The Ultimate Guide To Facials

Picture this — you're hoping to treat yourself to a day at the spa and have decided that a facial will make the day that much sweeter. The thought of someone applying a beautiful facial mask, incorporating steam, and addressing any pesky acne — sounds like a dream, right? But when you open the spa website to book your appointment, you're met with six, seven, or sometimes even 10 different facial options. There's a HydraFacial and a hydrating facial — are those the same thing just packaged differently? What on Earth is an LED facial? Do you really want to run the risk of an acupuncture facial and have needles sticking out of your face? These are just some of the questions you could be asking yourself, and they're all well and valid.

When booking a facial, it's important to gather a little knowledge before setting off on your skincare journey. First and foremost, you should identify what type of skin you have — is your complexion often dry? Do you deal with acne on a pretty regular basis? Are you prone to hyperpigmentation, or are you concerned about fine lines? These are all areas that can be addressed during a facial, but it's key to choose the right treatment to target your specific skin type and concerns. Get ready to take a deep dive into the world of skincare, because we've got the ultimate guide to facials.

LED facial

We're starting off with a doozy, as this kind of facial looks like something from the future. Cue the LED facial, a treatment that incorporates just that — LED light therapy. While it may sound a little intimidating, an LED facial could be the ticket if fine lines, acne, and pigmentation are on your list of skin concerns. According to esthetician Sarah Akram, who spoke to Mind Body Green about LED facials, this kind of light therapy is often accompanied by a thorough cleansing, followed by serums and moisturizers. The kind of LED light used in your treatment will also make a difference.

Let's start with red light therapy, which Akram says is key for rejuvenating the collagen in the skin. "[It goes] deep into the dermis layer and is great for healthy aging, targeting wrinkles and fine lines," Akram explains of red LED light. Shifting our focus to blue, "Blue light affects the epidermis, which is your uppermost layer, and kills acne-causing bacteria/controls sebum regulation, and soothes the skin," she explains. If targeting pigmentation is your concern, opt for yellow and green LED light therapy, Akram suggests, as both LED lights will help combat photo damage. 

So, get ready to look a little like something from "Back to the Future" and give an LED facial a try.

Hydrating facial

Not to be confused with a HydraFacial — which we'll get to later — a hydrating facial is perhaps one of the more approachable facials on this list. It accomplishes exactly what it sounds like it would: replenishes the skin and gives it the moisture it's so desperately craving. 

As detailed by Renew Medical Spa, a hydrating facial is typically made up of seven different steps. First comes a thorough cleansing of the skin, followed by a toner. Next comes some kind of exfoliation, and then serums come into play. A mask is then applied to the skin, and you can usually expect some sort of massage. Then, your facial is wrapped up by some sort of protective product — think sunscreen and lip balm. This is a pretty easy, basic facial, but it certainly does the trick.

Renew Medical Spa further notes that the hydrating facial can have far more beneficial results than simply bringing moisture back to the skin. Of course, if your skin is in a rough patch and is flaky or irritated, the hydrating facial will be the solution you're looking for. But this treatment can also enhance your skin's overall appearance and texture (thanks to the exfoliating step) and can brighten your complexion. It's likely you'll see a decline in oil production, too, as your well-nourished skin won't be trying to overcompensate.

Acupuncture facial

This one may sound a bit intimidating, but opting for an acupuncture facial could be the treatment you're looking for if you've ever pondered getting Botox. As explained by Healthline, an acupuncture facial works by implementing the centuries-old practice onto the face, enhancing the skin to leave it looking smooth, lively, and vibrant.

"It works internally to optimize your health while simultaneously enhancing the appearance of your skin," acupuncturist Amanda Beisel, who founded the SKN Holistic Rejuvenation Clinic, explained to Healthline. "It's as though the skin has been awakened from a long, deep sleep. All the fresh blood and oxygen flood the face and really bring it back to life."

Here's where the squeamish among us might want to turn away. When you go in for an acupuncture facial, the esthetician — specifically someone who is also an acupuncturist — will use anywhere between 40 and 70 microscopic needles, placing them in key points across the face. As Healthline details, the needles essentially cause tiny areas of damage in the skin, which the body then targets. This wound/healing sensation leaves the skin looking bright and rejuvenated.


