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.
"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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Illustrated by Ly Ngo