If This Happens During A Facial, Run For The Hills

When you pay hundreds of dollars to have someone else deep clean your face, it’s only natural to slip into “they’ve got this” mode, close your eyes, and completely check out for an hour. After all, in American culture, facials are packaged and branded as a luxury experience. And luxury means not having to worry about a thing.
But the stakes are pretty high when you give someone else the keys to your complexion. Just ask anyone who's walked away from a treatment with red, irritated skin or blemishes. And, sadly, that's pretty common — and even expected — these days.
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But the most sought-after estheticians from Los Angeles, Miami, and New York are here to tell you otherwise. Not only should you never experience gnarly, post-facial skin, but you also shouldn't endure pain, a hard sales pitch on products, or other iffy (but widespread) practices.
Ahead, the biggest names in skin set the record straight on what you should and shouldn’t expect from a facial. Consider them markers for finding a professional who gets it right — so you can go back to your nap in peace.
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You Get The Silent Treatment

The first thing to know? Pillow talk shouldn’t be extra. Before touching your skin, an esthetician should ask about your lifestyle, previous treatments, and skin-care goals because the answers to these questions will help guide him or her in performing a treatment that’s optimized for you —and keep you from suffering unnecessarily. For example, if you're headed to a sunny beachside vacation in the days following a treatment, then perhaps a peel isn't the right time.

“You should never feel like the esthetician isn't listening to your concerns,” says New York-based celebrity facialist Joanna Vargas. “That is the number one thing I ask for before I begin working with a new client.”
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They stick to the book.

As smart as we are, we don’t always know what our skin needs. So if you book an appointment for a chemical peel, but already have over-exfoliated skin, an esthetician should steer you in another direction.

“An esthetician should never offer to perform a peel, deep exfoliation, or microdermabrasion on skin that is either overly exfoliated, very sensitive, or heat induced (which can happen when taking certain medications), or on skin that is being treated with topical prescription creams,” says Tammy Fender, a celebrity esthetician based in Palm Beach, Florida.

One of the chief benefits of seeing a skin pro is getting his or her take on what your skin needs —even if it conflicts with what you think you need. “A well-trained esthetician can envision a long-term plan, which may include lifestyle changes, not only to transform the skin but to increase the client’s overall sense of vitality,” Fender says.
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You Don't Get A Skin-Care Pop Quiz

As annoying as it might be, the esthetician really does need to know what you're using on your skin — not to sell you something better, but to make sure they don't slap on something that doesn't jibe with your current cocktail. So before she starts applying cleansers, serums ,or masks, an esthetician should always get a quick rundown of which products you use at home.
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The esthetician thinks zen > sterile

Is cleanliness really next to Godliness? In many cases, that’s debatable. Except for when it’s within the confines of your facialist’s workplace. Sure, a treatment room can have feel-good amenities like new age music, a jewelry tray, or fuzzy blankets, but more importantly, the space should be hospital-grade clean.

Products should be laid out neatly. Towels should be clean and surfaces tidy. Brushes, mixing bowls, and other equipment should be spotless. “Before beginning a treatment, have a look around the room to make sure all of the equipment and workstations are clean,” says LA-based celebrity esthetician Gina Mari. “This is a good indicator of whether or not proper sterilization is being practiced.”
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Your Skin Is Red & Irritated

If beauty is pain, then the immediate results of a facial should mean redness, breakouts, and overall complexion chaos, right? Wrong. An expertly-executed facial shouldn’t leave your skin angry — even after extractions are done or products with strong actives are used.

“There is no reason you should leave a facial with redness or irritation,” says Fender. “The formulas I use are powerful, but are never aggressive on the skin, which, around the eye area especially, is extremely delicate. An esthetician should never use harsh chemical products that damage skin rather than refine it.”
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They Whip Out Metal Extractor Tools

Steamers, LED lights, oxygen wands — facialists have all sorts of cool gadgets and machinery that we don’t have at home. And unlocking access to these fancy tools is what helps justify spending hundreds of dollars on a deep cleaning. But when it comes to extractions, it’s best to go lo-fi, says Gina Mari. She advocates for clearing congested pores with fingers and tissue only—not the looped, stainless steel wands that some facialists might use.

“One of my biggest concerns with facials going awry is the extractions portion of the treatment,” she says. “I advise anyone to steer clear of metal extractors — they can do much more harm than good for your breakouts, leaving the skin scarred and irritated, with the possibility of spreading infection.”

Check before your appointment to ensure the practitioner doesn’t use such tools. Even better, make sure your esthetician specializes in acne, Mari suggests, and ask to see a portfolio of other clients’ before-and-after pictures.
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You Feel Pressure To Purchase

Some of our best product discoveries have come from esthetician recommendations. But Mari says that in a client’s first appointment, an esthetician shouldn’t try to sell a client on any skin-care products whatsoever.

“Be wary of estheticians that try to push products on you within your first visit — they don’t know how your skin reacts to their treatments yet,” she says. Sometimes it take hours or days to see the true outcome of a facial, so it’s best to wait before spending cash on a whole new skin care regimen and your facialist should know that.

Even shadier? The esthetician who claims you won’t see results unless you purchase recommended products. What happens in the treatment room should garner results of its own. “One of my pet peeves in skin care is the use of fear tactics with a client to increase sales or make commission,” Mari says. Bottom line: The success of your treatment should never be contingent on the purchase of additional products for at-home use.
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The Facialist Goes Rogue

Estheticians may work wonders in the treatment room, but state laws limit the types of treatments they can provide — regardless of expertise. “If injectables or lasers are recommended to you, make sure the provider is a doctor, physician’s assistant, or registered nurse,” Mari says.

Same goes for vitamin IV drips, an added facial service that keeps Hollywood partying through awards season. If an added treatment is suggested, and you’re not sure whether a facialist is certified to perform it, postpone the treatment until you’ve had time to check it out. Sure, making time for a return visit may be a pain in the ass, but it pales in comparison to botched injections, infusions, or lasering.
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