Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Promises, Promises. What A Facial Can (And Cannot) Do.

We have all heard the widely varying, and sometimes extraordinary claims for different facial treatments. So what's true, and what is just marketing hype? In an exercise of setting realistic expectations, I'm listing what I believe can and cannot be accomplished in a facial treatment. To be clear, I am talking about a single treatment here, not a series, home care, or a treatment in a medical setting.

Yes, we can! First up is what can be accomplished in a single facial treatment.

1. Repair the barrier and significantly increase moisture levels.
When the skin's barrier is not functioning properly, all sorts of problems can happen. Irritation, dryness, flakiness and slow healing time are a few of the issues that crop up. Through careful selection of products, that essential barrier can be repaired and the levels of moisture in the skin can be increased. Results? A plump healthy appearance, diminished fine lines, and proper function.

2. Exfoliate and remove surface cells.
The depth of peels and enzymes will vary, but your skin therapist has a lot of tools in her (or his) arsenal for a wide variety of skin types and conditions. Technology may also be used to remove a build-up of cells on the surface of the skin. Not only does this reveal softer smoother skin, but allows for better penetration of serums and creams, and makes extractions (when necessary) easier.

3. Calm, soothe and revitalize sensitive skin.
A lot of people think they can't have a facial if they have sensitive skin, but this is an instance where your skin therapist really can make a difference in one treatment. With a thorough written and verbal consult, as well as carefully chosen products and technology, sensitive skin can be calmed and soothed, and feel more comfortable and less reactive.

4. Aid in clearing blocked pores, reduce inflammation and knock out bacteria that help acne thrive.
Many clients with congested skin have a love/hate relationship with extractions, but with the right product selection, pore clearing extractions can be performed with minimal discomfort and irritation. I always tell my clients: You should not look like you've been stung by bees after a treatment. Keeping irritation down and managing the bacteria that help breakouts to thrive will help to prevent future eruptions that you currently may not even be able to see.

Now, the reality check. (Sorry.) A single facial cannot do the following:

1. Clear every pore.
Even with the truth of number 3 above, one facial cannot clear out every blackhead, or banish every blemish. With 20,000 follicles (or pores) on the average face, even extracting 1/4 of these would be a long, irritating procedure of epic proportions. Keeping the skin clear is a process that involves consistent home care, every day. (And no, I don't mean extracting your own skin.) Read my post on clogged skin here.

2. Reverse hyperpigmentation.
Spots from sun damage, hormonal dark spots (melasma), "age spots" (lipofuscin), even scarring from breakouts all present as varying yellow to brown discolorations on the face. These won't go away overnight, and certainly not in one facial.  A treatment can brighten the overall look of the skin, mostly due to exfoliating away pigment held in the dead surface cells. It's also a good way to get a "mega-dose" of action ingredients into the skin, which can then be continued at home with the appropriate products.

3. Undo a non-existent home care routine.
Come on now. There's only so much that can be done in 60-80 minutes. I'll use my favorite analogy: What shape would your teeth be in if you had regular cleanings, but never flossed or brushed in between? (Gross.) It's the same with your skin. What you do daily is going to have the most significant long-term impact on the health of your skin. Facials are amazing boosters, but cannot replace home care. The bare minimum? Keep it clean, hydrated and protected (Yes that's a sunscreen plug.)

So one last thing, and maybe the most important thing a facial can do. It can give you a moment, and some time to reset. I don't use the word pampering because it makes a facial treatment sound like an indulgence, as opposed to the self-care it really is. How this reset is defined will be different for every client, and that's the way it should be. Some want to talk skin, some nap, some chat (and laugh!), others have quiet time or a combination of all of these. The main thing is, the phone is on silent and the time is yours. Sound good? I think so too. I look forward to seeing you in the treatment room very soon......