Several years ago I was chatting with a colleague, and she and I casually discussed our weekend plans. She excitedly shared that she was getting a facial. I had heard of facials before, but didn’t really know what the process entailed. My colleague explained how an aesthetician performed a variety of steps, but that cleansing and stimulating the skin was the common link between them. Intrigued, I looked into getting a facial – but then I saw that a standard 45-minute facial was the same price as a full-body massage. I knew that if I had a choice between a face-rubbing and a full-body-kneading, I would choose the latter.
Over the next few years, occasionally the topic of facials would surface (they are a common beauty/spa/relaxation treatment for many women I know), and each time, the individual speaking about the experience would get a relaxed, happy look on her face whenever she discussed the procedure. These conversations always made me wonder what the big deal was about a face rubbing…
So when it came time for me to develop my 101 list, “Get a facial” seemed like a logical item to add.
A few months ago I was having lunch with a friend, and she commented how she just had a terrific facial. I asked her for the name of the spa/salon she went to, as I wanted to do whatever I could to ensure my facial experience would be a positive one. (I wanted to be able to assess the potential ‘magic’ of a facial with the known awesomeness of a massage.) My friend shared the details with me; then two weeks ago, a Groupon deal offering a 60-minute facial at that same salon for half price entered my email inbox. Looks like the perfect opportunity to complete item #61!
Last weekend I drove 45 minutes to the salon, and experienced my first-ever facial.
My aesthetician, D, was a lovely middle-aged woman who sported a smart blond bob and wore a sincere smile. When she learned that I had never received a facial before, she was truly excited to be the person to introduce me to this experience. As I completed a small bit of paperwork, D explained the steps she would be taking during our hour together. Then as she walked me to the treatment room, she instructed me that my only job during our time together was to relax. She would take care of everything else.
Relax. I can do that.
Interestingly, I did (do) actually have to work at relaxing. I am a tightly wound person; it’s just my nature. I will catch myself throughout the day with a clenched jaw, tense shoulders, or tight fists. Even when I’m engaged in activities I enjoy (like yoga, or reading, or even falling asleep), I consciously have to loosen, unwind, allow. As D began the treatment, I found that my hamstrings were taut and my feet were rigid. I breathed in deeply, basked in the cozy warmth of the heated blanket on the treatment bed, and intentionally encouraged my muscles to yield to gravity.
D began the facial by washing my face, then steaming it with a warm towel, then repeating those two steps. Next came a masque, then 10 minutes of laying beneath a gentle steam. During the time that my face was steaming, D rubbed my upper chest, back, and neck. Next, D removed the masque and examined my skin. She said that this would usually be the time in the process when she would perform extractions, but that I didn’t have any clogged pores, so she didn’t need to take that step. Instead, she applied two vitamin treatments (A and C) to my face and let those seep into my pores for 10 minutes. During this waiting period, D gave me an arm and hand massage. After she finished rubbing my arms, D removed the vitamin treatments, then applied a moisturizer and light sunscreen to my face. She ended the experience with an ear and head rub.
D’s touch was light and gentle during the entire facial. While I would have preferred a firmer (‘harder’) touch, I did appreciate that her intention was less about massaging my muscles, and more about caressing my skin. As I said before, I tend to push towards the edge of every single thing I do, so to ask my body to calm down and receive something less intense than what I would have provided for myself is probably healthy. The only ‘downside’ I experienced with D’s touch is that at a few points during the facial, I almost fell asleep. Her light stroking motions were similar to the touch my mom used on me when I was a child and she was attempting to calm me down or to prepare me for bed; I felt my adult mind start to drift towards unconsciousness as D rubbed my arms, neck, and head. At these points in the facial I engaged in some active deep breathing, and that brought me back to the present (for the most part).
During the last 15 minutes of the session, the back of my head started to hurt; it felt like I had spent too much time in a single position without moving. (I can totally understand why babies develop a flat spot on the back of their head.) Around the time that I noticed the head pain, my left foot fell asleep. (I have very low blood pressure, so if my limbs don’t move every so often, numbness in my extremities can develop rather quickly .) As nice as parts of the facial felt, at around minute 50 I just wanted it to be over.
Ten minutes later my wish was granted, and I happily sat up and moved my body to help boost my circulation. After restoring feeling into my fingertips and toes, I walked over to a mirror and checked out my face. It looked very dewy and glowy; my cheeks had a natural blush, and my pores appeared small and even. I brushed my hand across my forehead, chin, and nose, and the skin felt smooth and soft. Nice.
After getting dressed I exited the treatment room, and D was waiting outside the door for me. After handing me a bottle of water, she asked me how I was feeling – and was happy to hear that I was very pleased with her service. She walked me to the main reception area of the salon, told me the days and times she worked if I wanted to schedule another session in the future, then smiled and left. No trying to sell me a boatload of expensive products I don’t need, no pressure to get me to sign up for a whole gaggle of additional services; she gave me information but didn’t apply any pressure to take action. I truly appreciate that.
It’s been a few days since the facial, and my skin still looks clear and feels soft. While the experience was a relaxing one, I don’t think I’ll get another facial any time soon. If I want a face treatment, I’ll likely get a chemical peel instead (they are less expensive, and more effective [in my opinion]). If I want a relaxation treatment, I’ll definitely get a massage instead of a facial; I’d much rather have some deeper rubbing across more of my body than gentle stroking only on my chest and arms. Still, I was glad I had the experience of a facial at least once – and I was (am) very happy that I received the service from a genuine professional like D.