A facial exfoliates and hydrates the skin. Exfoliating can remove sebum oil, essentially blackheads and plugs in your pores, and the dull cellular debris that builds up on your face over time. This immediately makes your face look refreshed. It also triggers the skin's repair system and spurs collagen production, which is that structural protein in the dermal layer that keeps skin looking tight and youthful. Hydrating restores water to skin, which temporarily plumps it and smooths fine lines. It also provides a barrier for dry skin, which can trigger sensitivity. Together, exfoliating and hydrating gives the face a glowing appearance.
When it comes to facials, there are a lot of ways to exfoliate and a lot of ways to moisturize. Lactic acid, glycolic or chemical peels, and alpha hydroxyl acid are just some of the ways estheticians remove the outer layer of the epidermis. The degree to which each method works often depends on the formula, how strong it is, and how long it stays on. One method isn't necessarily better than another — the decision should be decided on the client's skin condition, its sensitivity, and goals they're trying to achieve, says Michelle D'Allaird Brenner, educational director for the Aesthetics International Association.
That same advice applies to moisturizing. Hyaluronic acid, Vitamin E, Shea butter, and glycerin — they're all moisturizers that deliver water to the skin, and most topical creams and serums contain one or more of these ingredients. But they tend not to be better than what you can do at home, and the end result is often the same: temporary.
"A good esthetician should give you a consultation to find out your concerns, tell you what they have to make a difference to meet their needs," says D'Allaird Brenner. "If they just take you into a room to give you a treatment, that's not where you should be."
Verdict: Worth it if you have cash to spare, the effect is fleeting.