Do facials work?
May 9, 2005 10:55 AM   Subscribe

Do facials work? I want to look like Isabella Rossellini. I want to be rid of minor blemishes that crop up often enough that I seem to always have some little thing to cover. But I'm wary of using unnecessary 'services'. Can a facial do something for me that I can't do for myself at home? How often would I need to go? Will it cost a million dollars? (Any NYC/southern CT recommendations?)
posted by xo to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (26 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
The short answer is - not really. They feel good. They make make you look temporarily a little "brighter" - but if you're looking for results - facials are unlikely to give you any long term.
If you have particularly congested skin - facials are good at deep cleaning and "extracting" some of that gunk in a way that is less likely to injure your skin that were you to do it at home.
They are usually fairly expensive - and then there is also usually a high pressure sell on all kinds of products you "must" buy.
That said - I probably get one every 2-3 months. I love the way it feels and I find the short term benefits enough to justify the cost.
If you have real skin issues and some disposable income - you'll likely have better luck with a dermatologist who specializes in cosmetic issues. Some of the deeper skin peels and stronger treatments than they can do at a spa might give real results - but they aren't cheap and can take some recovery time.
In New York - I love the Bliss spas. There are at least 3 in Manhattan.
posted by Wolfie at 11:16 AM on May 9, 2005

I'm inclined to say that facials are nothing but a temporary fix that just amounts to you spending an assload of unnecessary money. Not to mention all the crappy products your aesthetician is going to try and sell you. What kind of routine do you have? What products are you using? I'd say focus on finding a daily routine that works well for you and that will go a hell of a lot further than a 20-minute face massage (which is really what you are getting). If you have serious concerns, find a reputable dermatologist.
posted by crapulent at 11:20 AM on May 9, 2005

In my experience, unless you opt for the really expensive treatments (like Cathiodermie, microdermabrasion, etc.), a facial won't break the bank. In the UK I would pay around £35 for an hour's facial and neck/shoulder massage. That's around $65, I think.

But these salon gals are out to make a buck just like anyone else and they earn commission on product sales, so you have to be able to resist a pretty hard sell.

A cheaper alternative is to contact your local beauty school and see if you can have a facial carried out by a trainee under supervision.

In my experience, the only thing a facial in a salon does for me that I can't do at home is the massage - although I stroke/knead my face exactly the same as the therapist does, somehow it never feels the same when I do it to myself!

The best home facial treatment I've had? After eating a pineapple, cut the skin into 2" chunks, keep it in the refrigerator, and every day after cleansing your skin, rub the fleshy side into your face. Leave it to dry for 10 minutes, and rinse away. The enzymes in the pineapple do wonders for the skin.

Which leads me to ask? Since the Body Shop stopped making Pineapple Facial Wash a few years ago, is there another similar product on the market? Anyone know?
posted by essexjan at 11:25 AM on May 9, 2005

Facials feel great. I find getting one incredibly relaxing. If you want better skin, and have stubborn acne issues, you might be better off consulting a dermatologist. If you think that it is more stress-related, and a relaxing session may improve things, then by all means try it out. I find that the things that have the biggest impact on my skin are the basics: enough sleep, proper diet, and water, water, water.
posted by ambrosia at 11:44 AM on May 9, 2005

I've never had a professional facial, but I have been amazed at the fresh masks from Lush. (All natural ingredients, no preservatives, must be refrigerated, smell wonderful!) I bought a couple without talking to the sales people and they were OK; I finally actually asked for a recommendation the last time I went in and ended up with something that really noticeably brightens my face for an entire day after I use it.

They're only about $9-10 and have about 5 applications in them, so they're not particularly expensive, either.

Might be a good compromise...
posted by occhiblu at 12:18 PM on May 9, 2005

Use a BufPuf or a cleanser with apricot kernel or microbeads. Not both. Exfoliating scrubs away dead cells. That pineapple idea is appealing (a-peel-ing, get it? Heh. heh.)

If you really enjoy the experience, go for it, but I've not found it especially useful.
posted by theora55 at 12:35 PM on May 9, 2005 [1 favorite]

I agree with the above comments-- facials feel good and seem to have short-lasting effects-- face feels softer, etc. for the day or two following the facial.

I love at-home facial products, and making my own mask by mixing various ingredients, including oatmeal, avocado, honey, banana, and egg.

Re: Pineapple facial wash

I just saw this at my local Wild Oats. Looks very similar to the old Body Shop product.

I tried the Kiehl's version and liked it too.
Speaking of Lush, I am pretty sure that one of their Fresh masks is pineapple-based, but I can't find an online link.

