What Is a Facial?

green face mask being applied to a woman's face

We're constantly looking for ways to recapture that youthful glow that slips away a little more every year as we age. Many products and techniques help reduce the effects of the aging process, and we're looking at what a facial is and how it fits into your skincare routine.

The Anatomy of a Facial

Getting a facial is a multi-step process that uses steam, masks, exfoliation, cleansing, facial massage, and topical creams.

Getting a facial isn't only used to reduce facial aging, but many people find the process relaxing and therapeutic.

Here's how the process works.

The first step in getting a facial involves a deep cleaning to open the pores and remove oil, dirt, and bacteria. Deep cleansing also prepares the skin for a thorough examination and applying other cremes or products to maintain healthy skin and combat aging.

If you're getting a facial from a dermatologist or skin care professional, they will examine your skin closely to determine the best method in the future. For example, they'll want to know whether you have dry or oily skin or any underlying conditions, such as sensitive skin, acne, or damage. With this examination, they will be able to tell what is the best type of facial for your skin.

The next step during the process is steam, which some people find relaxing and softens blackheads or whiteheads so the dermatologist can easily extract them. Depending on your skin type, your professional may skip this step.

Next is exfoliation, which can either be chemical or mechanical. Mechanical exfoliants use textured pads or sponges to remove dead skin cells, while chemical exfoliation relies on enzymes to do the job.

After exfoliating, your skincare technician will remove dirt, blackheads, and whiteheads.

Once the skin is clean and ready for further treatment, the client may opt for a facial massage. While not necessary to complete the treatment, many people enjoy getting a facial massage because of how relaxing it is and how it stimulates the facial muscles.

Applying a facial mask helps prepare your skin to more readily absorb the cremes or anti-aging products at the end of the process. Most masks contain butylene alcohol, an agent used to help infuse vital ingredients deep into the skin.

Facial masks provide many benefits, including hydration, oil removal, opening pores, and softening the effects of aging like wrinkles and age spots.

The last step in the process is applying any necessary cremes to promote hydration and increase elasticity and overall skin health.

Getting regular facials has many benefits, regardless of your age. Starting with a good skincare routine, including facials, help you to maintain youthful-looking skin and reduce the fine lines and wrinkles that come with aging.

Also, regular facials keep your pores clean, removing dead skin to help prevent bacteria that lead to acne breakouts. They benefit your overall skin's health.

Lastly, for many people, getting a facial that involves a facial massage is an excellent way to relax and unwind and treat yourself to something special.

woman in a spa getting a facial

How Often Should You Get a Facial?

The frequency of getting a facial depends on many factors, including your specific skin type, skincare needs, and your expectations for getting a facial.

While there's no hard rule regarding how often you should get a facial, some experts recommend no more than every few weeks if you're getting a superficial facial or light chemical peel. You should get a facial every few months if you're getting a more potent treatment, while deep peels can only be done once in your life.

Let's look at a facial frequency according to your skin type and specific conditions.

Blemishes & Clogged Pores

People who deal with clogged pores and minor blemishes can benefit from getting a facial more regularly because getting a gentle procedure keeps pores clean, so there's less chance of developing blackheads and whiteheads, which require professional extraction. Getting a facial every few weeks reduces the chance these issues will escalate and keeps your skin healthier and clearer.

Pigmentation Issues

If you deal with pigmentation issues, it's helpful to be consistent in your skincare routine, and it's feasible to get a facial every two to three weeks. Getting regular mild facials allows you to stay on top of the pigment cell production, so your skin appears lighter and less spotty.

Dry Skin

People struggling with dry skin can benefit from getting a facial performed every four to six weeks to repair the moisture barrier and maintain healthy hydration.

For those concerned about the effects of aging, getting a facial every four to six weeks is a good rule of thumb.

Remember that it's best to consult a skin care professional like a dermatologist to discuss your options and what treatment is safe for your particular condition and skin type.

face mask being applied to a woman's face

Using A Chemical Peel To Reduce The Effects Of Aging

Like getting a facial, many people choose to use chemical peels as part of their skincare routine. According to the Mayo Clinic,

A chemical peel is a procedure in which a chemical solution is applied to the skin to remove the top layers. The skin that grows back is smoother.

