Stage 1: Cleansing
Do facials leave your skin cleaner than an at-home washing? The answer depends a lot on the steps you take during your daily skin care routine.
Facials generally begin with a warm towel draped over your face. This isn’t just to induce relaxation, though—the heat is used to gently open pores. Your esthetician should then begin to clean skin using cleanser-soaked cotton pads. How “clean” your skin is after the treatment also depends on everything that touches your skin being sterile, so make sure that your esthetician wears gloves throughout the facial.
Also know that despite warmth effectively opening pores, hotter isn’t better.
Steaming skin, especially with abnormally hot steam, can worsen redness and potentially result in broken capillaries that show up as thin, spider-like lines—something to note for in-spa and at-home cleansing.
That being said, there isn’t any special skill or professional device that results in skin being cleaner post-facial than what you’re capable of performing in the low-cost comfort of your own bathroom.
Just remember that the same standards apply: Wash your hands first, removing any gunk from under your fingernails. Allow your pores to open with splashes of lukewarm water. Then gently apply your cleanser in small, circular motions, using cotton pads for slight exfoliation.
Can Facials Really Shrink Your Pores?
If you were dealt the oily skin card by genetics, you’ve likely suffered from acne, or, at least, tried a plethora of products to keep mid-day shine under control. That’s why it can be tempting to believe an esthetician’s claims that facials can shrink those pores—which is partially true.
Deep cleaning, followed by a skin-tightening astringent, can make pores appear smaller temporarily. However, the effect only lasts for about two hours.
If your pores appear larger because they’re clogged with gunk, gentle extractions can be of service. Extractions should only be performed on blackheads, not whiteheads or comedones, since attempting to “pop” these inflamed nodules can possibly rupture your pore and create a scar. However, when done correctly, they can be a valuable preventative measure. That’s because the hardened sebum that clogs pores also stretches them out. As we get older, it’s more and more difficult for our skin to snap back. (More on extractions in a minute.)
Your best bet to keeping pores petite? Even though it’s tempting to over-wash an oily complexion, doing so will only encourage your skin to create more of the slick stuff—enlarging your pores in the process.
Instead, use a gentle cleanser that helps balance your skin’s pH, followed by a light moisturizer.
A Note About Extractions
You’ve been told over and over never to pop your own pimples—instead, to leave it to the experts. So, when a baby Mt. Vernon appears on your chin, it’s only natural that you’d consider scheduling a facial.
However, it turns out that extractions aren’t even taught in detail at most cosmetology schools! Which is terrifying when you consider that, when done over-enthusiastically or incorrectly, extractions can lead to permanent scarring.
Even when your esthetician is well trained, there’s a chance your skin will react badly to extractions.
In a study performed by the Institute of Medical Science New Delhi, 142 women were given weekly facials over a 12-week observation period. Over 12 percent of the participants still showed signs of erythema, the reddening of skin in patches that results from superficial injury to the skin, an entire week after receiving extractions.
With that in mind, you may be one of the roughly 88 percent of people whose skin isn’t overly sensitive to extractions, for which it is possible for both estheticians and dermatologists to perform them in a way that’s non-damaging.
Just make sure that before you agree to the extra step during your facial, you ask your esthetician about their training and experience with the process.