Why you need a facial (it's not all about vanity!)

Ohhh myyy goodnessss! On Tuesday I had my first facial. Let me start out by telling you that going into the spa, I was really nervous, a bit scared, and kind of embarrassed. I don't take care of my skin. At all.

I'm going to bare my soul in this post, so get ready. And if you're squeamish, you might want to stop reading now.

I don't wear makeup, so often times I figure no makeup = no need to wash my face. (Eww?) Sometimes I do wash my face with a random face soap bought at the grocery store. I don't moisturize. I don't use sunblock, even though I know I should. I also have a history of not sleeping enough and eating out too much. All this adds up to a recipe for skin disaster.

I've noticed over the past few months that my face looks tired and dull, and there's a spot on the right side of my face that keeps breaking out, but I've reasoned that it doesn't matter what I look like. I'm a yoga teacher after all, so like a good yoga teacher, vanity isn't my priority. What's important is trying to be a good person and being kind to others.

Well... After this facial I've changed my perspective. I realize that good skin care is an indicator of health. Let me tell you how I arrived at this life-changing conclusion...

My long-term, sweet massage therapist Annie hooked me up with an esthetician-in-training, Estefanie, at the spa where they work. Estefanie was looking for guinea pig clients willing to undergo free services so she could complete her apprentice hours before seeing paying clients.

I was pretty nervous when I arrived, not really knowing what to expect. I'd had a mini-facial with extractions once before and it was such a painful and unenjoyable experience that I'd vowed to never book another facial again. I was afraid that this experience with Estefanie was going to be stressful and painful. Plus, I felt shame for having not taken care of my skin for so many years.

I went into the facial room and Estefanie gave me a strapless terry cloth robe to change into. She said she would be working on my chest, shoulders, and face, hence the need for the strapless garment. She told me to put that on and lay down on the table.

After I did as I was told, she and the owner of the salon, Natalya, came back to check out my skin. Oh my! What a nerve-wracking experience for someone who was already nervous. They pulled out a big magnifying lens that was framed with bright lightbulb and placed it several inches above my face. Then they pulled out special magnifying glasses so they could get an even better look. NER-VOUS!

They determined that I have oily skin and irritation. Apparently I have lots of "congestion" (a kind euphemism for clogged pores) which they will need to address with extractions (wonderful, just as I feared).

They asked me a lot of questions about my skincare. They were both visibly shaken when I told them I don't wear sunblock. They assured me that this process wouldn't be as bad as I thought it would be, and that I was going to look a whole lot better.

They gave me a run down of what they were planning to do to me. They told me they'd show my how to take care of my skin at home. And they encouraged me to ask questions to ease my worries, and so I did. I started a steady stream of questions and conversation to distract myself but also to understand every single thing they were going to do.

Then the work began, and this is where I completely changed my perspective. Estefanie planned my customized treatment plan. She mixed up a specific mask for my skin and warmed it up. It looked and smelled like lightly steamed fresh green veggies that had been put through a food processor. It smelled so good I wanted to taste it. But I didn't :)

She slathered the mask onto my face and set a steamer over me to accelerate the effects of the green mask. Then she set to work moisturizing and massaging my hands and feet. After she was done massaging each limb, she wrapped it in plastic and slipped into into a warm sleeve. Then she left me alone for a while so the steam could work its magic.

When she returned, she cleaned the green goop off my face and began the MOST FREAKING AMAZING facial massage. I had NO IDEA a facial massage could induce this depth of relaxation. Being a yoga teacher, I think I know a thing of two about relaxation, but this totally caught me off guard. It was kind of like the effect of yoga nidra (guided deep relaxation), plus warmth, moisturizers, and aromatherapy. I was so relaxed I didn't even feel like asking any more questions. I was in a dreamy state between awake and asleep.

When Estefanie recognized my level of relaxation, she took advantage of the opportunity to ask me if I was interested in a lip and eyebrow wax (!) or eyebrow tinting (!), and shockingly, I found myself saying yes.

The blissful massage seemed to go on for an hour, then came the dreaded extractions. Only this time, it wasn't so bad at all. Apparently the combination of the mask, steam, and massage, opens up the pores and facilitates the removal of the clogged gunk. Using what I think was tissues to provide a barrier between her fingers and my skin, Estefanie began prodding at my face. It was a bit uncomfortable, but totally manageable.

