Originally published in Body Sense magazine, Autumn/Winter 2007. Copyright 2007. Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals. All rights reserved.
If you're a fan of bodywork, there's a little secret we need to let you in on--if you haven't yet tried one, please do, because you'll love a facial. A hydrating, cleansing, noninvasive facial is a close relative to massage and includes many of the same elements and philosophies that make massage good for you. To the massage benefits you're already aware of, add aspects of cleansing, exfoliating, and hydrating and you've got the makings of a rejuvenating, healthful skin care experience.
Those who've found massage and bodywork to be an awesome addition to their self-care regime, will find that skin care therapies can also be a beneficial piece of their healthcare puzzle. Paying attention to our skin, especially the delicate tissues of the face, can subtract years from our looks. Putting some time into a skin care routine will pay off with a more youthful appearance and a greater ability to fight off Mother Nature's aging process.
And facials are no longer just for the rich and famous. "We're seeing unprecedented growth in the skin care profession," says Katie Armitage, president of Associated Skin Care Professionals
(ASCP). "No longer is skin care considered a luxury, but a necessity. We are seeing nontraditional consumers becoming spa customers, including teenagers and men. This speaks to today's need for respite from busy lives, the chance to lead more confident and healthier lives, and a place of connection for friends and families to treat themselves on special occasions."
Working with an esthetician is much like working with your massage therapist. It's a partnership for the purpose of improving your health and well-being, and a partnership requiring clients to be an equal member in the process.
When making a foray into the world of skin care, a facial is one of the first therapies you should try--it's not only comforting and refreshing, but it gives you and your skin care therapist a baseline for your skin's health and a treatment protocol for accomplishing your skin care goals.
Because estheticians will often work from the face down into the neck and shoulder area, even sometimes working the arms and hands, it's best to fully disrobe for a facial, just as you would for a massage. Working around bra straps is not conducive to getting the most effective of treatments. The length of a facial can range from an "express" thirty-five-minute service to a more thorough ninety minutes; most average about one hour.
During the facial process, your esthetician will cleanse your skin, sometimes using steam to open your pores. Depending on the condition of your skin, she will select a product to exfoliate the dead, outermost layer of skin away, and do any extractions (the removal of impurities in the skin, including blackheads). A variety of hydrating and toning products are applied along the way, depending on your skin type.
The element you'll most recognize during your treatment is the facial massage. Working at a slower, more gentle pace, your skin care therapist might incorporate massage during the cleansing and exfoliating process, during the hydrating step, or all the way throughout. It's not only relaxing, but healing as blood flow is stimulated on the face. The whole process nourishes and tones your skin, and just feels good.
It's important to remember that everyone's skin care needs are unique unto themselves. Just because your girlfriend was a candidate for a chemical peel or a strong exfoliant during her facial, doesn't mean you'll be. For example, even using a washcloth on some facial types can be problematic, with the rough friction potentially breaking delicate facial capillaries. Inform your therapist of any adverse reactions to product, makeup, procedures, etc., as well any problem areas so she can help you make informed decisions on what self-care routine is best for you.
What's most fun is figuring out exactly what sort of esthetic treatment you might want. Is it a traditional facial, where warm towels not only facilitate the cleaning process, but cocoon you in comforting warmth? Maybe a mud wrap or a salt scrub that works on the entire body might be more to your liking? Or something more specific to your needs like an acne treatment or men's facial?
Want to hydrate your skin as part of an antiaging defense? A series of seasonal facials, in combination with a good home skin care regimen, might do the trick. Want to diminish fine lines and wrinkles or lessen the effects of sun-damaged skin? A microdermabrasion process that acts as a mini "sandblaster" can exfoliate the years away. Your esthetician should be able to make some long-term recommendations after she's had a chance to closely examine and clean your skin during your facial.
Just like your massage therapist, your esthetician can be another line of defense when it comes to detecting skin cancers and other health issues of the skin, simply because they can see things we normally can't. When working on your skin, your therapist might suggest you visit your doctor or dermatologist if there's something needing a closer look.
As with any body therapy, let your therapist know if anything is causing you discomfort or irritation during your skin care service. Whether it be needing the little fluff of fuzz that's stuck to your nose removed before it drives you crazy, or letting your esthetician know that your feeling a lot of stimulation from a certain product they've just applied to your skin, speak up. Just as in massage, your therapist wants you to be forthcoming so that you can fully enjoy the experience, and not be anxiously waiting for it to end so you can scratch your nose.
Your esthetician will often send you home with a self-care routine to follow between skin care therapies. For normal skin, many professionals recommend coming in for a facial every three months, or when the seasons change, as that's when skin can take on changes, too. Other regimens require twice-monthly treatments.
While facials are the most popular skin care option, there are a variety of therapeutic skin care services available to us: body wraps incorporating herbal or seaweed products to nourish the skin; body scrubs using ground nuts, salt, or other granular substances to exfoliate and "polish" the skin; or mask and mud treatments to purify, tonify, and replenish the skin's vigor.
Ask your massage therapist about skin care--you might be surprised to learn they are trained and/or dual-licensed in esthetics, or will be able to refer you to someone who is. Or, visit ASCP's site at www.ascpskincare.com
for referrals in your area.
Above all else, give yourself a chance to explore the benefits that come with professional skin care. Your face will thank you for it. Karrie Osborn is the contributing editor for