Are Facials Worth It?

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Credit: Thinkstock – ValuaVitaly

Are facials worth it? New York Times has dermatologists and estheticians throwing verbal punches.

Several years ago, the New York Times ran an article titled An Expression of Doubt About Facials

The article by Catherine Saint Louis cast doubt on the effectiveness of spa facials as compared to a visit to the dermatologist.

I was both surprised and amused that the New York Times would give valuable space to what seems like a childish, petty rivalry between the estheticians and dermatologists who were quoted.

While they both have a place in the beauty industry, what we’re seeing is a blurring of lines when it comes to some treatments and services, which can only lead to more heated competition as we head down the road and the business of “anti-aging” continues to grow.

Over the two decades I have been writing about spas, I have had more facials than I can count – some great, some good, some I could have done without.

Also in the line of duty, I’ve interviewed dermatologists and cosmetic surgeons (of course, they too offer skin treatments and various forms of “facials”) and I’ve had procedures performed in their offices. In hindsight, some of those procedure I could also have done without. Given all that, here’s my take on the topic:

• If facials can be defined as a procedure, routine or ritual to care for the skin then I believe that facials ARE required maintenance for radiant skin. Just as an annual trip to the dentist helps us maintain healthy gums, regular facials (either the do-it yourself kind or the spa variety) will help us maintain healthier, more youthful looking skin.

• When it comes to “anti-aging” will facials fend off wrinkles? Probably not. Wrinkles are more about genetics and lifestyle (i.e. no smoking, diet, regular exercise) than they are about superficial skin care. Some products, however, may temporarily diminish the look of fine lines by plumping the skin. (Now that’s a whole other story.)

• Let’s also keep in mind that facial lines and wrinkles are not the only bi-product of the aging process. Loss of moisture and dull, dry skin are other downsides, and facials can help with both.

Another result of aging is the sun spot (also known as Hyperpigmentation), and if anyone knows what will get rid of those nasties – do tell – because no product, spa treatment or dermatological procedure that I have encountered has yet to do the trick.

• The New York Times article referred to quotes by Dr. Leslie Baumann, a dermatology professor at the University of Miami who said that estheticians often don’t know which products are right for the skin of each client and facials (most of the time) cause breakouts.

In all the years, I have been getting facials, I have NEVER had a subsequent breakout as a direct cause. And, as far as estheticians not knowing which products are right for the skin of each client – that depends on the individual esthetician – their education, and how well they have been educated and trained by the company whose products they are using.

As spa treatments, most facials these days are customized. And, if they are not at the spa you frequent, they should be. With regard to facials – and, this holds true for most spa treatments – one size does not fit all. “Customization” is the operative word today.

• As much as the value of a facial is about the knowledge, training and experience of the esthetician, it is equally about the product. Some products are simply more “active” and more effective than others. (Now, that’s a whole OTHER story.)

• There are other benefits you get with a spa facial that you won’t get in the office of a dermatologist (or cosmetic surgeon) and that is the relaxing, dare I use the word “pampering” feeling that is certainly more readily available in most spas then in a more clinical environment.

Also, these days “facials” have almost become “body treatments” as many of them include neck and shoulder massages and/or hand and foot massages/treatment. That tends to further the benefits of relaxation.

• Bottom line: If the goal is anti-aging, then it will take a combo of both to give maximum results.

I would visit my dermatologist for things such as Botox, fillers, IPL (Intense Pulse Light) and other treatments and procedures that might be considered a bit more “invasive.” But I will also continue my regular spa facials. And, in between facials, I’m religious about an at-home (or on-the-road) skin care routine that includes cleansing and moisturizing daily, exfoliating once or twice a week and using a hydrating mask once or twice a month.

My skin care routine also extends to eating lots of fruit and vegetables and exercising regularly. And, thank you mom for passing on your good genes.

Comments from LinkedIn

“YES facials are worth it. We have been in business for 4 years NOW and offer the BEST professional skincare lines at a reasonable rate, so we can stay in business to provide our downtown Oakland living, working and traveling professionals with the luxury of having mani/pedis, facials, body massage repeatedly.”

Ke Norman
Spa Director/Owner
Nailphoria Day Spa

“In a time of economic crisis, when almost everyone is looking to cut costs, expenses which are considered to be ‘luxury’ are an easy target. Pitting Dermatologists against Aestheticians is not the answer to the basic question of whether or not this is a cost worth cutting. Of course there are examples of unfortunate extremes on both sides of the spectrum. But the fact is, if a client can no longer afford to keep up with regular Facials, it is doubtful they can afford to keep up with regular Botox injections either. Most of my clients are well versed in services offered by Spas and Dermatologist’s Offices. They either keep up with both or simply prefer one over the other. Inevitably it will come down to the individual and each person is looking for something different. I believe facials are worth it, and for reasons beyond just topical results. The release of stress and tension, not to mention the peace of mind is also important.”

Posted by Kristin Akins
Co-Founder, Licensed Aesthetician at Nurture Day Spa & Yoga Studio

“Absolutely – I believe regular skin care is like regular dental care. It allows your skin therapist to catch any developing/potential issues at an early stage, treat specific skin conditions that you may be experiencing and perform general maintenance like cleaning, exfoliation and targeted treatments.”

Mehnaz Ahmad
Spa & Wellness Professsional

“Doctors, dermatologists, estheticians, massage therapist and on – it’s all the same. Each are only as effective as their combination of consultation, analysis, the tools and products used, their treatments, professional recommendations, follow through, and individual skills. What’s most important no matter the modality used is the follow through of the consumer – following instruction (products, meds) and advice (lifestyle, diet, etc.), being proactive and taking on self-responsibility. Articles like this are designed to create conflict. What fun.”

Jimm Harrison
Jimm Harrison Phytotherapy Institute

“This is such an interesting topic and NY Times article. It shows different opinions and lots of love for this industry but sometimes 2 selfish points of view. Unfortunately, there is always a dispute between the doctors and other providers. This is where “my product,” “my techniques,” “my experience me or mine” should not be mention. It’s all about a CLIENT / CONSUMER who always put their trust in us, the providers. If the 2 industries some how find a way of working together THE CONSUMER will benefit and the industry will grow.

Anka Bulai
Licensed Massage Therapist, New York City

“I’m a plastic surgeon and owner of a med-spa and I treat my estheticians as colleagues not employees. We each have complementary skills that the other doesn’t. It does us no good to fight each other but we definitely can help each other(I only hire licensed estheticians) as long as we understand our areas of expertise. Newsmedia just love stuff like this because it attracts readership but there definitely does seem to be a divide based on some of the posts and there is some overlap. I try to evaluate products/services/devices being pressed on me from a science background and I encourage everyone to continually question hype and learn what works. Use some facts and track your outcomes. Somethings I have felt have been great don’t always turn out how I thought they would; it could be genetic variances in how people respond or it could be in my technique but if we don’t do it, the consumers certainly do and they are getting more sophisticated daily. For example, the non-surgical device mentioned in the article did absolutely nothing for me but I have had 15% of my patients really like it. Based on these results, I chose not to purchase it for my office (I prefer greater than 90% response rates) but i’m not going to poohpooh it for evryone. Because I honestly discuss all options with my patients, they have trust in my integrity. And by the way, I get regular facials because they work!”

Marguerite Barnett MD
Mandala Med Spa, Sarasota, Florida