Around this time I asked her what she enjoys about her work (odd timing?) and she told me that she loves to take care of people, to make them feel better and look better. Sounds a lot like why I love my work.

Natalya came back to check on the progress and then demonstrated some extraction techniques on my face. I was feeling embarrassed that there must be a lot of gross stuff oozing out (eek!), but they both seemed so pleased with the results they were getting and that made me feel much more comfortable.

After cleaning off my face with some toner, Estefanie started working on my eyebrow tint. I'd heard of tinting the eyebrows and lashes before, but I figured this service was probably designed for blonds. I'm medium complected with dark hair, so I was a bit doubtful, but I figured that Estefanie has beautiful skin and amazing eyebrows so she must know what she's talking about.

She meticulously painted some black liquid onto my eyebrows and let it set a couple of minutes. Then she carefully wiped it off. The delight on her face told me she was happy with the results. She kept saying "They look so nice!" Yay, that's a good sign! :)

Next she was suddenly (and wordlessly) hovering above me with a skewer covered in hot melted wax. Before I knew it she smoothed it onto my upper lip, covered the hot wax with a small strip of fabric, and quickly and expertly lifted it off. It was the most painless waxing I'd ever experienced. She continued onto the other half of my upper lip, then my eyebrows.

I asked her why it hurt so little and she said it was a combination of the product (natural honey), the temperature, and her technique. Good to know! She was again very happy with how my eyebrows looked and I was getting curious and wanted to see too, but she kept me in suspense.

Next she pressed a "high frequency" glass wand against the waxed areas and the irritated area of my skin that they had diagnosed at the beginning of the session and insured that this step would calm my skin and keep it from breaking out.

The last step of this facial was a cool mask that contained camphor to help close my pores. Since the warm mask and extractions opened my pores, the necessary last step is to close them. Estefanie artfully wrapped a cool wet towel around my face, carefully avoiding my nose so I could breathe, and left me to rest.

She came back a few minutes later with the products she recommended for me. I was surprised that it was just three. A cleanser, a toner, and a sunblock. No masks, no scrubs, no serums, no alphy-hydroxy-anything. Estefanie told me to wash morning and night, then apply the toner (which for me is like a moisturizer since I have oily skin), and apply the sunblock only during the day. The instructions were simple enough and the products were reasonably priced, so I decided I'd take all three.

The real magic happened next. She left the room so I could change back into my own clothes. I got up and looked at my face in the mirror, and I was AMAZED. Sure, I felt much more relaxed than when I arrived, but I LOOKED like a different person! My face was kind of more plumped up and youthful, my skin was hydrated and calm. I was surprised to not see a hint of irritation after the extractions and waxing. And my eyebrows looked great! Not look-at-me-I-had-my-eyebrows-tinted great, but just subtly great. A bit more groomed, and a bit darker, so I don't have to fill them in with products on a daily basis.

What an amazing experience. I'm so grateful to Annie for connecting me with Estefanie. I'm so grateful to Estefanie for her gentle and caring, like-we've-been-friends-forever style. And I'm grateful to Natalya for taking such care in training her estheticians.

While I was paying for my products I suddenly realized I needed to write a blog post about my experience. I went into the spa today not understanding the benefits of facials. I was nervous and scared. I thought facials were all about vanity. My experience really changed my perspective.

Facials are a form of relaxation with additional healthy benefits. Just like we clear the stress out of our bodies with yoga practice, and we clean out our digestive systems with local, organic, home cooked foods, and we clear the clutter out of our minds with meditation, we should clean the old gunk out of our skin with regular skin care.

I realize now that facials should be part of our wellness routines. If we clean the gunk out of our skin, it allows all our healthy practices to shine through in our faces. How nice is that!?

So now please tell me, is this old news? Have I been living under a rock? In the Comments below, please tell me... Do you already invest in professional skin care? If you do, tell me about your favorite treatments because I'm ready to learn more!

If you don't, what's keeping you?! If I can get over my fear and go through with it, you can too! Your body and mind will thank you!

Lots of love, Zelinda