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Facial Basics

What Exactly Is a Facial, and Is It For You?

Cathy Ulrich

"The one part of our body we see everyday is our face," says Zari Pirasteh, professional esthetician and reiki master from Colorado. "If we don't approve of what we see in the mirror, we eventually develop a dislike for ourselves. It's important that we take care of our skin, especially the skin on our face because it reflects our inner health and life." One sure way to achieve this is with professional facials. Facials are often thought to be a luxury -- something to do while on vacation or for a special occasion. However, making monthly facials part of a regular self-care routine can help prevent the signs of aging, improve skin, reduce acne, and even improve general health. What is a Facial?While variations abound, the basic facial is a process generally involving five steps: 1. Skin AnalysisYour esthetician will evaluate your skin type, work with you to determine your skin care goals, and decide what products and techniques will help you best meet those objectives. Skin conditions change depending on your general health, seasonal influences, and stress factors. Your esthetician may be able to see signs of stress in your skin even before you're aware of them. 2. CleansingThe cleansing step gently removes dirt and environmental toxins. Your esthetician will choose a cleansing product based on her analysis. She will also teach you how to effectively clean your skin. Improper face washing can be the cause of many facial skin problems. 3. SteamA gentle steam bath helps soften blackheads and open skin follicles to remove impurities embedded deep within the skin. During the steam bath, your esthetician may apply an exfoliant or deeper cleansing agent to remove these embedded impurities. As part of the steam treatment, many estheticians will also perform extraction of blackheads, which clog pores and can be the cause of acne. Once these areas are unclogged, your skin can produce its own natural moisturizers more easily. 4. MassageThe muscles of the face are delicate. Many of them are attached solely to the skin of the face, so great care must be taken to avoid overstretching. A professional esthetician is trained to massage those muscles to help improve tone, relax the muscles, and increase circulation while working along muscle fibers. Facial massage can delay the appearance of wrinkles and stimulate lymphatic flow, helping the skin eliminate waste. 5. FacemaskYour esthetician will choose a facemask for your skin type and specific condition. Specialized masks may help to hydrate, tone, or replenish collagen in the deeper layers. Others may have powerful antioxidant effects to help fight pollution, sun damage, and other environmental conditions. Your esthetician will choose a mask with the ingredients designed to meet your individual needs. By monitoring your skin condition on a regular basis, an esthetician can spot changes in your skin before bigger problems arise. And as part of the service, your skin care professional can recommend take-home products that will help maintain optimal skin health between facials. Your practitioner will also teach you how to use them. Many product lines have regimens that need to be followed carefully, so be sure to ask questions if you're not clear about your home skin care routine. Facial FrequencyWe replace our skin cells every 28 days or so. A monthly facial helps remove dead cells on the skin's outer surface, along with pollutants. When the face is rid of these dead cells, the skin has a much easier job of growing new ones. By nourishing the new cells with the appropriate moisturizers, we can maintain healthy, glowing skin. In some cases, facials are required more often for best results, or you might supplement your treatments with home treatments. Discuss the optimal frequency of your facials with your skin care professional. Who's a Candidate?Most estheticians recommend that women start a regular facial routine in their late 20s, although younger women can benefit, especially when acne is a problem. Teens are discovering that facials can help manage that tough acne that comes during junior high and high school. By starting early, many skin conditions such as dryness, premature wrinkles, and adult acne can be avoided or managed. Men are learning they can benefit from a regular facial regimen, too. Men experience the same effects of aging as women, but they may be exacerbated by shaving, which damages the skin. Men may also have more of a tendency to forget sunscreen when playing sports or spending prolonged periods outside, and they're less likely to maintain a daily skin care routine. An esthetician can teach a male client the techniques to protect his skin and maintain a healthy and vital appearance. Facials For AllFor both sexes and all ages, feeling better and looking better boost self-confidence. People are living longer, healthier lives, and they're learning that skin care is an important part of a regular routine. While diet, water consumption, stress management, exercise, sun screen, and overall wellness contribute to healthy skin, professional treatments go a long way toward stimulating, balancing, and toning your complexion. Monthly facials can be a key component in maintaining optimal skin health. "When we have glowing, healthy skin, we're also showing the world our inner glow," Pirasteh says. "We care about ourselves, and our face proves it."

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