Thinking About a Facial? Everything You Need to Know Before Booking

Feb 15, 2022by Heather Smith

What Is A Facial?

At the most basic level, a facial is a treatment performed on your face by another person.

However, anyone who has been to the spa knows that facials are way more than just that. Much like shopping for skincare products, there is an overwhelming list of options to consider. Regular facials can help your skin look younger and feel more smooth, hydrated, and plump. They are an excellent way for your skin to be nourished and help get rid of impurities. Getting a facial also hasf non-skincare benefits like relaxation and bonding with friends if you're having a spa day.

Facials are great for promoting healthy skin and relaxation. They are the second most common spa treatment after massages. In the USA alone, people spend over $17 Billion a year on spa services! 

This article is part 1 in a series to help you decide what type of facial to get, how to tailor it to your skin type, and how to balance between luxury and cost.

What Type Of Facial Should You Get?

In deciding what type of experience and result you're looking for, these are the top 2 things to consider before choosing where to make an appointment:

  1. How much luxury are you seeking aside from the treatment itself? Do you want to experience a self-care ritual that goes far beyond a facial treatment? For some people, the ritual is everything - music, massage, robes, saunas, steam rooms, champagne, snacks - pampering above all else. Other people want to focus more on treatments and results rather than having too much fuss. It does not have to be one or the other, but knowing your priorities can make sure you book yourself somewhere able to meet your needs.

  2. Are you targeting a general concern with a broad approach to facial care: for example, a general facial for acne-prone skin or a hydration facial for aging or dry skin? Or, is there a particular treatment you're looking for - this might be something like microdermabrasion or a peel.

Consumers fall into different categories regarding what they are looking for from spa services. Take pedicures, for example - do you want to get in, get buffed, get polished, and get out? Or would you instead prefer to soak, meditate, sip champagne, and have a long massage all before leaving with your pretty toes?

Once you know how much of a luxury spa ritual you are looking for and once you've narrowed down your preference to take a more general approach vs seeking out a specific treatment, you can start searching for places to make an appointment.

This article will cover the basics and our next article will go into the detailed options. 

What To Expect From A Facial?

If you don't have a specific procedure or treatment in mind, then you've likely booked yourself in for a general facial at a spa or esthetician's office. Once you've settled in, the steps you can usually expect to go through are:

  1. Consultation. A questionnaire may be filled out asking about your current skincare routine, medications, health concerns, diet, water intake, products you already use, and the specific skin concerns you have.

  2. Cleansing. A gentle cleanser will be applied and wiped away to ensure all makeup and excess oils are removed.

  3. Skin Analysis. The provider will examine your skin under a microscope and will determine your skin type, as well as concerns (acne and blackheads, whiteheads; aging, sun damage, dehydration, etc.). You'll receive some recommendations and discuss the products used and the approach taken.

  4. Steam. Many facials start with steam. Remember that moist heat doesn't open your pores. Still, it does help soften the skin and help cleanse deeper if blackheads or whiteheads are causing a lot of congestion. This step is sometimes skipped, mainly if your skin is sensitive, easily stripped, or already has moisture barrier damage.

  5. Exfoliation. Gentle exfoliants are usually the next step depending on your skin type. It might be mechanical (with a scrub), chemical (with enzymes or a peel), or specialized (like microdermabrasion).

  6. Extraction. This stage requires the use of tools to help extract white or blackheads. It is very different than "popping" a zit and should only be done by a professional. It shouldn't be painful, but there may be some discomfort. Always talk to your provider if it is hurting.

  7. Facial massage. This is one of the best parts of any facial. It uses classic strokes such as effleurage to relax and stimulate your skin. A gua sha or face roller may also be used. Drainage of facial lymphatics is encouraged by the flow of movements. Areas like the TMJ (temporomandibular joint) and scalp may be included. You might also have a neck and shoulder massage.

