The Skin-Care Lies To STOP Believing Today

In the self-improvement department, few things feel more indulgent than a facial. During the 30-to-60-minute procedure, your skin will invariably be steam cleaned, sloughed, and slathered with a variety of nutrient-rich masks, serums, and moisturizers. As your complexion reaps the benefits of all that pampering, your mental health will get a boost as well, thanks to a tension-taming combo of soothing scents, soft music, and gentle massage.
Along with squeaky-clean skin and a tranquil mind, you may also leave the spa with a few choice tidbits offered by the aesthetician — everything from the transformative powers of the treatment at hand to at-home strategies that will rev up radiance. And, while many of those observances and tips are indisputable (for example, "Lavender oil soothes and hydrates," "Keep your hands away from your face to avoid causing a breakout"), others require a dose of healthy skepticism.
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"I call it 'spa science' because there isn’t a lot of science behind many of the claims," says Doris Day, M.D., clinical associate professor of dermatology at New York University Langone Medical Center. Still, she and other dermatologists are fans of the facial, provided it’s under the guidance of a trained professional and customized for your skin type. "Enjoy the process, but take the advice with a grain of salt," she says. "Think of a facial as a treat rather than a medical treatment."
We polled women for "facts" they’ve heard at the spa or salon, then asked three top docs to set the record straight. Read on to find out the truth behind some of the lies lurking under all that lavender oil and Enya.
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After thoroughly cleansing and toning your skin, an aesthetician may turn on an operating-room-like light and deliver this news with a bit of concern in her voice. But, don’t be too quick to swap out your oily-skin staples for some of the emollient products she’s using. For someone who hasn’t had the proper training, it’s easy to confuse dryness with dehydration, which refers to a loss of surface water rather than natural lubrication.

“Skin will feel tight and dry after washing because the lipids, or fats, on the skin were removed,” explains Leslie Baumann, M.D., a dermatology professor at the University of Miami and author of The Skin Type Solution. “It takes about 30 to 45 minutes for the oil glands to make sebum, so the dryness usually disappears. However, true dry skin types don’t make enough sebum, so they require a moisturizer to restore the balance.” If the aesthetician raised questions about your skin type or regime, Dr. Baumann recommends taking her questionnaire or talking to your dermatologist.
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Technically, this is a half-truth, but start lowering your expectations anyway. The size of your hair follicles is largely determined by genetics (sun damage and age later play a role, too), and there’s nothing anyone can do to downsize them. “But, you can make pores appear smaller just by cleaning out the dirt and debris or using a skin-tightening astringent,” says Dr. Day. “Unfortunately, that effect lasts about two hours.” If you like the shrinkage you see in the mirror post-treatment, continue to minimize the look of your pores by cleansing, exfoliating, and moisturizing on a regular basis.
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"With the exception of absolute nutritional deficiencies, it’s absurd to suggest that anyone — including a doctor — can infer anything about your diet just by looking at your skin,” says Neal Schultz, M.D., a New York City-based dermatologist and founder of DermTV. “And, if you have enough money to get a facial,” he adds, “it’s unlikely you’ve contracted scurvy from a vitamin C deficiency.” If you suspect you have a sensitivity to a particular food or food group, defer to an internist or an allergist, who can help you figure out the culprit.
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You'll often hear how a facial helps bring impurities (also known in the spa world as “toxins") to the skin’s surface, and that a few post-treatment bumps are not only normal, but desired. Don’t believe it, says Dr. Baumann. “Breaking out after a facial occurs because the aesthetician used the wrong products on you or didn’t treat the pores correctly.” To treat acne, look for OTC products that contain ingredients like benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid.
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“Collagen is a great lubricant,” says Dr. Schultz. “But, under no circumstances can it penetrate the skin — the molecules are too big.” In fact, he says, there isn’t a moisturizer out there that can reverse collagen loss, making those lines and wrinkles disappear. What can help it regenerate: regular exfoliation, be it with AHA (glycolic) peels, topical retinols, or even microdermabrasion.
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“If having a holistic or organic facial is important to you, ask your aesthetician to show you each and every product she’ll be using,” suggests Dr. Baumann. “Just because it’s all natural doesn’t mean it’s right for you. In fact, many people with sensitive skin can be irritated by or allergic to plant-based ingredients like lavender, pumpkin, or cinnamon.”
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No one needs to have a facial every four weeks,” says Dr. Schulz. In fact, if you take care of your skin on a daily basis — that is, committing to a regimen that involves regular chemical or physical exfoliation — you may not need the professional treatment at all. But, it’s up to you ultimately: If you love the pampering and your budget can handle the monthly expense, go for it.
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Okay, so, no one is paying you lip service with this compliment. Chances are, your skin will look rosier and plumper than it did when you walked into the spa, but it’s more likely a result of all the stimulation and combination of products, says Dr. Day. “Plus, the effect is temporary,” she adds.

If your rosy hue is closer to red and more inflamed than you’d like it to be, Dr. Schultz advises using a topical cortisone cream or cold compresses made with equal parts skim milk and water. “As the liquid evaporates, it cools skin, causing capillaries to constrict, reducing redness," he says. “Argan oil is also a great anti-inflammatory solution,” advises Dr. Baumann. She adds that if redness or irritation persist, or you experience itching or burning, make an appointment with your dermatologist, as it could be something more serious.
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After your facial, the aesthetician may hand you a glass of water to sip as you make your way to the lounge or locker room. Aside from it being a nice spa-like thing to do, the thinking is that the h20 will rehydrate your skin while helping your body push out toxins that were released during the procedure. “There are no toxins to flush out, and water has no hydrating effect on skin,” says Dr. Schulz. “In fact, there are no studies whatsoever linking the fluid to good skin.” That said, water is essential to overall good health, supporting the kidneys, digestive tract, and more. So, even if a few extra glasses won’t leave you with a flawless complexion, you may want to start gulping anyway.
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