The 411 on Facials

Want flawless skin for your wedding? Unfortunately, it's not something you can register for. Do the next best thing: Get a facial!
Renee A. Ramirez
by Renee A. Ramirez

Facials are a beauty treatment many brides enjoy -- they feel indulgent and can ensure your skin looks its most glowing on your wedding day. A good facial includes surface cleansing, deep pore cleansing (sometimes including extractions), exfoliation, toning, and moisturizing. The combination of services you receive depends on your skin type; oily skins will get extra cleansing, dry skin extra-moisturizing treatments. If you've never had a professional facial before, here's what to expect:

Step 1: Consultation and Cleansing

The facialist will look at your skin, usually under the unforgiving glare of a bright light, and sometimes using a big magnifying glass. She may ask you questions about diet, exercise, skin problems, sun exposure, or skin care. Then she'll identify what she sees as your problems -- clogged pores, blackheads, dryness, etc. This is a good time to tell her when you're getting married and ask her to suggest a routine you can follow to ensure great skin on the big day.

Next, she'll cleanse your face with a mild cleanser, removing any grime and makeup you came in with. You'll probably experience this as a relaxing face massage. Then, your aesthetician will exfoliate your face, either with a scrub or an AHA product, or both. The AHA (alpha-hydroxy acid) your facialist uses has a higher percentage of acid than the kinds you can buy in a store; therefore, it gives more of an exfoliation. It sounds scary, but don't panic -- you may experience a tingling feeling, but it shouldn't hurt.

Step 2: Steaming and Extraction

At this point, your facialist may wheel out a strange-looking machine -- a steamer. It blows gusts of steam at your face, softening the skin, opening the pores, and preparing for extraction (the deep pore cleansing process). Different salons have different ways of doing this. At some, you'll sit up with your face over a pot of boiling water to which soothing chamomile herbs have been added. At others, your face is wrapped in warm towels, ever so gently coaxing those pores to open. This process can take anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes.

When your pores lie vulnerable and open to the waiting aesthetician, she will get down to some serious work: extraction. This may sound like the scariest part of a facial, but for some of us it's by far the most important. How to put this delicately? Oh heck, the facialist wraps her fingers in tissue, or puts on thin rubber gloves, and squeezes your ... imperfections. She does what you do in the privacy of your own bathroom under unforgiving fluorescent light. And, yes, you actually pay her for this.

Though you may prefer to pop your own pimples (you shouldn't -- but at the same time, the thought of someone doing it for you is kinda yucky) there are benefits to having an aesthetician do it: she has a lot of experience (believe it or not, squeezing schmutz out of your pores takes talent) and she works in a sterile environment, thereby reducing the risk of infection. A thorough extraction will cover your hairline, t-zone, cheeks, chin, nose, and some adventuresome facialists will venture into the neck and ear areas!

Step 3: The Fun Stuff

After extraction, breathe a sigh of relief and get ready for the fun part. After cleaning things up with a toner made for your skin type, the facialist will apply a treatment mask to close up the pores, tighten the skin, and get rid of any debris from the extraction process. Many salons use this period to give you a facial massage, too, using wonderful aromatherapy oils to soothe away the stress and impurities. For dry skin, a rehydrating ginseng mask might be used, for oily skin, a detoxifying seaweed, and for sensitive skin, aloe vera. And don't be surprised if two or more masks are used, one right after the other. For example, you may have oily and sensitive skin. Plus, while the mask is on you may get a neck, back, and hand massage from your kind aesthetician along with some good advice or gossip, then be left to snooze for a while so the masks can do their magic.

When all the gunk comes off, your face should be as smooth and pink as a newborn baby's bottom. Expect your facialist to apply a sunblock with at least SPF 15, especially if you've had an AHA treatment, because it makes skin extremely sun-sensitive. The cost? Anywhere between $50 to $250, depending on the treatments you have done and where you live. And be sure to get recommendations before you choose a salon -- you don't want just anyone picking at your face!

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