, and may describe the size of your pores.
Step 3: Exfoliation
The details of this step vary from spa to spa. Most skin exfoliation treatments will use a steam bath on your face to open pores; sometimes, an exfoliating product is included in the steam bath to slough off dead skin. Other times, an exfoliate is applied after the steam bath and then rinsed off. Either way, expect to come out of this step with younger, healthier looking skin.
Step 4: Extraction
Extraction is a pore cleansing step that can be painful if done incorrectly. In this part of the treatment, your esthetician will pick out all the contaminants in your skin. Extraction eliminates blackheads by removing the dirt caught in pores. But although it's good for blackhead-prone skin, extraction shouldn't be performed on severely inflamed areas covered in acne. Not all facials include the extraction step; you may not need it if you have dry or normal skin, and you can always opt not to undergo the extraction treatment if you don't like the sound of it. A good esthetician can perform extractions quickly and painlessly, so if you're confident in your therapist's abilities, it's worth giving this step a shot.
Step 5: Massage
After extraction, which can be uncomfortable, the esthetician will reward you with a relaxing facial massage. The massage segment is designed to ease any pain, release tension, and stimulate your pores for the rest of the treatment.
Step 6: Mask
Next, the esthetician will apply a mask on your face and neck that is specially designed for your skin's needs. If you have oily skin, the mask will absorb excess oils; if you have dry skin, the mask will be moisturizing. No matter what kind of mask you receive, expect it to remain on your face for about 15 minutes. Then, it will be removed with warm water and a cloth.
Step 7: Moisturizing
To end your treatment, your therapist will apply a moisturizer suitable for your skin type. Sometimes, a toner is applied to your face too.
After the facial treatment ends, your therapist should give you a brief summary of all that she's done. She'll tell you how to continue caring for your skin at home and will probably recommend products that would be ideal for your skin type.

Who Should Get a Facial?

There are facials suitable for all skin types, so everyone should consider this treatment. In fact, facials are the second most popular spa treatment after massages! Facials can be especially helpful for people with oily skin prone to acne. Combined with good skincare routines, facials can help prevent future breakouts.
If you’re unsure of your skin’s needs, get a basic facial. This is suitable for any skin type because your esthetician will choose the products according to her analysis of your face. There are specialty facials available, like those meant for aging skin, but these aren’t the best for new spa goers. If your esthetician recommends a specialty facial, go for it. But if you don’t know what you need, get a basic treatment.
People with dry or sensitive skin shouldn’t be afraid of facials, but they should be cautious about getting certain treatments. Again, go with a basic service. Also, extractions aren’t recommended for these skin types because they can be painful and cause redness or irritations.

How Often Should I Get a Facial?

Facials aren’t meant to be received more than once a month; the one exception is if you have very oily skin and are trying to begin an acne treatment. For most people, however, getting a facial every six to eight weeks is ideal.

How Much Does a Facial Cost?

Facials aren't cheap. A standard, hour-long European facial typically runs about $60 to $90 depending on the spa. Some resort spas in luxurious destinations will charge much more. You can get mini facials, which are often only half an hour, for less, although you will be missing out on some crucial parts of the classic treatment, most notably the mask.
If you want to stretch your budget, it’s better to get full-length facials less often, supplementing them with at-home treatments. Purchase some spa-quality products appropriate for your skin and you’ll be able to give yourself an at-home treatment that’s close to the real thing.

Facts About Facials:

Most facials last 50 minutes, but you can find treatments that take 90 minutes too. Some spas offer 25-minute mini facials; these leave out many of the above steps, including the extraction and mask segments. It's worth it to pay a little bit more for the complete therapy.
Although many spas offer four or five different kinds of facial treatment, they are all pretty much the same thing. Facials that claim to be "anti-aging", "after-sun care" or "oxygen therapy" will incorporate the same steps listed above but will include more specialized products. Remember: it's always the products that change in specialty facials, not the method of treatment.
Regular facials are a great way to keep skin looking radiant, but you shouldn't have a spa facial more than once a month. You can, however, give yourself a home facial using much the same steps. Purchase the products recommended by your esthetician or buy your own spa line. Use these products in once-a-week home facial treatments.
Medical spas provide more intense treatments known as microdermabrasion facials. These facials aren't traditional spa facials like you would find at a day spa. They take exfoliation to the max, combining a microdermabrasion treatment with a light chemical peel. This can be a good option for someone looking to reduce fine lines and wrinkles, but it's not for everyone.

Facials Take-Away Tips:

Facials are popular spa treatments suitable for anyone. Get a basic European facial if you're unsure of your skin type. With this treatment, your esthetician will design a service based on your skin's needs.
Most facials are blissful, but they can sometimes be painful, especially if you have an untrained esthetician perform extractions. Speak up if your facial hurts and ask that your esthetician change what's she's doing. She'll be happy to comply.
Usually, a facial will end with product recommendations from your esthetician. This can be great advice, but don't feel pressured to purchase the products. You are under no obligation to buy what was used during your treatment.