Many people confuse chemical peels with facials thinking they're the same procedure. But, while they share similarities and provide similar benefits, there are reasons to choose one over the other.

Differences Between a Chemical Peel & a Facial

The primary differences between these two procedures are the problem areas they treat and their price points.

Many people gravitate towards getting facials because they're less expensive, less invasive, and you can get them more regularly because it doesn't involve removing skin layers.

Facial Peel Benefits

Even though you won't want to get a chemical peel more than twice a year, they provide many benefits to improve your skin and as an anti-aging technique.

Chemical peels target specific skin types and issues to provide more advanced treatment for skin conditions than what you typically get with a facial, such as acne, rough skin, discoloration, and hyperpigmentation.

Not all chemical peels are the same; they're classified by their ingredients and by which skin condition they treat.

For example, if you have wrinkles and superficial blemishes, you'll want a more potent chemical peel than those used to treat acne.

close up shot of a face mask being applied

How Chemical Peels Work

Because there are different peels for different circumstances, each uses a different process; but they all involve the same preparation.

The first stage in performing a facial peel is to clean the skin thoroughly. After that, you apply a chemical solution to your face and leave it on for a designated time determined by the chemicals and the condition you're treating.

As you wait, the chemicals exfoliate the skin, and once the time is up, you peel off the mask with, hopefully, excellent results.

DIY Facial vs. Pro

Like home repairs, many people prefer to perform facials at home using one of the many products available at the local drug store. But are they as effective as getting one done by a trained professional?

Here are the pros and cons of do-it-yourself facials versus getting one done by a spa.

Pros of Giving Yourself a Facial


The apparent benefit to doing a facial at home is the cost. Homemade facials cost far less than you'll pay if you go to a spa or dermatologist.

Time Savings

Another reason many people opt for home facials is the time factor. Instead of making an appointment and going to a spa, which can take hours out of your day, you can do them at your convenience in less time. Depending on your product, you can complete your facial in as little as 10 minutes.


Most do-it-yourself facial products are easy to use. You can customize your skin care routine to achieve whatever goals you have, whether it's moisturizing dry skin, eliminating oily skin, or reducing acne breakouts.

Cons of Doing Your Facials

Although most homemade facials are safe, people must exercise caution and be aware of potential dangers or side effects.

Short Shelf Life

Many of the ingredients people use to perform homemade facials spoil quickly, even if they're refrigerated. And if you use something on your face past its expiration date, you could do more harm than good.

Inferior Ingredients

You can purchase many ingredients or some that you already have at home that can benefit your skin; they're not always as effective as the scientifically developed products used by professionals.

Increased Risk

If you don't know what you're doing, or if you get your skincare information off of YouTube, you could choose the wrong ingredients and end up with burns or severe skin irritation.

Sensitive Skin Problems

If you have sensitive skin or issues like eczema or rosacea, the ingredients in many homemade facials can increase skin irritation.

woman at a spa getting a face mask applied

Best Facial For Your Age

As mentioned, many people get facials not only to benefit their skin but because they find them relaxing and enjoy splurging on themselves now and again.

However, many people undergo facials as part of an anti-aging treatment routine. But what do experts say is the right age to begin this regimen?

According to Susan Evans, M.D. and dermatologist with Skincare Physicians of Beverly Hills, California,

Almost 90% of premature aging is attributed to sun damage and smoking.

But, skin changes as we get older, so you must get the correct procedure for your age for the best results and ward off the effects of aging and the environment as much as possible. For example, performing a chemical peel on a 50-year-old can produce excellent results but may irritate a 20-year-old's skin.

The best way to combat the effects of aging is to begin your skincare routine early in your life. By laying the groundwork as soon as possible, you set yourself up to maintain your youthful glow as you reach your upper years.

Experts recommend that you start in your 20s, even though most people aren't worried about their skin at that age because they still look great.

