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There are plenty of reasons to make facials part of your routine

By Maggie Duffy
Published: March 2, 2018
Aethetician Erin Holliday applies the Citrus Burst cleanser to writer Maggie Duffy during a basic facial at Thee Skin Studio at Salty Roots Salon and Boutique in St. Petersburg. (JAMES BORCHUCK | Times)

I have a confession to make.

Iím a beauty junkie who has never had a facial.

This is near sacrilege for a person with a professional background in cosmetics and the personal care industry. My defense is that I was much younger then and had access to great skin care, as well as advice from licensed aestheticians I worked with, so I figured I was doing enough for my skin and it looked fine.

Fast-forward 12 or so years. I no longer work in cosmetics and I donít have an allegiance to one particular skin care line, or a regular regimen. My once-clear face now has a few age spots, fine lines are creeping around my eyes and mouth, my skin is looking a bit dull. Overwhelmed by the multitude of products for and information about skin, I decided it was time to contact a professional and get my first facial.

I made an appointment with Erin Holliday of Thee Skin Studio, which is located inside Salty Roots Salon and Boutique in St. Petersburg. I came in barefaced and ready to unveil the mysteries behind this beauty ritual that had thus far eluded me.

Holliday, who has been an aesthetician for about five years, led me into her charming little studio, where everything is white and a shaft of hazy natural light peeks down from where the ceiling doesnít quite meet the wall.

Before we began, I filled out a form that asked basic questions about my skin, and what concerns I have or would like to work on. I told her that my skin is dry and, at 42, I am noticing some aging. Since it was my first time, Holliday decided to give me a basic facial using all-natural and organic products from DNA Skin Institute. The facial includes cleansing, exfoliation, a light peel, an ultrasonic skin-scrubbing treatment, extraction and a treatment called Signal Pro, the application of a serum that uses nutrients, including hyaluronic acids and amino acids, that are naturally found in your skin but are continually being depleted.

A lot of exfoliation is involved, and thatís by design.

"The most important thing about facials is keeping the dead skin off your face," Holliday explained. "By doing that, your products penetrate deeper, past the epidermis into your dermis, which plumps up the skin. It also prevents acne breakouts and keeps your skin looking fresh."

As the skin ages, cell turnover slows down, so itís necessary to exfoliate more often. Also, blood circulation occurs in the dermis, so skin care products will work better if they can be absorbed there and not sit on top in the epidermis.

Holliday begins my facial by applying the Citrus Burst cleanser, which has a delightful smell that lives up to its name, in a circular, massaging motion, to stimulate the blood vessels. She removes the cleanser by gently stroking cleansing pads across my face. Next up is a Photo Lipid Hydrating Scrub, which contains eucalyptus and uses jojoba beads to gently exfoliate the skin. This is also applied to my neck and decolletage, areas Holliday recommends treating as well. Then she steams my skin to keep the pores open. What a relaxing treat.

Now itís time for my chemical peel. That very term evokes images of a raw, red, peeling face for me, but I learn that there are various degrees of chemical peels. Holliday uses a mild lactic acid on me, since Iím dry and fairly sensitive, which she explained would continue to remove more of that pesky dead skin and brighten and tighten my face.

Other gentle peels that Holliday offers include one with glycolic acid, which is derived from sugarcane and helps with sun damage, fine lines and to minimize pores. She uses a salicylic acid to treat acne and the scarring caused by it.

For clients with more profound sun damage, hyperpigmentation or scarring, a deep chemical peel would be necessary. For this more involved process, the client would prep at home for a couple of weeks beforehand with cleanser and skin lightening and vitamin A serum. This pre-exfoliation is important so the skin is newer and can accept the treatment, which combines a salicylic acid, resoricnol, lactic acid, wine and lycopene, called the Jessner Lyco Peel. The skin feels burnt the day after the peel, and will peel for up to five days after the treatment. On the seventh day, the client would come back in and do a restorative treatment, because the peel has stripped all of the skinís natural oils. For the next two weeks, the skin will be red and tender, so the client will have to use products at home to build up the natural oils.

Needless to say, this isnít the sort of treatment youíd want to do before a major event, like your wedding, for instance. Holliday recommends doing a treatment such as this well in advance, at least six weeks out. Ideally, it wouldnít be the first time the client would receive the treatment, either. Holliday suggests just doing basic facials, like the one I got, during the month of the event.

Back to my facial. Holliday added a cocktail of Mixed Berry Polish and 100% Vitamin C Crystals over the lactic acid. She handed me a fan to use if it started to burn, but I only felt a mild tingle that let me know things were working. Vitamin C is not only an antioxidant, but it also brightens the skin. Like the cleanser and the scrub, the Mixed Berry Polishís scent carries soothing aromatherapy properties. A few times between treatments, I was misted with a Floral Mist hydrator that contains the essential oil Neroli. This was followed up with a steamed towel, which was left on my face for about 10 minutes.

Next came the ultrasonic skin scrubber, an instrument that vibrates 27,000 times a second, using water to get a deeper cleanse, and sounds like a dentistís drill. "I like to call it a pressure washer for your face," Holliday joked.

She used it in combination with more of the cleanser, and the way she moved it around my face made it feel like the suction was plumping up my skin. Holliday also used it to gently extract blackheads from my nose and chin.

The final treatment, the Signal Pro serum that replaces nutrients, was applied with a gentle patting technique. I left this on for the rest of the day, as it would continue working through the night.

The verdict? Iím completely sold on bringing facials into my beauty regimen. Not only did it feel good to be pampered, but when I left the salon, my skin really did look brighter, and it felt tighter. This basic facial was a fantastic introduction, and at some point I may consider some other treatments. Holliday educated me on a few of the ones she performs to address more serious concerns.

Like peels, microdermabrasion addresses sun damage and hyperpigmentation, and minimizes pores and light scarring, using a mildly abrasive diamond tip instrument with suction to remove the outer layer of skin. For the best results, Holliday recommends coming in once a week for six weeks for microdermabrasion, then maintaining it every four to eight weeks.

To tighten and lift the face, the microcurrent facial uses an instrument that is moved on the face in an upward direction. Done once a week for seven weeks, it will tighten the muscles in the face and, over time, begin to retone them and lift the eyebrows.

So when should one start getting facials? Though Holliday does work on teens that have acne issues, she doesnít over-exfoliate them, because their skin is loaded with natural oils and nutrients. She suggests that a good time to begin would be in oneís 30s. And this goes for men, too. Holliday said sheís getting more male clients all the time.

Now that Iím sold on the benefits of facials, I wanted to know how often Iíd need to come back.

"I have clients come in every four weeks and then I have some who only come in four times a year," Holliday said. "It all depends on your skin."

And your budget, of course. Facials at Thee Skin Studio run from $45 to $150.

Supplementing facials with a regular skin care regimen is key to maintaining your skinís appearance. DNA Skin Institute products are sold at the salon, which takes the guesswork out of which products to use. Above all, Holliday stresses the importance of using a daily sunscreen to prevent further damage.

Think of facials as a kind of maintenance similar to teeth cleaning. You brush and floss your teeth every day, but every six months you get a deep cleaning from the dentist to remove everything you couldnít reach. The same concept applies to skin. And why wouldnít you see a professional to maintain your face? After all, you only get one.

Contact Maggie Duffy at [email protected]