Read this before booking another facial.
With all the new at-home masks available, from charcoal to bubble to sheet, you might figure making a trip to an esthetician for an extravagant treatment is no longer necessary. But there's something to be said for having a pro examine your skin and treat it accordingly. (Regular facials are a healthy skin habit for a reason.) And come on—getting pampered while an ocean soundtrack plays on loop feels like perfection.
But not every facial is created equal, and if you end up with an esthetician who doesn't take your specific needs into consideration, your skin could end up worse off. Here's how to know you're getting a quality facial—and the signs that indicate you're not.
There's a Q&A
Asking questions before a treatment is one of the best ways to feel out the quality of the facial you're about to get—so don't be shy. It's a red flag if your esthetician brushes off your questions, says Stalina Glot, an esthetician at Haven Spa in New York City. And don't hesitate to ask about your esthetician's training and certifications and how many years she's been performing the specific procedure. (All estheticians go through training to become certified in their state and continuing education courses to maintain their license, but medical estheticians receive additional training and often work with physicians, for example.) Besides certifications, you can also ask about how your facial has affected past clients with similar skin types, especially if you plan to get a more aggressive treatment. Simply put, the latest and greatest facial treatments might not be right for you. It's also smart to discuss any facial treatment you plan on getting with a dermatologist beforehand, especially for more aggressive treatments like lasers, peels, or microneedling. And as a rule, always seek out a dermatologist for serious skin issues, like severe acne, skin tags, or warts.
She Should Analyze Your Skin Type
Your esthetician should spend a few minutes analyzing your skin and asking you questions before getting started to know how to tailor the treatment for you, says Glot. "For example, if an acid peel is part of the facial protocol, it is vital that the esthetician know what acid strength to use and how long to leave it on the skin in order to avoid adverse effects." (Related: The Best Face Masks for Every Skin Condition)
The Room Should Look Clean
Before you close your eyes and get zen, take a quick survey of the room. It should look exceptionally clean, especially the tools that will be used (watch out for these six suprising signs your nail salon is gross, too). "The esthetician should cleanse her hands prior to performing extractions and wear gloves," says dermatologist Sejal Shah, M.D. "And of course, the areas to be extracted should be thoroughly cleansed too." Sterilized tools are important since nonsterilized tools could carry bacteria and viruses that could infect your skin, especially during extractions. Most estheticians use individually wrapped lancets that are used once and then disposed of. If your esthetician isn't using a disposable tool, ask to make sure it has been sterilized.
Extractions Shouldn't Take Forever
Dr. Shah is in favor of extractions, so long as they're performed by a well-trained esthetician. (So again, ask about her training first!) Another way to know if your esthetician is legit is by how efficiently she gets the job done. "Spending too much time squeezing one pimple means the esthetician doesn't know how to correctly extract," Glot says. If an esthetician attempts to extract a blemish that's not ready to come out, you can leave with damaged skin. When in doubt, ask to skip the extraction portion of your treatment.
Check for Irritation
Unfortunately, there's no better way to test the quality of your facial than by playing a game of "wait and see" with your skin after your appointment. Basic facials *shouldn't* cause you to walk out with that red-faced complexion. If you didn't come in with redness, you shouldn't leave with any irritation, Glot says. Leaving with dried-out skin is also a bad sign—an esthetician should choose products that won't dry out your skin type. And of course, one of the main draws of booking a facial instead of going the DIY route is the relaxation factor. The esthetician who skips that and launches into an endless sales pitch—or who laments the condition of your skin to try to make you feel like you need them to save it—isn't focused on giving you the best, most zen-like experience. In short, if your esthetician doesn't have you leaving the appointment relaxed and ~glowing~, it's probably time to break up.