Many women swear by facial treatments–but are they actually good for your skin? We’ve looked everywhere and the response seems to be a mixed bag. But women want answers. So we’ve gathered the best of the best and talked to an award-winning dermatologist and celebrity aesthetician to give you the facts. Let’s get into it.
What Is a Facial?
A facial is a beauty treatment designed to cleanse, exfoliate, hydrate and clear skin with specialized washes, creams and serums. They are traditionally used to improve the overall look and feel of your skin. But many women also rely on this method for help with other skin conditions such as excess oil, dull skin, deep wrinkles, and acne. Professional facials are typically performed in a spa by an aesthetician or sometimes in a clinic by a dermatologist.
Dr. Erum Ilyas, MD, MBE, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York, notes that most facials are comprised of a series of steps that include:
- Cleansing the skin
- Extraction of blackheads
- Facial massage
- Applications of creams, serums and sunscreen
There are many different kinds of facials to choose from. From the classic facial and dermaplane to hydra and microdermabrasion facials–there are a variety of options to pick from based on your specific needs. We’ll dive into the most popular choices later in this article.
Benefits of Facials
Here’s a controversial topic. Are there truly any benefits from facials? Many women report glowing, vibrant and healthy skin following a facial treatment. “Facials can also help address specific concerns like acne or pigmentation,” says Joshua Ross, a celebrity aesthetician and founder of SkinLab in Manhattan Beach, California. But the benefits all depend on your skin type and the facial you choose.
On the other hand, Dr. Ilyas told us that facials are actually a very temporary treatment. The moisture and exfoliation women experience immediately after unfortunately does not last forever. So what’s the known benefit of a facial then? It seems to be the relaxation component and self-care aspect of taking time for yourself to get pampered.
Can facials be harmful?
“There is the potential for facials to do some harm and trigger inflammation in response to various products used,” says Ilyas. If you are looking to get a facial, it’s detrimental to find a reputable spa or clinic that follows all the safe sanitary guidelines. If facial devices used for extraction are not properly sterilized, you could run into some major complications.
Other potential negative side effects of facials according to the Northern Colorado Advanced Aesthetics Academy are:
Who should get a facial?
Facials can really be for anyone. “Especially those concerned with acne, texture, or uneven pigmentation in the skin,” says Ross. They can also be a great way for moms wanting to get out and pamper themselves. It’s a relaxing routine and ceremonial-type practice for mom self care. There is a facial for just about everyone: dry, oily or combination skin. Just be sure to check in on your skin to see how it reacts to your treatments and adjust accordingly.
Popular Types of Facials
So you want to try a facial, but you’re not sure which kind is best for you. What are the different types of facials? Here are a few good facials offered at most spas.
The Classic Facial
A great choice for anyone new to facials. This is a standard treatment that includes the basics of facial care. You can expect a deep cleansing to your face with a gently formulated wash and an exfoliation of dead cells for a smoother feel. Most classic facials also come with a blackhead removal session where your specialist will use an extraction tool or exfoliating cleanser to clean your pores. This facial often ends with a hydrating mask and moisturizer massaged into your face focusing on pressure points for that extra bit of relaxation. Less harsh chemicals are used in this standard facial which makes it great for newbies or someone with sensitive skin.
With a microdermabrasion facial, an aesthetician will use a small tool with a crystal tip to essentially sand the thicker outer layer of your skin. This facial is believed to help with scarring, sun damage, dark spots, evening out skin texture, and helping fade light wrinkles.
A dermaplane facial exfoliates the skin using a scalpel to gently remove the outer layer of dead skin and hair. The goal is to gain a brighter and smoother complexion from this treatment. Many women report an easier and smoother application of makeup following their dermaplane facial.
This option is known to help with brightening and firming your skin. A HydraFacial treatment uses a machine to cleanse, exfoliate, and apply several serums. It features a suction tool to help open up pores for easy extraction of dead skin and dirt for that rejuvenation result.
Are Facials Worth It?
So all-in-all, what are the facts? Are facials good for your skin? “Facials fall under a category of treatments provided by aestheticians that will provide a very temporary and transient effect of mild exfoliation and temporary moisture,” states Ilyas. You technically don’t need facials and there aren’t any solid medical benefits–you could be perfectly fine with a good skin care routine. But if it works for you and you love the results and relaxing self-care component without any negative reactions, go and treat yourself.
FAQ About Facials
Is it safe to get a facial while breastfeeding?
The chemicals used on your skin during a facial do have the potential to enter your bloodstream. In order to avoid any risks, Dr. Ilyas recommends avoiding facials and chemical peels while breastfeeding. But sometimes moms want a solution for their skin concerns. “If you are dealing with skincare challenges that need to be addressed at this time, talk to your dermatologist about combinations of products that are considered Pregnancy Category B as options to try,” says Ilyas.
Are facials safe during pregnancy?
There are limited studies about the chemicals used in facials and how they react to babies during pregnancy. Since the products used during a facial may enter your bloodstream, Dr. Ilyas says it’s best to avoid them while pregnant. But if you need skincare help in the meantime, talk to a dermatologist for other recommendations.
How do I know what facial is best for my skin?
Ross gives insight into this common question. “When booking a facial I generally recommend scheduling what sounds like will be most catered to your skin’s needs. When you arrive, the aesthetician will do a consultation and will confirm, or recommend a different facial depending on your skin needs.”
How often should you get a facial?
According to the master esthetician team at Dulce Lash and Skin, getting a facial closer than four weeks apart can cause unwanted skin irritation. But it’s really up to you how often you’d like treatments. A lot of women schedule routine monthly facials. “[Facials] provide a very temporary and transient effect of mild exfoliation and temporary moisture,” notes Ilyas. If you are happy with the short-term skin benefits and enjoy the self-care routine, talk to your aesthetician about recurring appointments.
Do regular facials help with acne?
Yes, and no–it depends on your specific skin type and body. Ross notes that facials are great for addressing specific skin concerns such as acne. But Ilyas has experienced patients with triggered acne flares following a facial. Everyone handles a facial differently, so it’s best to start slow if possible and see how your skin reacts.
Which facial is best for dry skin?
Dr. Ilyas gives her recommendation on finding the right facial for dry skin. “Focus on treatments that have less alpha and beta hydroxy acids, and instead have hydrating ingredients such as hyaluronic acid.” Check into your local spa services or clinic and ask if they have a hyaluronic acid facial or something similar.
What is the best facial for after pregnancy?
New moms usually crave some form of self-care after having a baby. And a lot of them turn to facials. “After pregnancy, lymphatic drainage facials are frequently recommended,” says Ross. This type of facial encourages blood circulation to create brighter skin and helps reduce puffiness–it’s super relaxing which is also a plus!
Disclaimer: All content within this site is not intended as medical diagnosis or treatment and should not be considered a substitute for, nor does it replace, professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You are solely responsible for ensuring that any health or nutritional information obtained is accurate.
Experts in this article:
Dr. Erum Ilyas, MD, MBE, FAAD, is a board-certified dermatologist in New York. She gives practical skin care advice and takes the time to listen to her patients to help diagnose and address their concerns effectively. Dr. Ilyas is also the CEO & Founder of AmberNoon, a clothing line offering daily sun protection while staying trendy.
Joshua Ross is a celebrity aesthetician and founder of SkinLab in Manhattan Beach, California. He is well-known as a skincare expert helping clients transform their skin–whether it’s working with celebrities on The Real Housewives or serving clients at his Brentwood spa.