What is a Facial?

by Cassandra Merkling
(last updated November 10, 2014)

A facial is something you hear about a lot when you hear about spas and weekend mountain getaways, but people take it for granted that you automatically know what a facial means. There is no need to wonder any longer. The basic definition of a facial is a procedure where you get lots of special things done to your skin, like extractions, steaming, exfoliation, peels, and massage. You can also have things applied to your skin, like masks, creams, and lotions. Still a little confused? Here each term is in detail:

  • Extractions. Basically someone gently squeezes out your blackheads (open comedones) for you and/or makes an incision in your whiteheads (closed comedones) with a large needle or blade and then squeezes them out. The tool most aestheticians (people who do facials) use for this is called a comedo (this means a single whitehead or blackhead) extractor. It's basically a metal tool with a loop at either end or a loop at one end and a lance at the other. The loops basically are placed around an uninflamed blackhead or whitehead and then gently rocked until the contents come out.
  • Steaming. This is a pretty simple one, since you just hang your head over a container of hot water and keep a towel tented over to trap the steam inside with you. Just be sure to not get any burns.
  • Exfoliation and peels. This is when someone removes your dead skin cells with either something abrasive like a scrub or an exfoliation pad, or with chemicals like acids or enzymes, like alpha or beta hydroxy acids, for example. Basically, with the former technique, you have something—a cream with abrasive beads in it or a cleansing pad—applied to your face, avoiding your eye area, and it's rubbed around a bit, sloughing off the old cells that were still on your face. Then it is rinsed off. With the latter method, you get a thin layer of a thin liquid applied to your face that feels warm to some and burns to others (they use fans to cool your skin, though) and it's left on for a short time and then washed off.
  • Massage. Basically, they rub your face and the muscles beneath it, which can be really relaxing and cause a lot of good circulation to come to your facial skin.
  • Masks. These are basically some kind of thick stuff that is put on your face and left for a time.

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