Wondering what to do after a facial? Smart move. Ideally, your skin is supersmooth and soft after a facial—but it may also be supersensitive. That’s why treating your skin to the proper post-facial care is especially important.
I totally get why many skin experts consider facials to be regular complexion maintenance—kind of like car tune-ups for our face. Regular facials may help combat the toll that stress, the environment, and some of our daily habits take on our skin. And there is plenty to be said for that fresh, dewy glow and satin-soft skin post-facial (not to mention the relaxation of an hour of me-time and a mini-massage).
But even as a beauty writer, I’m always surprised by the cost of a good facial. When you're spending as much as $150 or more per session, whose budget can afford to keep up regular facial appointments—especially when most aestheticians and even some dermatologists recommend getting one every four to six weeks?
My freelancer budget can’t quite handle a monthly trip to the spa, but I knocked a few fancy dinners and happy hours off my calendar recently to treat myself to an appointment with my aesthetician. While I was lying face-up on the massage table with a steamer staring me in the face, I steered our conversation to the best ways for me to maintain the effects of the treatment until the next time my facial-fund jar was full. What ensued was a laundry list of the things I shouldn't do upon leaving the spa.
Nearly everything she said was included in my afternoon plans (sunbathing myself to sleep with a cocktail in hand before showering and heading out for the night). Here I was dropping $200 on a hydrafacial, and I was an hour away from possibly undoing all the benefits I was counting on it to bestow. Nuh-uh. I followed my aesthetician's advice, then called in more experts to find out exactly what to do after a facial—and what not to do. Keep reading to get their top after-facial tips.
What to do after a facial: day 1
1. Avoid picking at your skin.
True, you really should try to avoid this all the time, but your skin is especially sensitive after a facial. Though it’s tempting to pop every tiny blackhead or whitehead that rears its ugly face on yours, keep your hands off if you want beautiful skin. There’s a reason your facialist didn’t nix them herself. “If I've done extractions on a client, I don't want them picking at their skin any further, as it can cause irritation and potential scarring,” Chicago-based aesthetician Meghana Prasad tells SELF. “Sometimes there will be a lesion that I leave without extracting because it's not ready to come out yet.”
2. Skip the heavy makeup and skin-care products.
If your face is looking red from the exfoliation or extractions in your facial, you might be tempted to whip out your heaviest full-coverage concealer. Resist. Sejal Shah, M.D., board-certified dermatologist and RealSelf contributor, tells SELF that because your facial provides such a deep cleanse, it’s smart to give your skin a break from makeup and heavy products for a day or so, because your pores are more open than normal and therefore susceptible to more bacteria. Taking a break from makeup will also allow the serums, creams, or peels that were used to be more effective.
Don’t worry, you can resume your usual makeup routine the following day. The first time you do apply makeup after a facial, make sure you’ve given your brushes and applicators a solid scrubbing to avoid post-facial breakouts.
3. Go easy on your face when washing it.
Remember, your skin is ultrasensitive after a facial so you’ll want to go easy on it. “Oftentimes the serums and physical manipulation of the skin during the facial can disrupt the skin barrier so it’s best to stick to gentle, hydrating cleansers,” Joshua Zeichner, M.D., director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, tells SELF. His go-to recommendation: Dove Sensitive Skin Body Wash, which he says “removes dirt without compromising the integrity of the skin barrier and hydrates skin at the same time.” Though it’s marketed as body wash, it’s gentle enough to use on your face, notes Zeichner.
4. Skip the toner.
“I do not recommend applying toners to the skin for a day or two after a facial, especially if they are alcohol-based or contain exfoliating or astringent ingredients,” says Zeichner. “These can cause irritation or dryness of the skin.” After a facial you shouldn’t need to use toner anyway since your aesthetician already did a deep clean and brought your skin back in balance.
5. Resist the sauna.
It’s tempting since most spas often have some kind of steam room or sauna available for customers to use, but it’s in your skin’s best interest to enjoy this amenity pre-treatment. Once you’ve had your facial, keep away from hot rooms of any kind for at least a day. Your skin has already been steamed to the max during your facial, and adding any more could lead to sensitivity and broken capillaries, Shah explains.
6. Rethink that post-facial massage.
“I would be cautious about getting a traditional massage on a table right after getting a facial,” says Zeichner. “You can certainly do it, but the masseuse would need to be very careful about your face and should definitely avoid a facial massage.” So if you’re treating yourself to a full spa day, your best bet is to get a massage before your facial so you don’t have to worry about your delicate post-facial skin rubbing against the massage table. Or go for an upright neck and back massage in a chair, suggests Zeichner.
7. Reschedule your workout.
If you didn’t get the chance to work out before your facial you might be tempted to sneak it in right after, but wait at least a day. “The increased heat in the skin and sweat can be irritating to your freshly exfoliated skin,” says Prasad. “If my clients are adamant about working out, I usually suggest they make sure to make their trip to the gym before their appointment so their skin has time to heal.”
What to do after a facial: days 2 and 3
8. Lay off any exfoliators or face scrubs.
Over-exfoliating can damage your skin’s protective layer and can lead to inflammation. Since most facials incorporate an exfoliant—either chemical or physical—Zeichner recommends skipping anything that could irritate your skin for several days after getting one. Stick with a gentle facial cleanser instead.
9. Stay away from acne products and other at-home treatments.
When it comes to post-facial care it’s best not to overdo it on products, and this is especially true when it comes to harsh, potentially irritating products. This includes retinols, at-home peels, and cleansers and toners with salicylic acid. These products can turn that fresh post-facial radiance into redness.
It’s also best to avoid most face masks. “Many face masks designed to brighten, exfoliate, or treat acne may cause inflammation to skin that is sensitive from a facial,” explains Zeichner. “The ingredients in these treatments can irritate already sensitive skin.” One exception to this rule is hydrating masks that contain ingredients like hyaluronic acid. Try Zeichner’s pick—Neutrogena Hydroboost Hydrogel Sheet Mask—which he says is a great option post-facial.
If you’re feeling unsure about what products to use post-facial, experts agree it’s a good idea to ask your aesthetician for recommendations of what to use on your face once they're done with your treatment.
10. Stay out of the sun.
At the very least, you should cancel any plans to sit pool- or beachside after your facial—unless you plan on hiding behind a wide-brimmed hat the whole time. “Because your skin has just been exfoliated it is more sensitive and vulnerable to the sun’s harmful rays,” Prasad explains. After a few days you can worry less about your skin reacting negatively to the sun, but it’s still smart to wear a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher every day.
What to do after a facial: days 4-7
11. Postpone any wax or laser treatments on your face.
Your aesthetician will give you the green light for hair-removal procedures on your face depending on how intensely you were exfoliated during your facial, but Prasad says a good rule of thumb is to wait at least a week. “Waxing especially exfoliates the skin, and over-exfoliation will make it more likely that the wax will lift the skin and leave you with an ugly scab instead of beautifully groomed brows,” she says.
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- Chemical Exfoliation Is the Skin-Care Step Your Body Is Missing
- This Is How Often You Should Actually Exfoliate Your Face
Originally Appeared on Self