Facials — friend or foe? Many women swear by them, but there’s been some debate recently about whether they’re a necessary part of a healthy skincare regimen.

Over the years, I’ve had my fair share of good and bad treatments (the worst involved being sneezed on at close range), but I sit on the pro-facial side of the fence. A good facial acts as a mood booster and can make dull skin look radiant and clear. However, some of the most common elements in a facial can be detrimental if done incorrectly.

Steaming is recommended as a good way to release dead skin cells (which can block pores), but using an extremely high temperature can burn or dehydrate the skin and aggravate rosacea. So keep it mild.

You’ll be glad to know that the eye-watering extraction process is a step worth skipping. “Extractions can really damage your skin,” warns Jaggi Rao, a professor of dermatology at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. “You often see bruising, lacerations and cuts, and skin can end up scarred or infected. Be very careful.”

Massage is one of the loveliest parts of a facial. As well as providing stress relief and helping the skin to absorb products, massage creates a plumped up and more youthful look, albeit temporarily.

  • Always go to a licensed professional at a reputable spa or clinic. Check that they always sterilize tools.
  • A good facial should involve a full analysis of your skin and a customized treatment, not a one-size-fits-all routine. 
  • You should emerge from a facial with a warm glow — like you’ve just come from the gym. Looking as if you’ve gone 10 rounds with a rabid squirrel is usually the result of an allergic reaction or an overzealous technician damaging your pores during an extraction. 
  • Never be afraid to speak up during a treatment that is painful.

If you don’t have the time or money for professional facials, here are some DIY products to try at home:

  • Amorepacific Contour Lift Extreme Serum ($225) includes top-of-the-line botanicals such as homegrown green tea to hydrate and strengthen skin.
  • Dermalogica Age Smart Skin Resurfacing Cleanser ($48) is a mature skin multi-tasker that leaves skin soft and smooth.
  • After cleansing, tone skin gently and soothingly with Burt’s Bees Rosewater & Glycerin Toner ($15).  
  • NeoStrata Skin Renewal Peel Solution ($73) removes dead skin buildup and evens the complexion with a potent alpha-hydroxy acid.
  • Draw out pore-clogging impurities with a deep-cleansing mask such as Boots Botanics Conditioning Clay Mask ($12). 
  • Relax with a pair of chilled Life Brand Spa Cucumber Eye Gel Pads ($4) to de-puff tired eyes.
  • Open your pores easily by scattering Jaqua Spa Santa Barbara Purifying Herbal Facial Steam ($32) into hot water.