  8. Mask application. During this stage, several serums, creams, and masks will be applied. They may be leave-on or wiped off. It could be a sheet mask or a clay mask or an intensely hydrating hydrojelly face mask. They will be tailored to your skin needs and preferences.

  9. Finish up: excess product will be wiped away, a toner may be used, sunscreen will likely be applied. Recommendations (and sometimes a sales pitch) will follow.

Depending on the facial you've booked, these steps will vary. Factoring in unique treatments like microdermabrasion is individualized accordingly. If you've purchased a specific treatment or if you're having this procedure performed in a medical clinic or medi-spa, your experience will be different. Facials are one of the best ways to get you started towards having a brighter and more even skin tone.  

Facial FAQ 

How Often Should I Get A Facial?

There are benefits to getting a facial once a month. Your average skin cell turnover takes about 3-4 weeks, so having a monthly facial should keep you looking radiant. Dead skin cells will be removed at the right interval without over-exfoliating. Routine facials can also help you unclog pores because of the professional extractions. Working with your face care provider, you can have a tailored treatment plan. 

How Long Does A Facial Take?

A basic facial usually takes about 45 minutes. Beyond that, usually an hour or more. This will depend on the location and type of service you've chosen.

How Do You Prepare For A Facial?

A spa day will probably involve a robe and a spa facial headband. Otherwise, loose, comfortable clothes. Not much to prepare otherwise. If you're wearing makeup when you arrive, removing it will be a part of your treatment.

Can I Have Laser Hair Removal or Waxing At The Same Time?

It depends on your treatments and skin. For example, if you had a peel, the exfoliation would be too powerful also to do a wax. Talk to your provider.

Can You Wear Makeup After A Facial?

It's best to wait for about 24h if possible because your skin will be pretty stimulated. It won't ruin things if you need to apply a bit, but keep it light if you can.

Can You Get A Facial While Pregnant?

Absolutely! Just make sure to let your provider know so they can adjust plans if needed. For example, pregnant women might be more comfortable in certain positions, and their provider should be able to adapt.

How Long After Botox Can You Get A Facial?

Best to ask your injector, but usually face massage is not recommended for a few days after treatment. If you're factoring Botox injections into your facial, it will likely be administered at the end of the other treatments.

How Much Does A Facial Cost?

This is hard to answer because there is a considerable range. A standard or basic facial would usually cost around $50. One that's more comprehensive or with a bit more luxury would likely be in the $100+ range. The sky is the limit after that. If you're looking for an ultimate spa experience, hundreds would be expected. If you're looking for a very specific treatment on top of the basics, it could range from several hundreds to even thousands.

How Much Do You Tip?

I recommend standard tipping around 15-20% for all esthetician and spa services. The exception might be in some medi-spa environments (my dermatologist doesn't accept tips).

Do I Need To Do Anything Special After?

Follow your provider's advice because special requirements vary based on your treatments, skin type, and skin tone. A few general tips are:

    • Stay hydrated.
    • Wear sunscreen.
    • Don't pick/pop any blemishes.
    • Make sure your face towel and pillowcases are fresh/clean.
    • Avoid harsh cleansers or exfoliants for a few days.
    • Stay moisturized.

Spa Safety

It's important to remember that some of the treatments you're looking for require training, experience, special equipment, or medical supervision.

Some therapies can place you at risk for blood-borne infections like hepatitis, i.e. dermaplaning or micro-needling - anything with any potential for bleeding. Equipment would need to be single-use and sterile. Some therapies can place you at risk for severe skin damage, burns, adverse events, or scars if misused, i.e. chemical peels or lasers.

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About the Author

Dr. Heather Smith developed her love for skinimalism and clean beauty years ago when she began making home remedies for her newborn's eczema. She is an expert in natural ingredients and active botanicals and has now launched bareLUXE Skincare - a full line of effective oil serums. She dedicates this blog to consumers who are researching ingredients and working to make their beauty ritual more natural and sustainable.


This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Dr. Smith nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content should consult their physicians about their skincare concerns and routines.