Last week, I went in for my first-ever spa facial. Being a skincare nut, I’ve always been curious to try one, but I’ve never wanted it enough to fork over all that cash. Luckily, I got a spa gift card for Christmas, and finally decided to forgo my usual full-body massage for a little more face time.
After my appointment started, however, I quickly realized that I wasn’t going to leave with the smooth, calm, moisturized skin I dreamed of. Instead, my aesthetician committed one after another of my biggest skincare don’ts and did damage that would last well beyond the temporary softness they were supposed to create.
He didn’t ask me anything about my skin. Nothing. I’m sure some aestheticians are incredibly knowledgeable about skin and can tell a lot about it by looking at it, but still, know one knows your skin better than you. So when he didn’t ask whether I was oily or dry, whether I had sensitive skin, or even what skin issues I deal with, it was kind of a red flag.
What little he told me about the products he was putting on my skin indicated that he were treating my skin as if it were oily. If he had bothered to ask, my facialist would’ve known that my skin is drier than a statistics textbook and might have treated it with a little more kindness.
The first thing my aesthetician did was turn on a steam machine. Beauty mags love to hype steam for “opening and closing pores” as if they were freaking windows. Not only is that totally untrue (your pores don’t open, nor do they “breathe”), but it can be damaging to the skin. Steam can cause irritation and redness and even exacerbate conditions like eczema and rosacea, and cause broken capillaries.
Then, he moved on to the extractions. Blergh. Y’all know by now not to pick at your skin ever, of course. That doesn’t change even when you’re paying a “professional” to do it--it can still cause major damage. Not only can you irritate your zits and make them worse, extractions can cause damage by essentially tearing up the pore. That causes it to heal in an irregular shape, making it more susceptible to clogs in the future. If you extract it now, you may be setting yourself up for recurring breakouts in future. For more pigmented skin like mine, the inflammation caused by extractions also inevitably leads to hyperpigmentation.
Next, he used a harsh, grainy scrub on my face. Scrubs like that with irregular, sharp pieces, can also cause tiny tears in the skin, leading to mega-irritation, which is why I stick to chemical exfoliants.
Then, he finished my treatment with some kind of mask that had the telling tingly sting of menthol, another powerful irritant.
Basically, I got a facial that was nope after nope after nope. I should have trusted my gut and put a stop to it. But partially because I’ve been socialized to be an accommodating “nice girl” who doesn’t make a scene, and partially because I really really wanted to believe that this treatment I’d handed over my gift card for would work, I held my tongue.
But then I got home and was all “I’ve made a huge mistake.”
That night, I took a Photobooth selfie and sent it to some of my fellow xoVain contributors to ask them what to do. They assured me that the redness would subside and that I could very well wake up with angel skin.
Unfortunately, when the angry, red inflammation died down, what I was left with was even worse.
That layering on of irritation after irritation made my skin massively inflamed, which in turn caused a ton of that post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation I love so much (insert disapproving half-frown emojis here). This is going to take a lot of time and a lot of mandelic acid to undo. In the mean time, I have to deal with skin that is in far worse condition than before I walked in those spa doors.
If you know of a good aesthetician that you trust to listen to you and be gentle with your skin, by all means, continue enjoying facials. My skin is so sensitive, though, that I think it’s too risky to try again. If I had told my facialist to avoid all the irritating treatments he used on me, all I would have gotten was a facial massage with some cleansing milk, and nobody needs to spend so much money for that.
If you do decide to get a spa facial, make sure you advocate for yourself and speak up when you know something is wrong for your skin. Or, just do like me and stick to at-home treatments you know your skin likes from now on.
Have you ever had a negative facial experience? Tell me about it and we can commiserate and hug in the comments.