Facial: not just about beauty

Facials have health value beyond cosmetic appeal

Face massage"The lights are dimmed as my eyes are weighed down with cucumber. A soft brush spreads a layer of thick sticky honey in even strokes across my face. As the mask slowly dries, I drift away.

Fifteen minutes later, a damp sponge cools my forehead as it whisks away the stickiness. Ground almond paste mixed with milk is now applied carefully over my cheeks. I can feel its cleansing effects seep into my skin. A hot turkey towel lavishly pats me dry and a huge contraption is rolled over to my bedside. I am told, it is a steamer, with an adjustable top to fit the curves of my face. The steam billows over me in warm waves, the temperature set so carefully that it never scalds. The machine is then rolled away and a small implement is used to extract the blackheads and cleanse extraneous dirt that may have clogged the pores.

At the end of my hour long honey herbal facial, I feel like I've been re-born. My skin is satin soft, the smog and intense pollution of city living have been washed away, ever so gently. As I leave the parlour, I sneak a glance around, "scanning" the various treatments. Not surprisingly, nearly everyone here has opted for a facial."

Facial treatments have now been designed to battle the scars of modern living - premature aging, fine lines and wrinkles that are a direct result of sun damage and pollution-infested lifestyles, puffiness and dark circles.

Glowing facial skin is one of the best indicators of good health. There's no denying that the nature of your diet largely contributes to the health of your skin. But, over the years, facials have proved to be beneficial as well. It has health value that goes beyond mere cosmetic appeal. Your face is your window to the world and it remains the most visible aspect of your personality. It does make sense to protect and pamper it.

Kinds of facials

While there are as many facials as there are beauty parlours, the ones that will provide you with the maximum health benefits are those that combine naturopathy with a wide knowledge of skincare and healing. Stay away from facials with strong bleaches, harsh chemicals and metallic products that can actually damage delicate facial skin. Opt instead for the fragrant fruit, plant and nut extracts, and mild essential oils in a honey or natural base.

Steps to facial healing

A good facial treatment usually lasts an hour and comprises of several stages that aid and abet skin care.

Cleansing. The first step to any good facial would be the cleansing routine. Your beautician/therapist will utilise organic products that will slough away the dead cells and impurities from the surface of the skin. The product usually has a gentle exfoliating effect, for instance, an apricot or coco scrub. Ensure that the abrasive effect of the exfoliating product isn't too intense and that it is combined in a gentle moisturising base. The strokes for the cleansing routine are rapid, rhythmic and designed to dislodge the impurities. The sponge that you use to wash away the residue should be soft on the skin and handled gently; the water warm at all times.

Moisturising and massage. Rhythmic massage and moisturising routine with natural oils helps the skin absorb the goodness of the products applied. The strokes are usually circular and designed to firm the collagen deep under the skin that is responsible for giving it a youthful firm glow.

After the massage, a moisturising face mask is applied in even tones. The nature of the face mask [even if it is a natural product like banana or honey], should be determined by your skin type. For instance, banana and honey are good face masks for dry skin, restoring its glow and natural moisture; but, they can clog the pores if your skin tends to be oily. Oily skin requires lighter less viscous, more fluid face masks like aloe gel and coco-butter.

Natural bleaches. A chemical-based bleach will rob your skin of all the good effects that the facial has created. Opt for natural bleaches made from cucumber extract and turmeric. Most beauticians will do a patch test before bleaching and will give you the option of choosing the bleach that best befits your skin tone.

Steaming. Steaming softens the skin, ridding it of impurities from deep under the surface and allowing it to absorb the purity of the creams you've applied. Your beautician/therapist will then proceed to remove blackheads, whiteheads, and other blemishes, that have built up as a result of clogged pores.

Never peel away pimples though, as these could leave painful sores and permanent scars. Ensure that they work around them and add an anti-bacterial, antiseptic cream such as tea tree oil after steaming.

Toning. Facial toning revitalises your skin. You'll feel a tingling sensation as the light lotion, usually rose water, or a mint- or citrus-based product is splashed on your face at random. The toner is quickly absorbed into the skin and its effects are immediately apparent as it maximises your radiance and glow. Even if a facial doesn't have any documented or deep-seated medical effects, the feel-good-factor and the brightness it lends to the skin, albeit temporarily, are reason enough to invest in one.

Things to Know

  • The facial skin is more sensitive when compared to other parts of the body. Ensure your beautician/therapist uses only fresh products. If you use packaged creams/ointments, be sure to check the expiry dates. Being brand conscious will also help you avoid allergies at a later date
  • Avoid peel-off masks as these can be too abrasive, stripping the skin of its moisture. Always opt for wash away face-masks that allow the skin to soak in the goodness of the natural product
  • Always have the beautician/therapist assess your skin type before applying any face mask
  • If you're experimenting with a new kind of facial, do a patch test of the major ingredients the day before in order to rule out allergies
  • Stay away from harsh chemicals, bleaches and over-use of face masks in a single session. Use no more than two face masks in a sitting, or your face will end up feeling raw with all the cleansing
  • Don't use soap or any beauty products for 24 hours after your facial. Your skin will need to breathe in order to soak in the intense treatment.

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Kamala Thiagarajan
Kamala Thiagarajan is a Madurai-based journalist. Her writing interests encompass a host of genres including travel, health, entertainment and lifestyle. She is a full-time freelance journalist who works from her home in Madurai, South India. With ten years of experience in journalism, she has over four hundred articles in print in leading magazines across the globe. Her writing spans a variety of travel, health, entertainment and lifestyle features read by a diverse audience in over seven count

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