However, ignoring your skin in your early years leads to premature wrinkling, dehydration, and sun damage.

It's also beneficial to get deep cleaning facials at this age to keep your pores clean and remove dead skin cells and excess dirt and oil.

Many people experience blemishes like acne and other skin conditions when they hit their 30s, and that means you must alter your skincare routine to accommodate this.

If you're used to using moisturizers and lotions in your youth to keep your skin hydrated, those products could clog your pores now, trapping oil and dirt to mix with bacteria causing skin problems to worsen.

Also, it's often during your 30s that you begin noticing crow's feet and smile lines. So, to combat this, it's recommended that you apply sunscreen every day before going out for protection.

If you're prone to acne and breaking out, going to the spa and getting facials helps to keep these problems at bay and minimizes the chance of scarring if you need blackhead or whitehead extraction.

When you reach your 40s, your skin cells don't replenish as quickly as they did in your 20s. Because of this, it's common for cells to build up, which can make your skin appear dull and make wrinkles and lines more pronounced.

Forty is when you might want to consider a chemical peel to remove the layers of dead skin cells and give you a fresh start.

woman getting a facial at a medispa

Common Causes of Facial Aging

Most of us are familiar with the term "aging gracefully," but we still want to fight the process as long as possible to retain our youthful beauty.

Sure, expression and animation lines that come with age can add character to a face; they can cause some people to become self-conscious about their looks.

And while you can't stop the march of time, there are things you can do to slow down the effects and their impacts on your appearance.

So, let's look at the internal and external factors that cause facial aging and what you can do about it.


As your skin ages, it loses elasticity, which causes those wrinkles to appear around your eyes, mouth, and forehead. The outer skin layers become thinner and more transparent, showing blood vessels.

Sun Exposure

If you look back through history, you'll find that bronzed, sun-toned skin wasn't as highly prized as it is today. In fact, in Victorian times, healthy skin was pale white. It seems crazy today, but men and women whitened their appearance with lead powder back then.

And, yes, we now know how dangerous that was, but as it turns out, repeated sun exposure isn't much better for your skin.

Repeated sun exposure causes dryness and, in some cases, leads to freckling or other pigmentation issues because of the UVA rays that penetrate deep into the skin's layers, damaging capillaries and impacting the cells that maintain the skin's elasticity.

Air Pollution

According to a study published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information:

Air pollution represents another environmental threat to which millions of humans worldwide are exposed . . . The skin is another organ which as outermost barrir is in direct contact with various air pollutants and thus the association between air pollution and skin damaging effects leading to skin aging is most likely.

woman at a spa getting a face massage

Combatting Skin Aging

Performing a daily skincare routine that may include facials is an excellent defense against premature aging. However, because environmental factors also play a role in your skin's appearance, it's essential to do everything to mitigate these effects.

Because sun exposure is so damaging, one way to protect yourself is to apply sunscreen when going outside, even in winter. Also, minimize your exposure to UV radiation by skipping the tanning beds and tanning in general.

When it's extremely sunny outside, wear sunglasses to protect the delicate skin around your eyes, and consider wearing a hat to keep the sun off your face.

One area people don't consider regarding healthy skin and aging is diet. We focus heavily on treating the skin externally, but eating the right foods is equally important.

According to the Cleveland Clinic:

Eating too many processed or refined sugars and foods with a high glycemic index (dairy, carbohydrates, and unhealthy fats) can actually cause skin inflammation, irritation, and breakouts, and possibly promote aging.

Experts recommend eating a healthy, plant-based diet with foods rich in vitamin C and vitamin E, like citrus fruit, broccoli, almonds, and sunflower seeds.

The antioxidant lycopene, which is in tomatoes, watermelons, grapefruit, and papaya, keeps your skin looking and feeling smoother. 

A study published in PLOS ONE found that eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables has contributed to the appearance of health in humans.


As you can see, taking care of your skin to keep it looking young for as long as possible takes work. And while you can't stop Father Time from winning in the end, a good skincare routine and eating healthy will keep your skin looking and feeling better longer.

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