A primer on the most effective skin solutions—whether you want to fade sun spots or just crave a little R&R. By Patricia Canole
Countdown to your wedding day: It's a month away and you want picture-perfect, glowing skin. Possible? Yes, indeed, with a facial. When it comes to facials most women think of cleansing and massage. Today, facials are not just about relaxation but about visible results. And with a battery of options—like peels to smooth out scars or fillers to plump up fine lines—it's crucial to choose the right one for your complexion.
Are you looking for the professional attention of a doctor or hours of pampering at a spa—or something in between?
Doctor's Office: For a woman who wants a medical professional to look at her skin and expects no-nonsense results. A dermatologist won't mistake a small mole for a blackhead and is less likely to scar skin during procedures.
Medi-Spa: This experience blends doctor consultation services with traditional spa comforts. Increasingly popular, these centers use aestheticians to give treatments, but a doctor is usually on staff to supervise chemical peels and other procedures.
Traditional Day Spa: The ultimate in pampering. Day spas are still the most popular places to go for facial appointments; their treatments, ranging from aromatherapy to mild collagen stimulation, are big on extras but offer more modest results.
Oxygen: A cool mist of pure oxygen is sprayed on the entire face, with extra focus given to parched fine lines and wrinkles. The oxygen hydrates the skin making it look temporarily more dewy. It's particularly recommended for anyone with dry skin, smokers, or frequent fliers. Fans of the treatment say oxygen blasts give them a rosy glow. And many contain a cocktail of vitamins and nutrients that can temporarily plump up fine lines.
Steam/Extraction: A soothing, hydrating mask is usually applied to the face, then warm water (sometimes infused with essential oils) is misted over the mask. The mask shields the face from moist heat. Steam opens the pores and loosens dirt trapped inside. That makes the extractions that follow easier to bear and helps oil-absorbing masks penetrate the skin deeply. After the steaming, skin softens and is more elastic.
Chemical Peel: Pads soaked in acid (typically glycolic, lactic or salicylic) are wiped on the face to exfoliate dull, dead cells from the surface of your skin. Glycolics can stimulate collagen production to smooth fine lines; lactic acids can correct hyperpigmentation (brown spots); and salicylic acids prevent breakouts by cleaning out pores. Peels leave your face smooth and glowing.
Microdermabrasion: Skin is sprayed with small crystal particles that mechanically polish the top layer (like a sandblaster), while a gentle vacuum sucks away dead cells and debris. Pores appear smaller, freckles look lighter, and fine lines are less noticeable. The procedure is more intense than a scrub because it gets into every pore.