Regular facials are part of a beauty editor’s job description. (Hard life, we know.) But sometimes we’re not even sure what our skin needs and how to ask for it. Dr. Frances Jang of Skinworks in Vancouver clears things up.

Hold on, do I even need a facial?
“From a dermatologist point of view, a lot of people can do facials. [But] do they need facials? If their basic skin care routine is adequate, not necessarily. But some people like to do it for brightening up the skin before a big event or some people with more chronic skin problems like it as a booster for their existing program. Then, there’s claimed anti-aging facials. Some people just do it for pampering.”

What does my facialist need to know before she or he starts?
“What you’re trying to achieve; what kind of skin you have and whether you have any specific kind of skin conditions. For example, for acne-prone skin or active acne, there are specific peels that help to exfoliate and decongest [open up the pores]. Or, people with rosacea, they need to have very special care applied to their skin. They don’t want to have heat on the skin because that tends to dilate the blood vessels and aggravate the underlying rosacea. People who tend to get eczema or psoriasis [should also be aware]. Your facialist is going to have very specific questions and they’re going to look at your skin to see what’s going on. An experienced operator should be able to combine those two things with what you’re trying to achieve and then give you kind of a prescription in terms of the kinds of facials they would recommend for you and how frequent.”

I hate my wrinkles. What treatment I ask for?
“For anti-aging, there are general exfoliating peels. We in the medical world started off doing medical microdermabrasion and glycolic peels and those are still around in various forms. There’re peels, infused hyaluronic acid [treatment] or infused [treatments], like Kojic Acid, that help with pigmentation. Then there’s just also just general anti-aging or hydra facials and oxygen facials [pressurize oxygen steams the skin], those are kind of the newer kids on the block. The newer ones that are coming out are very gentle and have broader applications.”

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What type of facial will help my breakouts?
“We have one of these things called keratolytics, which basically help to break down the keratin and the clogging [of pores]. And things like that or salicylic acid beta hydroxy or alpha hydroxy acids. Some of them will even have a mechanical component to decongest. And other ones will have a little bit of an antiseptic component [to kill the bacteria]. Some even have an over-the-counter retinols to be applied and the acids to help, again, as a keratolytics.” Microdermabrasion, it can be a light sanding of the skin, on the very superficial layers is also beneficial.”

What’s an extraction? Do I need one?
“Extractions are done for blackheads. You produce oil, which gets extruded through your pores. If your oils just sit there and oxidizes, then it becomes a blackhead. Sometimes we see extractions getting done on larger pores in more oily areas (particularly the nose), we don’t necessarily see blackheads, but just regular large pores that’s oxidized with the sebum sitting there. So there is a practice to apply heat and extract or manually, with fingers or small implements. It can traumatic on the skin so care needs to be taken not to damage the surrounding skin.”

I can’t leave my house without foundation and mascara. Can I wear make-up to my facial?
“Yes! Ideally, they’re going to take all your makeup off for you. Some people have different levels of comfort in being outside without makeup on. But clearly the skin needs to be cleaned adequately before the procedure. The other thing is, after facials, the operator needs to apply sun protection because your skin may be quite sensitive to light for a short period after the facial.”

How often should I be getting a facial?
Before a special event, if you really want to be glammed up, every two weeks. But let’s just say you’re doing them as part of your life, every month.”

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