I happen to love papaya enzymes for exfoliating. My favorite is this one.
posted by picklebird at 12:43 PM on May 9, 2005

One note: I have heard women say that facials work wonders if you get them regularly for a long period of time. I have never been able to afford this.
posted by picklebird at 12:53 PM on May 9, 2005

Facials are great, but I don't think they fix problems.
posted by suchatreat at 1:00 PM on May 9, 2005

Those Lush products are not definitely not "all natural" and yes, they do have preservatives (methyparaben and propylparaben). Most of them also have dyes and perfume in them. You do not want to put anything on your face that has perfume in it, especially if you have sensitive skin. Try this website. They have a wide variety of stuff and it is the real deal. I don't know if I'm so hokey as to think that chemical ingredients cause cancer (etc.), but I just figure that if I can do with out... why not. My personal experience has been that since I have started using natural products my hair and skin have vastly improved. Chemical ingredients dry out your skin and often your body will overcompensate by producing too much oil in response. I used to get a greasy scalp, but now that I use Aubrey Organics hair products I don't get oily and I only wash my hair every other day (sometimes even every other, other day!). It's the same with my skin. This cleanser has really changed my face. You won't believe it until you try it. If you are getting that squeaky clean feeling after you wash, your products are probably too harsh. This makes you feel like you've already been moisturized. I'm sorry I'm rambling, but I hope that this will benefit someone out there. Also, see this thread for semi-related stuff.
posted by crapulent at 1:22 PM on May 9, 2005

Well, if the problem is enough that you'd maybe go to a doctor, and are willing to spend some money (or have good insurance) I would recommend asking your doctor about the Diane 35 pills. I've had mild acne (ie 1-5 pimples all the time), pretty much nonstop since my late teens (I'm now in my late twenties) and after six months on these pills my skin is the clearest i've ever seen - nary a zit in sight.

No, i'm not an ad for Diane 35. They've just seriously worked for me.

Oh, and facials always seemed like hogwash to me. I can shmear my lotion onto my face all by myself, and i don't even need to worry about parking.
posted by Kololo at 1:26 PM on May 9, 2005

I'm a super-tomboy and I don't wear any makeup. For years I was an Ivory Soap and Water type of girl, but about two years ago I started getting facials on a monthly basis at a local high-end salon.

The difference in my skin was noticeable enough in six months that strangers spoke to me about it in the grocery store ("Wow, you have great skin. I wish I had skin like that") I didn't have any real serious skin problems before I started this -- just a few problem areas and the start of some wrinkles around my eyes, but I really do think that this has made a huge difference in my appearance.
posted by anastasiav at 1:28 PM on May 9, 2005

I got a great aveda facial about a month ago and I thought it made my skin better, but it could also be better for other reasons. I asked the aestheticist (that's what they are, right?) if they really do improve your skin and she said if you go once a month, after 3 or 4 months you will start to notice improvements.

Another tip is to use coffee grounds to exfoliate- the caffeine will be absorbed thru your skin and it'll increase the circulation in your face. Good for getting out the impurities and having a nice healthy glow.

Has anyone tried the neutrogena microdermabrasion? I heard it's great.

(I love talking about spa treatments even though I can't afford most of them- the aveda facial was a splurge!)
posted by elisabeth r at 1:32 PM on May 9, 2005

crapulent, you're right about the perfume, but I'm still not seeing any preservatives here:

Ingredients: Rhassoul Mud, Linseed Infusion (Linum usitatissimum), Glycerine, Talc, Cocoa Powder (Theobroma cacao), Cocoa Butter (Theobroma cacao), Fresh Mint (Mentha piperita), Sandalwood Oil (Santalum album), Vanilla Absolute (Vanilla planifolia), Spearmint Oil (Mentha viridis), Peppermint Oil (Mentha piperita), Pefume

I'm not a Lush devotee -- I'm not a huge fan of their other products -- so I don't know about their other stuff, but the masks do seem pretty all-natural.
posted by occhiblu at 1:53 PM on May 9, 2005

Absolutely I believe in facials, but darling, if you find something that makes any of us look like Isabella, you must email me.
posted by puddinghead at 2:04 PM on May 9, 2005 [1 favorite]

Lush also sells fresh masks in the store that require refrigeration and have no preservatives, hence they cannot be sold on the web site.

I really recommend microdermabrasion. The effects don't last forever, but it really did a great job of cleaning up mild acne scarring and just overall making my face look fantastic. If I could afford it, I'd have it done every month.
posted by astruc at 2:06 PM on May 9, 2005

(The fresh masks are what I meant. I linked to the UK website, because they do sell the fresh masks online in the UK. Sorry for any confusion or potential derail.)
posted by occhiblu at 2:07 PM on May 9, 2005

occhiblu, I am confused as to which product you are linking to. When I looked at the masks they all had methylparaben and/or propylparaben (at the very end of the list) which are preservatives.
posted by crapulent at 2:14 PM on May 9, 2005

