About Face and Facials With Top Estheticians


Ahhhh, facials. Pure luxury. It’s all just blissful relaxation with a gi-normous price tag attached, right? Wrong.

Facials nowadays involve tremendous skill and science. They can be truly transformative. In addition to increasing cell turnover through exfoliation, a great facial will feed the skin with antioxidant-rich ingredients. In addition, it will eliminate toxins, deep cleanse, and increase circulation and blood flow to the skin.

Regularly-scheduled facials can make good skin great, and bad skin beautiful. But you can also end up wearing a permanent mistake on your face if you’re not careful.

Let’s take a look at the virtues and vices of lunch-time peels, facials, and of course, home care.

Skin Care With Smarts

The med spa may be taking over a large territory of the skin care industry, but master esthetician Susan Ciminelli, owner of Susan Ciminelli Day Spas in New York and Los Angeles, says treatments at med spas must be approached with intelligence and caution.


Susan, author of The Ciminelli Solution, says that since the birth of the med spa “there are a lot more women with thinner, fragile, more wrinkled skin that’s highly susceptible to sun damage. At least, that’s what I have witnessed.”

Bella Schneider, below, owner of the Bay Area LaBelle Day Spa empire and creator of the new Bella Schneider Beauty skin care products, added, “Years ago, when we started with the acids–alpha hydroxy acids and retinoids and retinols–people were not exfoliating and bleaching their skin as aggressively as they do now. The melanin in their skin wasn’t as compromised as it is today.”


A thinning ozone, she continued, makes matters even worse. “Although we have come up with better sun-protecting products, a lot of people have been bleaching and exfoliating their skin to the point of injuring their natural melanin. They develop self-inflicted hyper- and hypopigmentation, rosacea, inflammation and broken capillaries.”

The moment you start the cyclical process of injuring and repairing, injuring and repairing—repeatedly—Bella said, “that’s when you have the chance of melasma, the chance of pigmentation, and the chance of not being able to transform the skin back to where it once was.”

Managing Your Melanin

We all want great skin, but the fact of the matter is that ‘lunchtime peels’ are treated much too casually. These procedures should not be taken lightly, but so many women think since there is no ‘down time,’ a laser treatment or chemical peel is not a big deal. But they are.


“Many women are nonchalant about these procedures,” cautioned Sheila Miller, licensed esthetician and manager of plastic surgeon Dr. M. Dean Vistnes’s SkinSpirit Skin Care Clinic and Spa in Mill Valley, California.

“It is very important that you disclose your home routine,” she stated. “If you use Retin-A or get waxed the night before a procedure, for example, you are going to have a disastrous end result,” she said. “You must disclose your home routine, and when seeking med spas, look for a credible facility where 70-80% of what they do is specialized.”

“The reality of today is, people are having all kinds of procedures,” Bella stated. “That has become the standard of skin care.”

Because skins are so much more sensitive, the game of percentages and pH and acids has to be more accurate, more relevant, and less aggressive in order for women not to look like they are continually “under construction,” Bella added.

“By that I mean, the skin is overworked, very red, very sensitive, with a ton of makeup to cover it. It completely contradicts the effect women want, which is beautiful, luminous, glowing skin–skin that is not caked with layers and layers of makeup.”

With the accessibility, affordability and convenience of these serious procedures and aggressive products, women need to adopt sensible, diligent home care.

“A little self discipline and a good home regimen go a long way,” according to Jillian Wright, below, owner of Jillian Wright Clinical Skin Spa in New York. “With a good regimen, you can have that beautiful, well-balanced skin. You just can’t be lazy.”


But what about a woman who has two kids and a busy lifestyle?

“They have to consider their environment, their time in life, what caused the pigmentation,” Bella said. “They have to analyze whether the pigment is hormonal, are you post-acne, is it hereditary, are you oily, are you dry, are you normal?”

“It’s a management issue,” she continued. “It depends on your lifestyle. You must take that into consideration. Don’t give in to extremes. You don’t want to look completely altered, overly injected, overly exfoliated. Being realistic, balancing your lifestyle with your management of skin care is key. Choose your procedures with care and moderation.”

The Skin Psychiatrist: The Esthetician

Irena Frankola from Mario Badescu Skin Care in New York, has worked more than 30 years as an esthetician.

