What Makes a Good...Facial
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What Makes a Good...Facial

Advice you need to make every beauty experience a successful one.

You'll know you got a great facial when:

Your Treatment Fits Your Skin

A good spa will present you with a questionnaire during check-in, which informs your aesthetician (a state-licensed skincare professional) about your medical conditions, current medications, and skincare regimen. Your answers, which she'll review with you in the treatment room, will help her avoid using potentially irritating ingredients. Next she will scrutinize your cleansed complexion under bright lights and a magnifying glass -- but don't wince if she notes that your skin is imperfect. "Unless you're 11, your face likely has blackheads, uneven pigmentation, or dehydration around the eyes," says Annet King, director of training and development at the International Dermal Institute in Los Angeles.

Your Aesthetician Got the Details Right

A good aesthetician, notes King, "has a passion for skin and isn't just going through the motions." How can you tell the difference? The small details (adding a pillow underneath your knees) are tended to, while the bigger details (placing the steamer at least 14 inches from your face) are properly executed. The extraction technique involves steam or exfoliation to help open up pores, making blackheads easier to remove. "Also, if it's not coming out, a good therapist will leave the pore alone," says King.

You Weren't Overcharged

Feeling pressured can spoil even the most luxurious facial, so confirm the type and price of your treatment long before sliding under the blanket. If the aesthetician suggests an upgrade during the facial, such as an eye mask, keep in mind that it might cost extra, so don't be shy about asking. To avoid leaving the spa loaded down with new products, Jamie Ahn, owner of Townhouse spa and Acqua Beauty Bar, in New York City, suggests that you say, "I already have a routine I like, but can you write down your recommendations for the future?"

Your Skin Glows!

Feeling pampered is fantastic, but so is seeing better-looking skin at the end of your treatment. In fact, you should expect nothing less. "The days of just 'steaming and creaming' are over," says King. Aestheticians now use products containing a higher level of active ingredients than ones you can buy, and the spa's special equipment helps them work harder. "Steam and massage boosts skin circulation and makes products penetrate deeper," says Ahn. Maintain the glow by following a regular skincare routine at home.

Originally published in Ladies' Home Journal, December 2007.