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The Spa-Goer’s Guide to Five Common Facial Treatments

BY: Mel Kassel | Apr 11, 2016

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For spa addicts, nearly every holiday and special occasion presents another opportunity for beauty gifts. Gift givers scour spa menus to find services they haven’t yet tried. And for the more low maintenance, the very same events offer loved ones a chance to spoil them with unusual gifts—or, at least, unfamiliar to them.

Do you know which type your gift recipient is? And do you know what they’d like? Let’s face it—conceiving beauty and spa gift ideas can be mystifying, especially when it comes to face treatments. Because everyone’s skin type is different, it’s important to know what's right for the complexion in question, whether it’s a simple mask, a microdermabrasion session, or a deep peel. Below, take a look at the specifics of each treatment to figure out which of these five common facial treatments is right for the person on your list (or you!). 

Simply Light: LED Light Therapy

Treats: Fine lines, sagging skin, acne

What is it? Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) give off heat-free light that passes through the skin to affect its deeper layers in different ways, depending on the light’s wavelength. Aestheticians shine the different kinds of light onto the face during sessions, which typically last anywhere from a few minutes to an hour and a half.

How does it work? Red light stimulates skin cells to produce collagen and elastin, two proteins that make skin look firmer. Blue light, on the other hand, kills acne-causing bacteria to prevent future breakouts and shrink pores.

How often can you get one? For optimal results, a series of treatments spaced a few weeks apart is recommended.

Classic Cleansing: European Facial

Treats: Clogged pores, dull skin, blackheads, irritation

What is it? As the most basic and universally applicable facial, the european facial is a spa staple. Its name is rather arbitrary—in most of Europe it’s referred to as a classic facial, and in Britain it’s been called a “cracking good wash-me-up.”

How does it work? Its components remain the same across continents: cleansing, exfoliation, steam, extractions (typically optional), a massage, a soothing mask, and a moisturizer with sunblock.

How often can you get one? Every few weeks, since it’s recommended for simple skin upkeep rather than specialized care.

The Star Treatment: Oxygen Facial

Treats: Fine lines,sagging skin, imperfections

What is it? Oxygen facials have become a celebrity fad for their ability to refresh the skin right before a red-carpet appearance. Skin becomes instantly lifted and plump without the telltale redness of other facial treatments, and is immediately ready for makeup application,

How does it work? An aesthetician uses an airbrush to spray pressurized oxygen and custom skincare serums onto the face. The oxygen supposedly boosts the skin’s intake of the anti-aging and moisturizing products, which can reduce the tiny flaws that might otherwise show up on camera or in surprisingly detailed carnival caricatures.

How often can you get one? Every week. The oxygen facial’s effects are immediately apparent but, because it doesn’t actually alter the skin, tend to fade over the next few days.

A Quick Buff: Microdermabrasion

Treats: Age spots, sun damage, blemishes, fine lines, stretch marks, acne scars, dullness

What is it? Microdermabrasion essentially buffs away the outermost layer of skin on the epidermis, called the stratum corneum, to expose the smoother, fresher cells underneath. The procedure leaves complexions with a more even tone and diminishes the appearance of fine lines. It also improves the skin’s absorption of lotions and creams.

How does it work? An aesthetician can perform microdermabrasion with one of two tools. One is an applicator that sprays small, exfoliating crystals, at the same time vacuuming them up along with the sloughed-off skin cells. The other is a wand that doesn’t dispense any particles but instead scrapes away the stratum corneum with a diamond-covered tip. Think of the first like a sandblaster and the second like a scraper.

How often can you get one?  The treatment requires no downtime for recovery. Generally, once a month is recommended.

Read the answers to microdermabrasion FAQs and watch a video to see how it works.

Peel Away Imperfections: Glycolic Peel

Treats: Uneven pigmentation, sun damage, acne, fine lines

What is it? A glycolic peel is similar to microdermabrasion in that it also removes the skin’s top layer of cells. However, it does so chemically rather than mechanically. The peel’s active ingredient is glycolic acid, a naturally occurring fruit acid found in sugar crops. These peels usually contain concentrations of glycolic acid between 10% and 70%, depending on their strength. Still, they remain the least intense of all the chemical peels.

How does it work? An aesthetician brushes a glycolic-acid solution onto the face, where it sits for up to 15 minutes before being washed off with water. The solution might cause a slight stinging sensation as it breaks apart the exposed skin layer. The end result is a clearer, more uniform skin tone.

How often can you get one? The skin might be red and somewhat flaky in the days following the procedure. However, these effects should not be severe. Peels should be spaced one to two months apart.

Photo by Rachel McCann, Groupon.