Facials, Myths and Realities

I occasionally get asked by patients about facials.  It tends to come up when my patient is either nervous or cannot afford a stronger in-office treatment for their skin, or when the patient tried facials before finding me and the facials did not work.  What is a "facial"?
The loose definition is "a beauty treatment for the face."  At spas a facial may be applied by a massage therapist or an aesthetician and will usually contain over-the-counter grade or strength medicinals or cosmeceuticals such as a mild acid peel (glycolic, salicyclic, or mandelic) or it could involve microdermabrasion.  Microdermabrasion is a massaging gently exfoliating device that can be paired with the use of skin products that contain nutrients, antioxidants or healing herbs.  The Clarisonic device is an example of a home microdermabrasion simulating device.  These more gentle facials I am describing are helpful at controlling acne, and improving some mild sun damage or aging changes in the skin. 

For more effective and faster-acting facial treatments with laser or intensed-pulsed-light for acne, rejuvenation, and scar treatment it is my (maybe biased) opinion best to see a cosmetic physician - dermatologist or plastic surgeon.  Cosmetic physicians are at the forefront of beauty treatment research, and design and conduct testing on the treatments provided by cosmetic companies.  A dermatologist has unique expertise in the biology and physiology of your skin, hair and nails and is best at advising on your beauty treatment plan.  Some of these physicians may have a P.A. or R.N who administers some of these stronger beauty treatments as well, which is acceptable if they have been trained properly and supervised where appropriate.  In fact, many of these providers have years of experience.  Just be wary of spa employees or spa owners who describe themselves as "skin experts."  Our skin is an organ, just as our liver, kidney and heart.  The best and most effective skin treatments are medical and properly trained and licensed personnel perform them.

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