Few other sybaritic pleasures compare with a good facial; beauticians and even some medical experts believe that your complexion will improve as much as your mood. US cosmetic surgeon Stephen Bosniak is not the only expert to acknowledge that ‘people who get facials definitely have softer and more pliable skin.’
‘The main purpose of a facial is to have the type of deep cleansing you can’t do at home,’ explains Beverly Hills-based facialist Aida Thibiant, who has a long list of celebrity clients including Candice Bergen. A facial consists of at least six steps, starting with skin analysis and make-up removal. Steaming and/or deep cleansing of blackheads and whiteheads is central to the proceedings, once skin has been carefully warmed and prepared for ‘extraction’ of built-up skin debris and white- and blackheads. A mask follows, then finally rehydration of the skin with a moisturiser or protective cream. Many facialists massage the skin with their fingers, while some salons instead include an electrical treatment with a wand rather like a cattle-prod. This stimulates the face in much the same way as massage, but it may give sensitive skins just too much of a jolt.

Facials aren’t cheap, but devotees look upon them not just as pampering but as preventive treatment, like going to the doctor or the dentist for check-ups. Most beauticians recommend a monthly facial:  ‘the skin’s cells regenerate about every 21 days, so it makes sense to get rid of the accumulation of dead skin cells.’

There is a wealth of wonderful facial treatments available. You may want to try a couple before you settle on one that strikes the perfect balance of de-stressing and deep cleansing. You will know when you’ve found your perfect facialist – just by looking in a mirror immediately afterwards. You shouldn’t be blotchy or red. You should be relaxed. And your skin should look instantly great.

Finding the perfect facial – a 10-point plan

1. Ask around for friends’ facial recommendations – word of mouth is always best.

2. Avoid booking a facial around the time of your period; skin can be more sensitive then.

3. Before you make an appointment, ask two key questions: what’s the training and experience of the facialist?

4. Enquire whether any instruments or machines are used during the facial; if so, what – and why? (Most of the leading facialists we know advise against the use of vacuum extractors or metal ‘comedone-removal’ tools for removing blackheads/whiteheads, as they potentially damage the skin.)

5. Find out not only how much the facial costs, but how long the treatment will take. Also ask whether you need to leave your face clean to ‘breathe’, or if you’ll be able to apply make-up straight afterwards, so you can either plan an evening in or go out and party.

6. Once there, the beautician should take a full skincare history. Mention any skin troubles and whether you’re on any medication.

7. Ask to be talked through the facial step-by-step; you can feel rather trapped just sitting there, not knowing what comes next.

8. Remove contact lenses before any facial treatments.

9. You may well be left alone during the face mask part of the proceedings. Again, this can feel quite claustrophobic if you’re not used to it, so ask the beautician to pop back half-way through and check you’re OK.

10. Once you’ve found the perfect facialist, stick with her; don’t chop and change. Ideally, you should only have one pair of hands that touches your face – apart from your own…

AHA peels

A variation on the salon mask is the exfoliating peel with alpha-hydroxy acids,or AHAs; of these, glycolic acid is often used, in concentrations which can range from just four to 40 per cent. We believe that these are best carried out by dermatologists, because they have the potential to damage the skin’s natural protective barriers. Before any kind of AHA peel, a patch test should always be carried out to check for sensitivity.