Why We've All Stopped Getting Facials

Photographed by Maria DelRio.
When was the last time you got a facial? Was it around the same time you last went on a first date with someone you didn't meet through an app, or used your phone to make an actual phone call? In the world of Tinder, Seamless, Instagram, fast fashion, and fast everything, have long, lingering facials lost their magic touch?

Unless you’re a bride-to-be or vacationing in Napa, spending a day at the spa, surrendering to complete physical torpor, just isn't realistic. And skin experts are finally catching up to that notion. These days, complexion-boosting treatments are more suited to our kinetic state — in-office and at-home.

“A facial is a procedure involving a variety of skin treatments including steam, exfoliation, extraction, creams, lotions, facial masks, peels, massage, and LED-light therapy," explains dermatologist Hadley King, MD, of Skinney Medspa. "These procedures are generally limited to treatments that can be performed by an aesthetician — no MD necessary.” But lately, people have been opting out of the spa, heading straight to the derm with their skin-care quandaries — with instant results on the brain.

Facials help to clarify and hydrate the skin, making it look fresh. But consumers don't want fresh; they want fast, easy, Benjamin Button results.

Mary Schook, aesthetician
"Dermatologists have taken over the skin game with laser facials and chemical peels," says aesthetician, cosmetic chemist, and founder of M.S. Apothecary Mary Schook. "Consumers want results. They want to see major changes in their skin that you're not going to see — and by law, shouldn't see — from a facial. Facials help to clarify and hydrate the skin, making it look fresh. But consumers don't want fresh; they want fast, easy, Benjamin Button results."

Schook also finds that some spas and facial spots are more concerned with profits than your skin (definitely steer clear of those Groupon deals, she warns). "I think the general public senses that and resents it," she says. "That's why you're really beginning to see so many solo-preneur spas and studios now. These are the lone aestheticians who really want to make a difference in people's skin, and garner a loyal following by doing so."

Along with Schook, celebrity facialist Joanna Czech, owner of the eponymous spa in Dallas, is one of these skin-centric individuals. But she doesn't believe that speedy in-office fixes should replace continuous, targeted maintenance. "Facelifts, lasers, Botox, fillers...these powerful, more permanent advancements in technology neglect to address specific skin conditions that will continue to occur, even post-procedure," she explains. "The facial should be an integral part of everyone’s regime, starting at any age when imbalances of the skin (acne, pigmentation, etc.) start to arise. Your skin is your body’s largest organ — it should be maintained on a regular basis, not neglected for the occasional splurge. A facial's function should be viewed similarly to how a healthy diet and exercise [are] for our body — consistency is the key to any and all results."

A facial's function should be viewed similarly to how a healthy diet and exercise [are] for our body — consistency is the key to any and all results.

Joanna Czech, celebrity facialist
Many spas are adjusting to this results-driven mindset. "The days of just steaming and creaming the skin and over-promising on results are over," says Annet King, the director of education for The International Dermal Institute and Dermalogica. Even the term "facial" itself — which can bring to mind "department-store counter mini-services by beauticians" — is outdated and doesn't "accurately describe the thoroughness, personalization, use of technology, and techniques trained skin therapists use to treat the skin," she says. King prefers to say "skin treatments."

"[I don't see] a decline of skin treatments, but changes in the spa/salon experience as a whole," King says. "[It's] less about pampering, and more about results-driven, time-condensed treatments that fit into your busy schedule. [There's] new technology in the treatment room, [and now you're] able to book via apps. Skin treatments have become much more advanced, clinical, and less focused on relaxation."

The bottom line also plays a huge role in the changing spa landscape. Traditional facials can cost hundreds of dollars — an investment few people are able (or willing) to make. That's why places like Heyday in New York City now offer half-hour facials for $60, while Pure Essentials Day Spa in California has 35-minute "Fast Results" facials, lifts, peels, and eye-smoothing treatments for $45.

Many people are skipping the spa and doctor's offices altogether and taking matters into their own hands with less expensive, DIY treatments and tools. The Kline Group reports that the at-home beauty devices market increased 14% globally in 2014, and continues to rise. "Manufacturers and brands are in a race to make the next Clarisonic," says Schook. That rush to the patent office has produced some impressive technology. "At-home chemical peels and devices such as Truth Vitality's Lux Renew offer blue and red LED as well as ultrasound for anti-aging and anti-acne treatment," says King. "And there are very effective prescription products for acne and anti-aging that can be used at home, such as tretinoin cream and Aczone gel."

It seems that no matter what the future of the facial is, skin-care innovations and treatments will continue to become easier to access. Now, if we could just swipe right for great skin...

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