I had never had a professional facial. I knew they didn't recommend getting one too close to a special event like your wedding day, but I thought that was just in case you break out from having different products used on your skin. So, like the naive and innocent beauty blogger I was, I scheduled a facial for the first night I was in the city for New York Fashion Week. Only the most high-pressure, judged-on-your-looks week of my year. It was at one of the big national chain spas that has its own line of cult products, I was excited to emerge with perfected skin and go to an event that night.
It should be noted that I have acne. When you have acne and get a facial, there's these things they do called extractions. Basically, they go against everything you've ever been told and pop your pimples. But they are professionals, so it's okay. They root out blemishes you didn't even notice. It's rather painful. Then they do all the soothing lotioning and facial massaging I was expecting in the first place. I can't even remember if I really looked in the mirror at the spa before leaving. I remember thinking I wouldn't try to reapply my makeup until I got back to the hotel. When I got back to the room and saw the look on my friend's face when she saw my face, I knew I had to check out the situation. My God. I was red and splotchy and looked as if I had hives or a rash or some sort of contagious skin condition. I hated to have to put foundation and concealer on my freshly cleaned skin, I had a vague notion of letting it breathe after a facial, but I had to do whatever I could to reduce the damage! I don't remember how successful I was, but I just remember how self-conscious I was about my skin the rest of the trip. Which is pretty much the opposite of what I was going for by getting the facial in the first place.
Having several facials under my belt since, I understand that extractions are always going to be part of it for me, and I really shouldn't plan to do anything or see anyone the rest of the day. Ideally, you'd have a facial about three days before a big event. This gives skin a chance to calm down, the special products used on your skin time to work, and any resulting breakouts time to heal. It's kind of the post-facial sweet spot for your skin.
There are also some things you should avoid. It really is best to let your skin breathe post-facial, as I thought, and not apply makeup or any heavy or medicated products for 12-24 hours. You should avoid sun, and definitely not tan for at least 24 hours. You also don't really want to plan anything for after a facial, or certainly not get one on your lunch break, because your hair will have been pulled off your face and/or pinned back. There's often a steam portion of the facial, so your hair gets kind of wet, and if there's a scalp massage it could be kind of oily. Basically, you're going to want to go home and regroup. Give yourself time to relax after a facial and extend the stress-reducing benefits. Drink plenty of water, just like after a massage, to keep skin glowy and to flush toxins.
If you have a bad reaction to a facial, redness, or irritation that won't go away or is particularly extreme or painful, go to the dermatologist. It's probably a reaction to some of the products used. While you could return to the same spa or aesthetician and request different products in the future, most spas use the same line of products all the time, so you may be better off trying somewhere completely new. But don't let a bad facial turn you off of the procedure forever, just like a hairstylist it can take time to find the aesthetician for you.