Here's where you can start to differentiate between facials that sound similar. While a hydrating facial and a HydraFacial might sound like the exact same thing, don't get them confused — they are very different. One involves soothing and hydrating, while the other involves a tiny skin vacuum — no, we're not kidding. As Allure points out, a HydraFacial is chosen by a facial enthusiast every 15 seconds — so it must be good, right?

A HydraFacial uses a "medical-grade hydradermabrasion device that carries out a patented three-part regimen — cleansing, exfoliating, and then infusing skin with intensive serums," Sameer Bashey, a dermatology instructor at UCLA, tells Allure of the popular process. But what exactly is hydradermabrasion?

The device is basically like a small vacuum that sucks out any dirt, grime, and yuckiness from the skin while also returning "potent actives" to the face. Basically, it's as if Dyson came out with a tiny contraption to leave your skin looking flawless. The great thing about a HydraFacial, explains dermatology professor Ellen Marmur, is that it's a great facial option for a variety of skin types (via Allure). "This is nice for teenagers with acne; adults with pimples, wrinkles, and hyperpigmentation; and for older patients with sun damage and even flaky pre-cancerous spots (as part of more serious treatments)," Marmur explains.

European facial

You don't have to travel all the way to Europe to get a European facial (although we wouldn't blame you if you did). Similar to a hydrating facial, a European facial is a little more approachable than, say, acupuncture, and it'll leave the face — and neck — looking flawless.

The process of the European facial is explained by Evergreen Beauty as a "deep cleansing treatment" that is composed of a variety of steps. Let's put you in the spa (with our words) for this one: You're laying on the massage table, and your esthetician starts the European facial by cleansing your skin. Then, your skin will experience exfoliation, which we all know is essential for removing dead skin. Next is steam — your esthetician will bust out the facial steamer to open up the pores for further cleansing. Following this step are extractions, which can be a bit painful, but are essential. You'll be in for a treat, though, with a massage of your face, shoulders, and neck. Next comes a mask, rounded out by a gorgeous moisturizer.

The European facial will not only leave your skin looking flawless, but the massage component and steam are said to also reduce tension and stress — so it's almost like a two-in-one treatment. What are you waiting for?

Microdermabrasion facial

We're back to slightly more intimidating facials, but we promise that the microdermabrasion facial is well worth your consideration. As described by Healthline, the microdermabrasion facial is "a minimally invasive procedure used to renew overall skin tone and texture." This procedure utilizes a tool with a slightly rough exterior to slowly chip away at the skin's dead cells and surface layers. It can be likened to a small sanding device that's used on your skin.

While it may sound a little intense, microdermabrasion facials are typically safe for all skin tones and types. They can target a variety of skin issues, including acne and scarring from spots, hyperpigmentation, fine lines, wrinkles, large pores, dull skin, melasma, sun damage, and uneven skin tone. By shedding that outer layer of skin during a microdermabrasion facial, the face is left looking fresh, glowing, and more youthful.

As Healthline details, you will likely want to stay out of direct sunlight for a few days following your treatment, and it's best to avoid any exfoliating products in the days leading up to your treatment.

Anti-aging facial

Aging is one of those things in life that is inevitable, and yet the cosmetic and skincare industries have told us for years that it should be avoided at all costs. While we're all about aging gracefully and letting nature run its course, there is something to be said about giving your skin all the attention and nutrients it deserves. Cue the anti-aging facial, which combines a variety of products and practices to leave the skin looking rejuvenated.

"An aging facial is a targeted, specific facial that combines a range of noninvasive modalities to provide effective results on wrinkles, skin-tightening, hydration, brightening pigmentation, and overall signs of aging," esthetician Sarah Akram explained to Mind Body Green. In addition to the cleansing and exfoliating practices that accompany many facials, the anti-aging treatment also brings a number of different goodies to the table.

