Facial treatments are often bundled with other spa menu items as another way to unwind, but as with any service (and especially one involving chemicals and tools applied directly to the face), they should be carefully chosen based on one's personal skin types and concerns. To maximize your results (and avoid wreaking any havoc along the way), read on as skincare experts break down some of their favorite facials, complete with popular upgrades and pricing info, for your cleanest, smoothest, and brightest skin yet.
Quick disclaimer: To ensure effectiveness and safety, you'll always want to consult with your technician about any allergies, sensitivities, and underlying conditions (including pregnancy).
The Facial: HydraFacial
What to Expect: The HydraFacial (conducted with a HydraFacial machine) typically consists of a deep cleansing with exfoliating properties (such as glycolic and salicylic acids) at various concentrations for removing dead skin cells and stimulating collagen, says Jessie Cheung, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Cheung Aesthetics & Wellness.
"This is followed by vortex extractions with an infusion of active serums for clearing out pores, along with a blend of antioxidants (like vitamins A and E), botanical extracts (such as white tea, rosemary, and horse chestnut), and hyaluronic acid for improving texture/clarity and providing additional hydration," she explains.
Need an extra boost? Try complementing your service with a curated selection of builds. "Some popular add-ons include dermabuilder (peptide serum to help smooth fine lines and enhance skin elasticity), britenol (arbutin and vitamin C for brightening), CTFG (growth factors to stimulate collagen synthesis), LED light therapy (red light to improve collagen and soothe inflammation; blue light to treat acne), or lymphatic drainage (to improve circulation and remove toxins from the skin, as well as reduce inflammation and swelling from sinus pressure post-injections or surgery)," says Dr. Cheung.
Best For: All skin types (with focus on acne-prone/dry)
Desired Effect: Decongestion/resurfacing; hydration
Typical Cost: $150+ (depending on spa and various add-ons)
The Facial: DiamondGlow
What to Expect: Ali Tobia, founder of BeautyMood.com and a New York-based esthetician who's catered to the faces of Elle MacPherson, Brooks Nader and beyond, says this comprehensive treatment (formerly referred to as DermalInfusion) is ideal for tackling a wide range of common skin concerns, from fine lines and dark spots to acne and clogged pores.
"While the name DiamondGlow technically refers to the device itself, it has become interchangeable with the treatment as a whole, which consists of an exfoliation for resurfacing skin (performed with a precise diamond tip), extractions for removing pore buildup and blackheads (done with high-powered suction), and an infusion of specific serums that are matched to your skin type and condition (ultra-hydrating, pore-clarifying, brightening, etc.) for added nourishment and moisture. It can be done as a standalone service or combined with many other modern treatment modalities (such as lasers and microcurrent)," explains Tobia. "While recommended for almost every skin type, it is by far my preferred facial treatment for those suffering from dry skin because of its fantastic hydrating benefits."
Best For: All skin types (with focus on dry/dehydrated)
Desired Effect: Radiance; healthy-looking complexion
Typical Cost: $175-$300
The Facial: European/Deep-Cleansing
What to Expect: Tobia considers the European (or 'classic' as it's known in Europe, where it originated and is still extremely popular) the OG of facials because it's what many think of when they envision a pampering spa day.
"This common facial package typically includes a combination of cleansing, exfoliation, extraction, steam, and facial massage. The steam and extractions work together to open and clear blocked pores, minimizing blackheads and helping to prevent future breakouts that can occur as a result of not managing buildup," she explains.
She adds that the European Facial is great for beginners looking to get familiar with more of a full-service facial experience. "Typically, the suite of products used is determined by the provider and their preferences, but I recommend a consultation with your esthetician to formulate a customized selection based on your individual skin needs."
Best For: Oily/congested skin
Desired Results: Decongestion; radiance; even skin tone
Typical Cost: $100-$250
The Facial: Gua Sha
What to Expect: This technique, which happens to be Tobia's personal go-to, has been picking up momentum for its stimulating and rejuvenating benefits.
"In a Gua Sha Facial (adapted from a body massage treatment), a practitioner will typically use various stones, often made from high-quality jade or quartz and shaped as knobs, wands, spoons, and other contoured shapes that may include specific notches and divots, to promote blood flow, relieve muscle tension, and stimulate lymphatic drainage to remove toxins and puffiness from beneath the face," says Tobia.
An esthetician will usually apply a thin layer of oil to help the stones glide smoothly on your face without pulling at the skin, which Tobia says provides an added hydrating benefit. "One important note: because Gua Sha works on your facial tissue beneath the skin, this treatment is not recommended if you have gotten filler or Botox injections within the past month."
Best For: All skin types (with focus on dull or sagging skin)
Desired Results: Firming/sculpting; radiance
Typical Cost: $125-$300
The Facial: Remodeling
What to Expect: According to Aida Bicaj, a celebrity facialist and skin expert in New York who's worked with celebrities like Carla Gugino and Kyra Sedgwick, the remodeling facial is like a workout for your face.
"The RFM machine uses radiofrequency and galvanic current to clean out pores and-through attached sponges-penetrate a curated cocktail of serums to treat and nourish the inner layers of the skin. It has been around for 45 years and there is nothing like it on the market," she says.
In addition to a deep-cleansing and de-puffing, it provides a plumping and lasting sculpting 'facelift' effect. "It slows the aging process as muscle has memory. The more often you do it, the better results you have, just like working out at the gym. Those who maintain their monthly appointments often don't need surgical procedures/facelifts later down the road."
