Last week, I got a spa facial. I went for a full 60-minute treatment with an esthetician named Diana— complete with elements of massage, a cleansing peel, a facial mask… The works. To be honest, for me it was quite the indulgence. It was my first facial treatment, and I didn’t often spend on body treatments or anything of the like. In fact, I barely even spent on manicures or pedicures, often allowing my feet to grow calloused and unkempt. But this time, I splurged for the one hour spa facial. Indulgent, I know.
For the most part, that’s all I expected it to be: indulgent. I expected to walk in, lie contentedly down on a soft adjustable bed, and engulf myself in the cool feel of cucumber for a lavish hour of pampering. And then I’d leave. The next day my face might feel a little softer, sure. I might even get rid of a pimple or two. But that was it. The hour would be over, and with it, my first facial treatment.
The reality had an attribute I really didn’t expect: practicality. “Facial” and “practicality” were two entirely separate concepts in my perception. I mean, a spa facial was right up there on the list with a beach resort stay. Or something that older people get to gain a futile sense of control over their wrinkles. In all honesty, that was the word I associated most with facials: futile.
But I was wrong. I actually learned a lot in my first facial treatment– skills I can apply to my daily self-care rituals, knowledge I can use when dealing with everyday skin problems, and a greater understanding of my body and products I can use to rejuvenate it.
Here are the top three things I learned from getting my first facial treatment:
Your skin stores more information than a USB drive.
This is probably my main takeaway. Your skin can say so much about you. Events and aspects of your life are constantly being etched in intricate record on your skin. Your water intake, food habits, skin cleansing regime, sleep schedule, stress levels, sun exposure, skin care history, and a plethora of other snapshots are all hidden in clues on or beneath the skin of your face.
In the hour that I spent with my esthetician, she told me things about my habits, daily routine, and skin– some of which I didn’t even fully know myself. For example, she told me that I need to be drinking more water on a day-to-day basis. She was performing extractions (which is where she extracted the bacteria from beneath the pores of my blackheads and blemishes) and could read the hydration levels of my body based on how easily the process went. I thought about it, and realized I had been forgetting to hydrate myself at my new job; I would get busy and let the entire day pass without drinking hardly any water. I now keep a full glass of water at my desk. An important change– even my skin was changing because of my lack of hydration.
Diana could also tell from my skin that I hadn’t gotten a facial before. Meaning that getting facials leaves a lasting impact on your skin, which I didn’t anticipate and thought was pretty cool. My skin and pores were all clogged up, and had been accumulating build-up from the surrounding air. Not even to say that I hadn’t been cleaning my face enough (though that might be true), but a facial clears out all of the even deeper and more ingrained layers of accumulated residue, most of which Diana told me is dead skin. Apparently, 98% of the dirt and dust floating around in the air around us is dead skin, and it gets caught in our pores and gathers on our faces. Regardless of the grotesque thought of dust burrowing in my face, I didn’t realize how intricate a record my daily skincare was keeping on my skin. The cumulative effects of these daily tasks stretch all the way into adulthood, and will eventually effect the way my skin endures the aging process.
I haven’t been taking care of my skin the right way.
There’s always a way you can improve– that much I knew. But the tip I found most informative involved the amount of scrubbing and exfoliation you make sure your skin gets when doing your daily/nightly cleanse. People are often taught that when you wash your face each night, you should try and scrub the exfoliating face wash deeper and more forcefully into your skin. However, that isn’t the case. People often end up needlessly over-exfoliating. This puts your skin through a lot of really harsh treatment and isn’t really doing you any more good than it would otherwise. The real effectiveness of the face wash lies in the contents of the wash itself, not in the intensity of the exfoliation or deepness of the scrubbing you use. Diana taught me that I could be much gentler with my skin and still reap the same reward.
I learned about the importance of sunscreen as well. I’m not clueless: I did know sunscreen was important (you know, for things like preventing skin cancer and all the popularized benefits of spritzing some on your back before lounging at the beach) but neglected to wear it every day. This was mostly because I don’t burn easily, so even though I live in South Florida and am constantly exposed to the sun, I didn’t think the rays were really inflicting any real damage. However, in my first facial treatment I learned that sun damage actually contributes to 80% of your skin’s aging. This effect is seemingly invisible– until the wrinkles start. Knowing that added threat piled a whole bunch of sunscreen-wearing motivation to my priorities, let me tell you.
I also learned that the type of product you use actually does kind of matter. With regards to skincare, CVS products will do a part of the job but the exposure to the ingredients used in a professional facial is important, too. For example, Diana used a professional facial mask on my skin at the end of the facial (after the cleaning/clearing out my skin portion) in order to hydrate and further treat my skin’s dryness and neglect. The product was called the Dermalogica Skin Hydrating Masque, which can be used on skin of any and all types. The facial mask is meant to refresh and moisturize dry and stressed skin– which it did definitely accomplish, as I felt on subsequent days. Diana explained to me that the facial mask helps to stimulate the skin’s Natural Moisturizing Factor, while lycopene-rich lipids from tomato seeds help to restore the skin’s protective barrier. Together, the ingredients enhance the skin’s natural moisture levels to endure in a lasting impact of healthier and smoother skin. The advanced ingredients and care of the professional product gave my skin the long-term tools to more effectively re-hydrate itself.
Spa Facials are deeper than skin-deep.
I was both shocked and pleased with the depth of the cleanse I received in my first spa facial. To be honest with you, I didn’t know that toxins and dirt from the air could travel so deep beneath the surface, but since they reside on your skin for so long, it makes sense that they sink so far down. It’s hard to extract all of the tiny particles on your own at home, and even harder to really solve all of the issues your skin has beneath the surface. During the spa facial, Diana used a Dermalogica peel treatment on my skin, which cleansed my pores and the surface of my skin. The peel was made up of strong ingredients that worked deep beneath my skin and tunneled inside my pores to conduct a deep clean of all the build-up I was talking about earlier. Diana also used this really cool procedure on my face that (quite literally) zapped the bacteria from my skin. The extraction process rid of many of the pimples and blackheads near the surface, but this tool rid of the rest by using electricity currents to travel beneath the skin and kill bacteria that hadn’t had a chance to make its appearance on the surface. Sounds like it’d be painful, but it really wasn’t — the currents just zapped away all of the unwelcome bacteria that was starting to grow deep beneath the surface of my skin. Preemptively ridding my skin of blemishes– what more could I ask for?
Getting my first facial treatment was quite the luxury, it’s true. But it also was really informative and beneficial to my skin care. I could have scrubbed my face relentlessly with as much product as I desired, but I would have missed out on the valuable learning experience and long-term benefits that my spa facial provided. Plus, Diana pampered and massaged me for an hour (and that part was pretty cool, too).