To begin, ask friends
It’s very important to ask friends who have a skin type similar to yours, especially if you have specific skin conditions like rosacea, sensitivity, discoloration, or acne. If you’re active on social media, posting a question on there is sure to get you a few recommendations in your area.
People are forever talking about their skin and their experiences, so there's plenty of information to be found. Still, don't blindly accept a review from someone you don't know: Ask them about their skin type, what sort of results they were looking for, which treatments they had, and if there was any downtime resulting from their visit. If you're researching a particular office online, be cognizant of when the reviews are dated, as well.
Many publications —both print and online — publish directories where they list the best facials, manicures, massages, hair, makeup, and waxing in each city. Editors know their beauty, so I consider it a trusted and reliable resource. (See here, here, and here, for R29's fave NYC, L.A., and London spas, respectively.)
Once you have a recommendation, visit the website.
It’s important to find a place that offers a wide range of skin care services to give your skin everything it needs. For example, a medical spa that only offers chemical peels and laser treatments may not be the best option for those who want to take a gentler approach. On the other hand, a day spa that only offers pampering facial treatments may not give you the wrinkle-figthing results you need.
Schedule an appointment for a consultation
Once you have a few recommendations of skin care facilities, you’ll want to schedule a consultation. What may be fabulous for your friend may not be right for you. When calling to inquire about an appointment, tell the receptionist about your skin and ask who he or she recommends you schedule your appointment with. Saying something like this can be really effective: “I used to see an esthetician monthly but have recently moved to this area. I’m really looking for the best person to care for my sensitive skin. Who would you suggest I see?” This lets the receptionist know that you’re experienced and he or she will more than likely recommend the best person there for your particular concern.
Ask a lot of questions during the consultation
Be inquisitive, particularly about the cost of treatments, potential side effects, and the results they can guarantee. Depending on the treatments, ask if they have before and after photos. A consultation is an interview: You’re interviewing them to see if this is the place or the professional that you want to turn over your hard-earned money to, so ask whatever questions you need to feel comfortable. This is particularly important in medical spa environments, where treatments often start at $300.
My biggest frustration with skin care facilities is the promises they make that can’t be delivered. Of course, some will sell you on all sorts of treatments just to get your money. But, if you feel as though they're not being honest with you, or that they're selling a little too hard, don't be afraid to take some time to mull it over. If they can't provide any testimonials, or they seem to dismiss any bad reviews as "ridiculous," that's a huge red flag. Some professionals will tell you what you want to hear just to get your business, and that can be an expensive lesson to learn.
Check out the skin care esthetics schools
Don’t have money in the budget to get a professional skin care treatment? Consider seeing a student at your local esthetics school. Basic facials start usually at $20, and microdermabrasion, chemical peels, and other more aggressive treatments tend to hover around $50. Teachers with years experience supervise the student estheticians, so this can be a great option.