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SpaSeekers’ Guide to Spa Facials

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Facials are the second most popular treatment choice among spa-goers, after body massages. If you’ve yet to treat yourself, your partner or a friend to one, you may be unsure of the benefits of facials and what to expect when enjoying one as part of a pamper day or overnight spa break.

In this guide, we cover how facials are typically performed, the effects of different types of facial and the aftercare that can help you get the very most from your treatment. You’ll also find some facial FAQs answered at the end.

What is a facial?

Facials involve a variety of therapeutic procedures designed to boost the immediate appearance and overall health and longevity of the skin. Nearly all facials comprise deep cleansing and exfoliation stages, but the products and tools used depend on the type of facial - and the spa venue - selected.

What are the benefits of undergoing a spa facial? 

A regular facial is ideal for maintaining good skin health and can leave you with a radiant complexion. There are many types of spa facial to choose from. For example, some aid skin elasticity, preventing sagging, wrinkles and other tell-tell ageing signs, while others help to combat dry skin ailments or acne.

Even the lucky few of you with perfect skin will enjoy the indulgent pleasure of a facial, which utilises gentle massage techniques. Facial massages are not only relaxing; they also boost circulation and blood flow, helping the skin on your face to self-heal while re-energising your mind.

Types of spa facial

While there are countless facial options offered by the 500+ venues we represent nationwide, most fall within one of the following categories:

Hydrating facials: Designed to increase the skin’s moisture levels, hydrating facials are an ideal winter skin treat. Nourishing, collagen infused lotions are often used to rid the skin of dry and flaky patches, and to ‘plump’ the skin for a youthful appearance.

Balancing facials: Ideal for those with combination or blemish-prone skin, balancing facials are the enemy of unsightly, enlarged pores. Undergoing one will help to regulate your skin’s oil production - a great help if you suffer with the effects of hormone imbalance. 

Firming facials: Designed to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines, firming facials often see tightening skin gels used. Painless, anti-ageing electrotherapy is also becoming more common within this category of facial. Regular treatment offers the best results, but improvement is evident after a single session 

Soothing facials: Considered a godsend for itchy, flaky or otherwise irritated skin (but enjoyed by spa guests with skin of all types), soothing facials usually feature natural oils to help to calm redness and promote the skin’s natural protective functions 

Rejuvenating facials: An instantly younger appearance is the aim of the rejuvenating facial. These work to promote the growth of new skin cells and collagen production. An electric (pain-free) exfoliating brush might be used to remove dead skin cells and electrotherapy is often used in conjunction.

Peel facials: This term is used to describe a variety of facials designed to remove one or more layers of the skin to reveal a brighter complexion with less blemishes. The chemical peels offered at medical spas are the most obvious example, but an increasing number of peel facials featuring natural ingredients are becoming available. Learn more about peel facials

Enzyme facials: While many of the chemical peels offered by medical spas are capable of damaging live skin cells if applied incorrectly or for too long, the proteolytic exfoliants in enzyme facials can only destroy dead cells, making them a gentler choice. These condition-based facials target acne, and dry, dull, tired and/or greasy skin, and provide an instantly younger appearance without temporary redness, making them a celebrity favourite.

Resurfacing facials (aka lasabrasion or laser peel): Typically offered by medical spas, resurfacing facials utilise laser therapy, and/or a chemical peel and microdermabrasion to rid the skin of dead cells to the greatest possible degree to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and skin irregularities, such as discoloration and acne scars. Collagen production is also boosted. An increasing number of spas now offer non-laser resurfacing facials promising similar results.

Pro-collagen quartz lift facial: This Elemis anti-wrinkle facial provides instant results and is offered at many of the Champneys spas represented by SpaSeekers, and more venues besides. Padina pavonica marine algae, precious quartz minerals and massage techniques designed to lift, tone and boost collagen production in the skin are applied, while you unwind in a full body massage chair. 

