Beginner's guide to spa facials
Facials, a spa treatment many find relaxing and soothing, can also be intimidating to those who don't know what to expect. Insert the skin experts at skoah here. (Image: Thinkstock)

Beginner's guide to spa facials

Facials might be old news to many spa-goers, but there are also a lot of us who are scared to death of people rubbing our faces for an hour, and what we might look like afterwards. 

I've had my fair share of manicures and pedicures, and even the occasional massage, but I had never had a facial until last week. My reasoning to finally break my dry spell was this: if one of the routinely ranked number one facial shops in the country opens up a store five blocks from my office, it's a sign right?

I'm talking about skoah, the Vancouver based skin care company that has made a big splash in the U.S., regularly making 'Best Facial' lists from Allure Magazine, In Style Magazine, and local media. They've just opened three locations in the Pacific Northwest: downtown Seattle, Capitol Hill, and Bellevue. 

I went in for their 'Facialiscious' service, one of their most popular. It's a 75 minute facial, and don't let the name fool you, they throw in a hand and foot massage as well (but Fergie unfortunately is not in the room serenading you).

My esthetician, Cristina Sahagun, was great about answering all of my semi-paranoid questions about skoah, facials, and what she was doing at any given time to my face.

"There are definitely some people who feel a little weird with someone touching their face," said Sahagun. "And we get it. It's a very personal space."

Based on Sahagun's advice and some research I did before getting the facial, I compiled a couple tips to pass on to other newbies before going in for the first time:

1. Ask around. Choose someplace that comes highly recommended from friends, family, or a website that knows what they're talking about. Facials are something you want pros to be doing, not amateurs.

2. Speak up. Give your esthetician all the information he/she needs. Sahagun skinterviewed me before we started - interviewed my skin that is. What's it usually like? Has it been doing anything weird lately? What kind of makeup do you use? What do you wash with? Any problem areas? The more questions they ask, the better. If they don't ask any questions - run for your life. Like any other part of our body, our skin is totally different from that of our neighbor. If your esthetician doesn't take the time to get to know your skin personally and just treats you with the same lotions, oils, and masks as anyone else, they don't know what they're doing. 

3. Relax! If you've followed steps 1 and 2, you're most likely in good hands. Sahagun and the whole staff at skoah are total skin care experts - that's all they do with their days! You can be quiet and enjoy the facial, or be talkative and ask about what's going on at all times - like I was. 

4. Extractions. Don't be afraid. I had done a little bit of research going into this facial, and was terrified of the extractions part of the service. Just the name sounds awful! All the pain of popping zits and blackheads, but with another person doing it for you? AND does this mean my face is going to basically be a blinking red stoplight for the next couple days? No. It's not painful, because it comes after they put this special mask on you that brings all that grime to the top of your pores. So almost no poking or prodding is needed - more like nudging. Also, like everything else in the facial, you control whatever they do. If you don't want extractions done, or only a little, or in a certain place, say so! 

5. Post-facial. One of the number one reasons I had balked at getting a facial in the past was because I was convinced my face would be a raw mess for the next 2-3 days. And who in the world has the time to hide out in their room waiting for their faces to un-swell? When I brought this concern up to Sahagun, she kindly asked me where I was getting my information from.

"Maybe once upon a time that was what happened," she said. "But skincare and products have advanced a lot in the last couple years."

Sure enough, after my 75 minutes of blissful face, arm and leg massages; countless lotions, oils and hot towels on my face, and a couple gentle extractions, when I looked in the mirror it looked like I had been on a short run. A little shiny from the products, slightly red cheeks - but other than that, nothing. I went straight back into work and no one was the wiser.

So - to my facial holdouts, my people: come out of your caves and into the spas, friends! There's naught to be afraid of. And to everyone else, you've been doing it right all along. 

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