Again, the fresh masks aren't available online in the US, because the fresh ingredients and lack of preservatives mean they can't ship them. They *are* available online in the UK (since it's a smaller country and shipping's not an issue), so I linked to the product on the UK website. But the fresh masks are available in stores in the US.
posted by occhiblu at 2:24 PM on May 9, 2005

(Oops -- testing my earlier link, I see why you couldn't get there. Go to, choose UK, then go to Products --> Fresh. The fresh masks are there.)
posted by occhiblu at 2:26 PM on May 9, 2005

Ah. Gotcha. Most of them sound pretty good aside from the perfume. I'll never understand why companies do that. Why the heck do they think everything has to have a strong smelly good smell?
posted by crapulent at 2:39 PM on May 9, 2005

Facials are wonderful, and do more than a nice exfoliating scrub, but if you want significant and permanent changes in your skin, you must start with your diet. (Unless you have significant acne, then there's other things to be done...) Avoid anything but small amounts of caffeine, alcohol, saturated fats, sugar, etc. Eat copious amounts of green leafy vegetables, high-fiber foods, etc. And drinking your allotted 8 glasses of water a day will do wonders for your skin.
posted by Specklet at 2:54 PM on May 9, 2005

Facials are a nice way to relax, especially if it includes a shoulder massage. I usually get them twice a year, post summer and winter and after a plane trip. I reckon plenty of water, green vegies and exercise have longer term benefits. Enjoy anyway!
posted by Chimp at 3:51 PM on May 9, 2005

...cleanser with apricot kernel...
Don't do it! Not on your face at least. Apricot kernel pieces are too irregular and jagged and leave microscopic lacerations. Over time, you'll be building up scar tissue.

Glycolic acid is where it's at.
posted by 4easypayments at 9:20 PM on May 9, 2005

Have you seen Isabella Rossellini lately? She's still very beautiful (if you can appreciate old beauty), but her skin is certainly not taut like it used to be. Which is fine by me, but don't believe the airbrushed photos or footage from 20 years ago of her. Facials can only do so much -- we all age eventually, we do so gracefully if we carry ourselves well.
posted by randomstriker at 11:55 PM on May 9, 2005

Ah. Gotcha. Most of them sound pretty good aside from the perfume. I'll never understand why companies do that. Why the heck do they think everything has to have a strong smelly good smell?

Well, as someone who makes organic bath and body products, I can tell you it's because unscented products don't sell worth a damn. :) I make a soap, a lotion bar and a scrub that are all unscented, and I've never sold one. Not one. I've just recently donated the entire stock of unscented product to the local women's shelter so it wouldn't go rancid before it got used. There's no call for it, I'm not going to keep it in stock, although I'll make it if someone requests it.

Not a lot of people who do organics are doing pineapple products at the moment because of a lack of available organic pineapples. Also, pineapple prices across the board have shot up, possibly because of the fuel expense of getting them to the mainland.

DO NOT use apricot kernels on your face! You can seriously damage your skin because the shards are so sharp and they don't dissolve in water.

Here are some facial products you can make at home:

Egg Yolk & Honey Facial Mask
(best for dryer skin types)

Mix Together
* 1 tablespoon honey
* 1 egg yolk
* 1/2 teaspoon almond oil
* 1 tablespoon yogurt.

Honey stimulates and smoothes, egg and almond oil penetrate and moisturize, and yogurt refines and tightens pores.

Egg Yolk, Avocado & Mud Facial Mask
Best for oily skin types (Clay or fuller's earth mud is available in powder form at any health food store.)

Mix Together
* 1 tablespoon dry clay
* 1 egg yolk
* 1/4 of a mashed avocado
* enough witch hazel to create a smooth mixture.

Mud dries excess sebum while the egg yolk and avocado replenish lost moisture. Witch hazel tones.

Oat and Brown Sugar Scrub
* 2 Tbsp. ground oats
* 2 tsp. brown sugar
* 2 Tbsp. aloe vera
* 1 tsp. lemon juice

(I usually run the oats throught a coffee mill first.) Mix all ingredients in a clean bowl until you have a smooth paste. Gently massage onto damp skin, and rinse off with warm water. You can triple the recipe for a fantastic smoothing body treatment. (Oatmeal is highly absorptive, and helps to soften skin. Oats have the best amino acid balance of all the cereal grains (amino acids work as water-binding agents in skin care products). Oats have also been clinically shown to help heal dry, itchy skin.)

I like salt scrubs for the body, especially during the summer...but it can be painful if you find a scratch or razor nick you didn't know was there. ;) For my body salt scrubs, I use a combination of shea butter, sweet almond oil and Dead Sea Salt that I've crushed in a coffee mill. It leaves a lot of butters and oils on the skin, so I don't recommend it for facial treatments...although shae butter under your eyes at night is probably the best treatment for wrinkles, bar none.
posted by dejah420 at 8:50 AM on May 10, 2005 [2 favorites]

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