Friday, 14 May 2010

How to get the best out of your facial...

Unlike our French counterparts - most women in the UK have facials twice a year - birthdays and Christmas/New Year - and that's being generous.

The majority of women in the UK see facials as a treat - a lot of French women - and New Yorkers - see them as maintenance - and go at least twice a month if not weekly.

So if you're not in the latter group - let me give you some tips to make sure you get the most out of the facial that you DO have...!

Chantecaille Flower Facial
  •  If you can,  try and have a facial by a person - not a high street brand.
The best facials come from people who can mix it up a little.  Avoid high street facials if you can.
It's better to save up and go to someone/somewhere whose reputation precedes them.
They will be more inclined to be interested in helping your skin than selling you products.
There are, of course, exceptions to this rule - unfortunately they are usually the high-end brands and are not always easy on your bank account! If this is not an option - always take recommendations of friends above advertising.

  • If your therapist doesn't take a health/skincare history or talk to you beforehand - leave.
Anyone worth their salt will take a full skincare history before they lay a finger on you - if they are using machines on you they should also ask questions about your health concerns. If they don't, do not get on the bed. I'm serious. Get back to reception/speak to a manager/or just LEAVE.
Think about it - would a doctor give you a prescription without examining you? A dentist drill a root canal without an x-ray? And most importantly - would you LET them?  You cannot give a decent SAFE facial without information on your client.

  • Check the room.
Take in your surroundings straight away. The room should smell clean. Not overpowered by candle scent - although light/unscented ones are fine. The bed should be clean, immaculate, freshly made and ironed. Lights should be dimmed/able to be dimmed.  The temperature should be comfortable - too cold and your muscles will tense up and too warm and you'll be sweating - we're after a facial here not a sauna.

  •  Look at the therapists trolley/working area.
Is it clean, free of spillages and oils droplets, with products lined up nicely or does it look like your kitchen after the teenagers party the night before?

  • Speak up
Any therapist who asks 'is that music OK for you?' is asking so that you have the option of saying yes or no..
If you're cold, tell them.
If you're too hot, tell them.
If the music is too loud, ask them to turn it down.
If the pressure is too firm/soft, tell them.
You can also gently hint if you would rather not be spoken to - critical in a 'mass market' facial where they are trained to 'talk you through the products'. Spare me. Between the kids, work and the husband - I do not want ANYONE to talk to me thank you. If the place is on fire - please feel free to wake me up. Otherwise, button it.

Any decent therapist wants your experience to be as near-perfect as possible.

  • The procedure itself
Should include two cleanses, steaming, extraction (if wanted), masks, massage and machines (if applicable).
The key part of this is the massage - this should be firm - you should feel it working - and should last at least 20 minutes. You need to be pink when you come out of this room -not just look like you've had your make-up removed.  For further info on massage click here.

  • Avoid add-ons
If you want you eyebrows plucked/waxed or dyed - ask beforehand.  If you are going somewhere like Bliss, a big part of their treatments is the up-sell. If they ask 'would you like a quick blah blah mask?' it is going to cost you, if they say 'would you like a blast of oxygen' it is going to cost you. Forewarned is forearmed. (In Bliss's defence they do let you know this - not everyone does)

  • Tissue
Ah tissues. The very word fills me with fury. Tissues have no place in a facial. Even the softest, quadruple-ply whatever - muslin cloth does the job - and without scratching the skin and completely soaking up all your natural oils to boot. And what is more irritating than the constant 'whooshing' of people pulling the tissues out of the box next to your ear?
Stop it. Immediately.
And stop using tissues on your face if you do it at home - Immediately.

  • Overtoning
There is no need to tone in between every stage - utterly pointless. Takes off all the good stuff you're trying to leave in. Spritzing with a floral water is fine - get thee away from my face with all the cotton wool soaked in toner. Stop. It.

  • And finally.... the facialist herself (not being sexist here - they are USUALLY a woman)
Namely - breath and fingers. Someone tried to give me a facial once after they'd clearly just come back from their break. Their cigarette break. It did not end well. For her. This also relates to garlic, bad breath, onions, curry.. you get the drift.
I know it SEEMS like commom sense but don't be shy - if she smells - she smells... complain - you'll be doing the next person a BIG favour.

My favourite therapist ever has a slight tendency towards OCD. (LM this is for you!)
Spotless room, spotless person, borderline bleach aroma (not as bad as it sounds), obsessive cleaning, obsessive about the client experience...damn near perfect....


  1. Fab post, very helpful to a newbie like me! Shockingly, ive only ever been to a salon to have my eyebrows waxed... I like my local salon but Im not too keen on the products they use, as u said its best to stay away from high street brands =0/

    What salons in London do you recommend?


  2. I think all GOOD therapists are OCD, about their work environment and their own hygiene (well probably everything if I'm honest). If they didn't take care of themselves or where they work then why would you want to put yourself in their hands? Plus it is drummed into us when we are trained. How do I know this? Because I am one.

    As for the tissues, this is a money saving (by the salon) idea. But agreed a soft fresh cloth is much nicer for the client, but some salons don't like the laundry bill.

    Nice post.

  3. Depends on what you have to spend! For service and variety the Urban Retreat in Harrods takes some beating. Spa Illuminata is lovely - as is the Elemis Day Spa.
    For budget treatments you can book in at the London College of Beauty Therapy for bargain prices with the students - all of whom have to reach a certain level before they are allowed on students...
    if you want to one-to-one advice about somewhere in particular email me! :)

  4. Beauty Begins.. agreed - all GOOD therapists have a tendency to OCD (like yourself and me - obviously!). Love it!
    And as you're a therapist you'll no doubt appreciate this - did your school make you SPLIT the tissue? Nice! And cut your own cotton into squares from bulk? email me your CV I may be able to help on the job front! :)Thank you for the posting!

  5. I'm going for my first facial next week so this post is like a blessing to me!

  6. I don't call you Beauty Mama for nothing - this is advice everyone should have from, like, birth. Did you read our post about Gemma's experience with the onion-breathed facialist? So not cool.

  7. Onion??!! NNooooooo!!!!!

    Vileness to end all vileness!!!

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  9. Can you recommend any good dermatologists in London? I'm experiencing extremely bad breakouts since moving which I think are related to the harshness of the water! Thanks

  10. Caroline, could you recommend a facial for me please? I've always had quite oily, spot-prone skin but it was looking quite clear until five months ago when it went haywire. I think it's stress-induced since it started at around the time I had a big family crisis. I'm wondering if a facial would get my skin back on the right track. I'd be really grateful for your advice on this. Thank you so much.

  11. Caroline! Is it normal for a facial to break you out? I went to an Aveda spa and she said it would just "bring everything to the surface", but I wasn't sure if that was true, or if it is something else causing my breakout? Great advice on finding a facialist! Still on the hunt for the perfect one in my area!

  12. Caroline do you even know any good facialists in Sheffield?! I know! Love you