What You Might be Doing Wrong After a Facial — and What You Should Do

by | Updated: June 27th, 2022 | Read time: 5 minutes

When I was in high school, facials seemed dreamy, an indulgent way to get pretty really fast. I had one once.

I think.

All I remember is lying on my back, the color pink and gentle daubs on my forehead, but I could be making that up. I certainly had no idea what was happening, and whatever questions I asked and answers I thought I heard came through the prism of slick, aspirational women’s magazines.

So in the vein of curiosity and to help readers drawn by the lure of luminous post-facial skin, I tapped longtime esthetician Suzanne Igoe, founder and owner of PURE Face Care, which opened in the Atlanta-metro area in 2011 and moved to Chattanooga, Tenn., in 2016. Her charge: explaining how to care for your skin after you get a facial so that the loveliness lasts.

But given my general ignorance as far as facials, it seems like a good idea to start a few steps earlier in the process. So here’s the scoop, step by step.

A Woman Relaxes With Eyes Closed While She Is Administered a Facial, Representing What to Expect from a Facial | Vitacost.com/Blog

What to Expect from a Facial

First, facials aren’t appropriate under certain circumstances.

“There is a rather long list” of no-go skin conditions that preclude people, Igoe says.

Don’t get a facial if you have cold sores (or open sores in general on your face), boils, facial warts, impetigo, conjunctivitis, styes, ringworm or blepharitis. Same goes for facial cancer and undiagnosed lumps or swelling on your face.

Other than those contraindications, “every face can benefit from a facial,” Igoe says. “I am cautious with someone that is on Accutane for acne, however they can receive a treatment. It just has to be a very mild exfoliation.”

And estheticians must be extra careful performing extractions on people taking blood thinners.

If you’re good to go, it’s good to know who will treat you and what happens during a facial.

“You want to make sure you trust the person you have chosen to work on your face,” Igoe says. Obviously. Though I have no idea who gave me a facial, as I’m guessing you’ve gleaned.

“It is important to have a full consultation to avoid any … potential negative effects of a facial, and that would be irritations, sensitivity, chemical burns or scarring — this is in extreme cases, like if someone is (getting) a really deep treatment,” Igoe says. “A thorough facial should include a full analysis of the skin, which can take up to 30 minutes, depending on skin concerns, lifestyle, allergies. That also allows us time to discuss the treatment plan. You want someone who is going to be listening to your concerns, addressing what you see but also what they see.”

Once a plan for care is set, a complete facial includes a double cleanse, exfoliation and a deep-tissue facial massage (with steam, if it’s appropriate for your skin type) that lasts eight to 12 minutes. If you’re getting extractions, that can take up to 30 minutes and would be followed by a full cleanse to remove any bacteria. Then there’s a skin-specific serum application and an LED application that stimulates collagen and elasticity. After that, you get a treatment mask specific to your skin type. Finally, depending on the time of day, the esthetician might apply eye cream or sunscreen.

I’m 100% certain I didn’t experience all those steps. Apparently I got a shorter facial. “There are 30-minute facials that start with a cleanse and analysis, always,” Igoe says. “Then can be an exfoliation, massage or extractions, and a skin-specific mask.”

To keep your glow after leaving your pampered experience, taking certain precautions is key.

During the first 24 hours: Try not to sweat. “The salt in sweat can create sensitivity on freshly exfoliated skin,” Igoe says. “I suggest avoiding exercise for 24 hours after a facial.”

Right afterward: Drink lots of water.

Night of: Don’t wash your face if you receive your facial in the evening. “Allow whatever was applied to penetrate into the tissue overnight,” Igoe says. But if you get a facial during the day, it likely will include application of sun protection. In that case, wash your face.

Next day: Use a gentle cleanser in the morning. Be sure to apply sunscreen, unless you’re staying fully indoors (a practice to adopt even if you don’t get a facial, Igoe reminds).

During the next three (or so) days: “Be gentle with your skin, and be mindful of being in the sun,” Igoe says. Your skin will be more sensitive because it has been freshly exfoliated. Avoid retinol and any alpha hydroxy or exfoliating acids. When you’re in the sun, reapply sunscreen every two hours, and wear a hat, which is “the best way to avoid direct sun on the face,” Igoe stresses.

Fourth (or so) day : You can resume your normal regimen — though you might still want to be careful if you had a strong exfoliation.

Even with all that care and caution, you might hit a bump, pun intended.

“Depending on the strength of the exfoliation someone may see flakiness, purging of dry dead skin and a potential pimple or two,” Igoe says. “We are moving a lot of tissue. Our skin is the largest organ, so things will want to come to the surface. It is not often that someone does get a breakout, but it can happen.”

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