“A trained professional can recognize the needs of the skin,” Irena stated. “We can now restore and repair the skin with advanced techniques and products.”

So what is a woman to do? With a dizzying array of options, what should you look for in an esthetician nowadays?

“You should expect confident hands, an educated mind and a kind heart,” said Jillian. “This trilogy is the recipe for a superior esthetician.”

Jillian, who has performed close to 10,000 facials in her career, says a facial should involve exactly what your skin needs and not a cookie-cutter experience. After the initial consultation, the esthetician should be able to communicate with your skin regardless of what you told her. “The skin tells no lies,” she said.

“A facial is about intelligent skin care and developing a relationship with a professional who understands your skin,” Bella said. “Until you get that connection with an esthetician, keep looking. It’s about communication and education and improvement of the skin.”

A qualified esthetician is abreast of all the latest technologies in ingredients and formulations, their roles and how they function on the skin.

“We have access to the latest equipment that protects and builds and wards off premature aging,” Jillian said. “Combining science-driven ingredients with professional skin treatments allows you to take control over your skin’s health,” she added.

According to Jillian, clients need to be savvy and consider taking care of their skin a necessity, not a luxury.

“They should treat it like going to the gym and taking care of their bodies. A facial is something you have to do at least once a month to maintain the skin’s health.”

“A facial is not for fun,” Bella stated. “If you want fun, schedule a massage or a body scrub,” she said. But if you want your best skin, look for a talented esthetician.


What To Expect

“A professional facial usually involves a thorough cleaning and exfoliation, extractions if necessary, a moisturizing or tightening mask depending on your needs, and finally, the application of serums and moisturizers to deliver nutrients and beneficial ingredients to the skin,” according to Kate Somerville, author of Complexion Perfection. Kate is a celebrity esthetician in Los Angeles, California, who tends to the complexions of Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Debra Messing and Lisa Rinna, among other savvy A-Listers.

“Skin should look brighter, clearer, healthier and balanced,” she added.

How To Find A Top Esthetician

Just like anything in life, good skin takes discipline and education. Knowledge is power. To ferret out the best estheticians, you will need to do your research. Word of mouth is probably the best way to find a gifted esthetician. If you are new to the spa scene, check with a good dermatologist. It should not be difficult for you to find a good skin doc–reviews on Yelp are helpful. If any dermatologist tries to steer you away from facials, walk away. Likewise, no reputable esthetician should try to convince you not to see a good dermatologist. Their functions are separate but equal.

Many dermatologists have a staff of their own in-house estheticians. Start with a consultation and feel free to ask questions about the esthetician’s experience and training. Honestly, you don’t want someone who just got out of school playing around with your face. They may offer a great massage, but you need someone knowledgeable and experienced who can give you an informed diagnoses and lasting results.

“Finding an esthetician that you love is like finding a long-term partner,” said Jillian. “You have to date a few frogs. The same principle applies to finding an esthetician.  It’s all about chemistry.  You want to go to someone that you can partner with for a long time because they get to know your skin and month to month, will customize treatments for you based on your needs, lifestyle and activities. Start with word of mouth. Ask your friends. Go to that therapist’s website, check out Yelp, see what other people are saying. See if they have a page on Facebook. Look at what products they carry and use for their treatments. You can tell a lot about an esthetician and her philosophy by the products she carries.”

Remember that the price tag attached to the facial experience is not the only factor to consider. If you find a bargain facial for $35, I can assure you, you will not get good results; they will be using cheap products with few, if any, active ingredients. In addition, any reputable facialist will charge much more for their time and years of training. Conversely, just because a facial costs 200 bucks or more does not guarantee a quality service either.

Said Jillian, “You are looking for someone that you are going to commit your time and money to, so make sure this person goes the distance, is highly educated and is passionate about her career.”

“I’d avoid hotels and resorts since they service many people but don’t necessarily develop long-term connections. Go to the esthetician that has her own practice. Take a look at the technology she offers. If you are going to invest in her, then she should invest in herself by providing skin care products and equipment that meet your preventative aging and corrective needs. She should also be skilled in facial massage, extractions, and have a confident, kind touch and be immaculate,” Jillian concluded.

Here’s to gorgeous glowing skin, with advice from some of the greatest estheticians in skin care. Thanks, ladies.

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