First up is microdermabrasion. While this practice won't take up the entire anti-aging facial, it will likely be a part of it. Following this practice is the microcurrent, which we'll let the professional explain. "A few steps I always incorporate while treating a client with skin aging concerns are a lifting/toning facial massage to mechanically lift, followed up with microcurrent to really enhance that lift and tighten the muscles," Akram told Mind Body Green. This combination can help target lymphatic drainage and will leave the skin looking youthful.

Brightening facial

If your skin is looking dull, there's not much you can do about it at home. So, pop over to the day spa and get a brightening facial, which is pretty much just what it sounds like. The process will leave your skin looking sun-kissed, and what's not to love about that?

Detailed by Introlift Medical Spa, the brightening facial process consists of a number of steps. First and foremost, your skin will be subjected to a chemical peel. This may sound a little scary, but the chemical peel will get rid of the top layer of your skin, which is mostly dead skin cells and grime, and leave your face looking absolutely radiant. Following that step is something called radiofrequency skin tightening, and LED light therapy may be used as well.

To round out the brightening facial, a number of serums will be used to counteract any dullness in the skin. Vitamin A — which is used in retinol — will be applied to the face, followed by vitamin C, which will help reduce the appearance of fine lines and any scars. Why live with dull skin, when an hour in the spa will give the sun a run for its money?

OxyGeneo facial

While skincare trends come and go, the OxyGeneo facial has proven to be successful among skincare enthusiasts. The process — which involves exfoliation, hydration, and oxygenation — uses the goodness within to revitalize the skin, proving that you already have what it takes to look flawless.

"The OxyGeneo three-in-one super facial works upon the natural process of our body to oxygenate the skin from within," Moshe Ben-Shlomo, the co-founder of DermaSpark, told Byrdie of the OxyGeneo facial process. "It capitalizes on a well-known effect called 'Bohr effect,' to trigger the body to oxygenate the skin naturally from within," he said. "The Bohr effect is a natural process that takes place in our body from the moment we come to the world and until the moment we leave it. The OxyGeneo works with the body, never against it."

If you head to the spa for this treatment, your skin will be met with cleansing, exfoliation, serums full of antioxidants, and then, of course, the oxygenation. You'll leave with your skin looking hydrated and brightened, with reduced pores and better skin texture.

Lymphatic massage facial

There's almost nothing worse than waking up to a puffy face. Whether it's caused by allergies, lack of sleep, or a hangover, we all know what it's like to look like we've been stung by a million bees in the night. Cue the lymphatic massage facial, a process that drains built-up fluid from the face. First, though, we need to learn about the lymphatic system.

"The lymphatic system relies on muscle contraction, diet, exercise, and physical manipulation to function normally. Unlike the circulatory system, your lymphatic system doesn't have its own pump. That's where lymphatic massage comes in," esthetician Renée Rouleau explained to Mind Body Green. With that in mind, it's important to drain the lymphatic system manually — you may have seen gua sha techniques and jade roller videos aiming to do just that, but sometimes you need the pros to step in.

"For the skin, conditions like puffiness, acne, dryness, dullness, and even skin sensitivity can be improved and even resolved by simple lymphatic stimulation because it helps the body do what it's meant to do: heal," Rouleau continued. Bolstered by dermatologist Ava Shamban, who said the facial process can help alleviate inflammation and puffiness (via Mind Body Green), we're sure you're running — not walking — to get a lymphatic facial.

Firming and contouring facial

Taking things one step further is a firming and contouring facial. This treatment utilizes radio frequency to replenish the collagen in your skin, MV Makeup and Skincare details.

By using 500KHz of electromagnetic energy, a firming and contouring facial gives the skin a little bit of a shock (in a good way) and prompts the system to tighten the face. Moving down to the neck, the "gradual heat" works to bring smoothness back into the skin as the collagen starts to come back to life. Not only does the firming and contouring facial replenish collagen that we lose with time, but it also improves the look and texture of the skin. MV Makeup and Skincare also details that the treatment will reignite the cells in your face, bringing a new wave of blood flow to the area.

So, if you're headed to the spa and want to book a facial, you're now armed with all the knowledge you need to make the right choice for your skin, whether that's a HydraFacial, a European facial, or even acupuncture.