Many people think of facials the same way they think of expensive vacations: luxurious treats that they save for special occasions. If that’s the case for you, it’s time to throw what you think you know about facials out the window—and read up on these little-known facts about the spa treatment.
They Should be Done Regularly
Unfortunately, facials won’t deliver revolutionary results overnight. “Think of [your skin] in the same way that you think of how your body responds to going to the gym,” says Elena Arbodela, head esthetician at Mario Badescu Salon in Manhattan. “You’ll see the best results if you visit regularly.” She recommends seeing your esthetician every four to six weeks unless advised otherwise.
You’ll Need to Tell Your Esthetician About Your Meds
Even if you don’t normally have sensitive skin, the medications you take can affect how your skin reacts to facials. Ingredients in birth control, cardiac medications, antihistamines, and acne treatments can make your skin extra-sensitive, says Katherine Tomasso, national director of education for Yon-Ka Paris. When talking with your esthetician pre-facial, tell them about your medication history so they can choose a gentler option, if necessary.
MORE: Sensitive Skin: What You Can Do
The Right Lighting is Crucial
You may think that a relaxing facial is all about the mood: the soft music, aromatic scents, and—of course—dim lighting. But in reality, dimming the lights can actually do your skin a disservice. To get the best look at a client’s skin, estheticians need excellent lighting, says Arboleda. When choosing a salon, ask to see the facial rooms to make sure they’re well lit.
You Shouldn’t Go Right Before a Big Event
Receiving a facial a day or two before a big party or reunion may seem like a great idea. However, Arboleda says this is a surefire way to get blotchy, irritated skin exactly when you don’t want it. Why? Treatments often cause skin to look worse before it looks better. She says the best time to get a facial is one week before you want your skin at its best. This will allow any residual blotchiness to fade and be replaced with a gorgeous look-at-me glow.
Waxing and Facials Don’t Mix
While it may be most convenient to book all your spa appointments all in one go (who doesn’t love a day full of pampering?), you shouldn’t get a wax and a facial in the same day. Most facials include a deep exfoliating component that irritates freshly waxed skin since waxing exposes a new layer of skin cells, says Tomasso. It’s best to spread out your pampering session into two days—wax on one day, then get your facial on the other.
MORE: 7 Things You Need to Know Before You Wax
Facials Aren’t Just About the Products
Tomasso says the massage included in your facial is key to draining waste from your lymph system, which your body uses to keep your cells healthy. Poor nutrition, lack of sleep, and bad skin care can cause the lymph system to become overloaded, resulting in dull skin and a puffy face. That relaxing massage you receive is not only putting you in your happy place, but also draining the toxins from your body by stimulating that lymph system. Asking for a few more minutes of massage time may make more difference than the products themselves.
They’ve Been Around Since Ancient Times
Forget democracy, philosophy, and the calendar. As it turns out, ancient people like the Greeks, Romans, and Chinese gave us another great invention: the facial. Arboleda says that the ancient bathing customs of the Greeks and Romans and the herbal remedies of the Chinese came together to bring us the modern facial. She recommends taking a nod from our predecessors when looking at the menu—natural ingredients like rosehip oil, sulfur, and ginkgo are great for the skin and were favorites waaaay back in the day.
Extraction Can Actually Make Zits Worse
Having your pores cleansed at the hands of a professional (the only people who should be picking your zits, by the way) is one of the best parts of having a facial. However, if your facialist leaves behind any trace of the compactions (the professional word for pimples), they can become irritated and flare up even more. Be sure your facial includes a steaming element to open up pores and prepare them for extraction, as well as an antibacterial element to kill any leftovers, says Tomasso.
MORE: 11 Skin-Care Habits to Start NOW to Get Gorgeous Skin for Years to Come