Best For: All skin types (not suitable for pregnant clients)
Desired Effect: Firming/lifting; anti-aging; radiance
Typical Cost: $395 for 60 min
The Facial: Manual Lift
What to Expect: Bicaj recommends the Manual Lift as another, more controlled alternative to microdermabrasion for rejuvenating cells and achieving a brighter, healthy-looking complexion.
"Our estheticians use a special French pinching technique to manipulate the skin in pinching-like movements with their fingertips to manage the level of exfoliation. When performed correctly and used with a spa-grade potency/combination of Biologique Recherche's exfoliating liquids and powders, it stimulates elastin, collagen, and blood circulation, which helps reduce the appearance of fine lines and sun spots and removes layers of dead skin," she explains.
Best For: Normal to oily (exfoliation can be adjusted according to needs)
Desired Effect: Tightening/lifting; radiance; hydration/plumping
Typical Cost: $395 for 60 min
The Facial: Dermaplaning
What to Expect: Katherine Amato, LE, NCEA, HWC, co-founder of the Katan Klinic in New York, describes dermaplaning (also referred to as microplaning) as a form of physical exfoliation in which the very top layer of the skin (stratum corneum) is gently removed.
"Using a sterile surgical scalpel specially designed for the contours of the face, the technician gently and slowly grazes the superficial layer of the skin in quick, short, upward strokes to remove the buildup of cellular debris and release the contents of clogged pores, encouraging cellular turnover and leaving the skin looking renewed. By opening pores, this also allows for deeper product penetration and proves an effective alternative for removing vellus hairs (aka peach fuzz) for a smooth, glass-like surface." Amato explains.
Post-treatment, Amato says an antioxidant-rich gel (vitamins A, C, and E) and immune-booster (such as colostrum by Environ or the DMK betagel) are typically applied to take advantage of the higher product penetration into the dermis. "If you have reactive/sensitive skin, always inquire about how your skin therapist will help reduce the potential for inflammation after dermaplaning. LED, cooling, or alginate-based masks are best to soothe irritated skin types," she adds.
She is also adamant that clients are diligent with SPF while new skin cells are forming, and avoid direct sun exposure and high heat completely for up to 48 hours post-treatment.
Best For: Most skin types (consult derm about existing growths, active acne, or rosacea)
Desired Effect: Texturization; radiance; reduction in peach fuzz
Typical Cost: $150-$350
The Facial: Microcurrent
What to Expect: Natasa Billeci, RN, BSN, C-HWC, anti-aging nurse, health coach and co-founder of the Katan Klinic in New York recommends the Microcurrent Facial as another fitness method for the face, and especially jawline.
"The technician will usually prep skin with a cleanser and toner, followed by a conductive gel or a therapeutic mask for those looking for increased hydration. They will then glide a series of stainless steel fork-like or rounded probes over the entire face and neck in cinching and lifting motions, sending gentle electrical pulses through the epidermis and awakening receptors in the muscle tissue below the skin's surface. Facial muscles respond by tingling and twitching as they experience an intense and targeted 'workout' around the lower face and neck (when working in the eye area, the sensation of gentle tugging on the scalp or hair can be expected)," says Billeci.
Because skin and tissue health are dependent on cellular health and microcirculation, Billeci says this powerful treatment goes beyond just aesthetics, working to improve the structure and function of the cellular matrix, while also encouraging circulation of blood and lymphatic fluid, which helps deliver nutrients and oxygen and also allow the skin to remove waste.
"You will see and feel an immediate, but short-lasting lift after your first treatment. Although it's noninvasive, the results are cumulative and progressive so I'd recommend a series of five to 10 treatments at a high frequency (one to two times per week) for optimal results," she adds.
Best For: All skin types
Desired Effect: Tightening/lifting; decongestion; hydration/plumping
Typical Cost: $195-$400
The Facial: Brightening
What to Expect: Natalie Aguilar, a celebrity aesthetician and dermatological nurse, loves the Brightening Facial as a quick and effective fix for those looking to achieve a next-level glow.
"The facial usually involves a few layers of serums and a brightening mask infused with active ingredients, such as kojic acid, azelaic acid, phytic acid, and mandelic acid, as well as brightening vitamins (such as C and B3) that can be applied either with a fan brush, manually, or with a silicone sponge. Most of these gentle acids help to lighten age spots and even out dull skin tones. The antioxidants in the acids also help protect the skin," says Aguilar.
Best For: All skin types (with focus on dullness and discoloration)
Desired Effect: Radiance; even skin tone; hydration
Typical Cost: $150-$350
The Facial: The Reboot
What to Expect: According to Aguilar, this treatment is like a restart button for this skin. "It was invented by scientist Danné Montague-King to address the skin's specific concerns and bring it back to homeostasis."
The treatment starts with a cleanse, followed by a cinnamon peel designed to stimulate blood flow to the skin, and nutrients and vitamins which are quickly absorbed. "An enzymatic mask is then applied to the face, neck, and décolleté and left on for 45 minutes (during which the client may feel a pulsing sensation in the neck or face, along with a powerful tightening of the skin as there is a lot of magic happening to the skin during this time!). Lastly, the skin is cleansed and treated with more nutrients, serums, and moisturizers (and left looking alive, radiant, and refreshed!)," Aguilar explains.
Best For: All skin types (with focus on tired/puffy)
Desired Effect: Contouring; hydration; radiance
Typical Cost: $350+