Anti-ageing eye treatments: The delicate skin around the eyes is particularly susceptible to the ageing process. This area is often targeted as part of the different facials listed here, but many spas offer specific anti-ageing eye treatments, too (please enquire with your selected venue ahead of your visit).

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What to expect during your facial

While you should always ask our experts or visit specific venue websites to determine the full details of your chosen treatment, these are the steps typically followed for most traditional non-laser and non-chemical spa facials:

Step #1 - CLEANSE: Your therapist will gently massage a cleansing milk (or similar product) into your makeup-free skin and decolletage. After a few minutes, the cleanser will be removed using warm water and facial sponges/cotton pads. 

Step #2 - CONSULTATION: Once patted dry, the therapist will cover your eyes and take a closer look at your skin using a lighted magnifying glass. This will allow the specific needs of your skin to be determined and the treatment to be adapted accordingly. You may be asked questions about your skincare routine or lifestyle at this stage.

Step #3 - EXFOLIATION: A suitable exfoliation cream is usually applied. Your therapist will use her hands or an exfoliation brush to help remove any dead skin cells. 

Step #4 - STEAM: Steam - or a hot towel - may be introduced to the face while the exfoliation cream is still present, or after it has been removed by your therapist using pads/sponges. The addition of heat loosens pores and encourages impurities to be flushed via the sweat ducts. 

Step #5 - EXTRACTION: This step sees your therapist remove any blackheads and whiteheads from your skin using an extraction tool - a steel instrument which allows easy removal of built up sebum from pores. Your face will be cleansed once more after all extractions are completed. 

Step #6 - MASSAGE: Your therapist will massage your face (usually with a refreshing oil) to encourage blood flow and the self-lubrication of your skin. This relaxing massage may also involve your shoulders and scalp.

Step #7 - MASK: A clay or cream-based mask chosen to meet the needs of your skin will be applied. You may receive a further massage at this point to help the mask do its ‘magic’, or you may be left alone for five minutes so you can clear your mind.

Step #8 - SERUM AND FINAL TOUCHES: Once the mask has been washed from your skin, a protective, speciality serum (such as one for ageing, or blemish-prone, skin) is usually applied. An eye gel or lip care treatment may also be used, or be optional extras available to you at an additional price.

Facial aftercare

The following advice will ensure you get the most from your spa facial and minimise the chances of experiencing irritation after your treatment:

Do not undergo further skin treatments for at least 48 hours after your facial (increase this to 72 hours for exfoliant products and scrubs).

Avoid excessive sunlight and heat sources (such as saunas) for a minimum of 48 hours.

Keep makeup to a bare minimum for the first 24 hours following your facial - allow your skin to breathe and take full advantage of the treatment.

Drink plenty of water to aid the flushing of toxins from your skin.

You can purchase full-size/trial-size versions of the products used during your facial at the majority of spas, meaning you can repeat the regime recommended by your therapist at home.

Facials which use laser technology or chemicals have their own specific aftercare requirements - always follow the advice provided by your therapist.

Facial FAQs

How should I prepare my skin for my facial?

While you can continue to follow your usual skin routine ahead of your spa visit, you should avoid exfoliating masks and scrubs several days before your facial to prevent the risk of raw, or otherwise uncomfortable, skin caused by over-treatment.

You should arrive for your facial makeup-free. While the therapist may be happy to remove makeup for you, this extra step will need to be completed within your overall treatment time. Be sure to arrive promptly too, to get the very most from your appointment.

Are breakouts (i.e. spots) common after undergoing a facial?

Some spa goers report the appearance of new spots within 48 hours after a facial. This can be alarming for spa newcomers but it’s a fairly common reaction - it simply indicates your skin is detoxifying itself, and a glowing complexion should soon follow.

While spots are far from guaranteed, you may want to schedule your facial a minimum of four to five days before any important event in order to allow your skin plenty of time to recover.

Our spa voucher packages can be purchased for yourself or as a gift and are a great way to celebrate a milestone or to prepare for that important occasion.

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