I used to think that a facial was simply a superficial treatment – something which ‘fixes’ our skin. And I’ve experienced the benefits in that way via various methods of gentle peels, light therapies, electro muscle stimulating machines. To varying degrees my complexion would look smoother, glowier, younger even. Especially the time when I had my face re-sculpted by a super skilled aesthetician extraordinare from a cult French beauty company. Not only did I have new cheekbones, I also looked younger, less crumpled and tired. Yet while I loved the result, I must admit, I was never dedicated enough to keep up the treatments. Ultimately, I realised it was not a comfortable sensation, it felt as though I were tensing up against the electrical current from the machine being used and it created a not-so-lovely metallic taste in my mouth.
Several years prior to that, I’d had the worst facial experience. The time when a rookie therapist dug around my pores so much I came out looking as though I’d had an acne break-out (my skin was prone to spots at the time, but never that bad). I was scarred by the experience – for weeks afterwards I had red raw spots which not only marked the surface of my skin, but made me avoid beauty salons for a long while. And I’m still not convinced that squeezing blackheads is ever a good idea. What’s certainly true is that facialists these days have amazing hi-tech lasers and micro-dermabrasion gadgets which, in the right hands, can rid us of those minor imperfections on the surface – broken veins, pigmentation spots – and smooth away the surface so pores and wrinkles are less visible.
But the most dramatic step changes I’ve seen in my skin have been when I’ve encountered what I can only describe as ‘healing’ facials – where the treatment is more about massage or acupuncture rather than machines, masks and moisturisers. There was the massage therapist who offered a face lifting treatment (with just as great effects as the French cheekbone sculpting one – without the electrical current). After the first session, the puffiness had drained away from my face – particularly round the eyes. I looked glowing and open, and she used no products at all apart from a basic massage oil. I signed up for six sessions straight away. After the course, my face was firmer, more youthful and toned.
Not only did I look better, my thinking began to shift away from focusing on the outside, moving more towards the inside. That great skin is a reflection of our general health and lifestyle is something we innately know. But more profoundly, it’s linked to state of mind. The intense stress relief and relaxation I felt from that facial massage was deep. I was responding to the touch which allowed all the tension particularly around my eyes, forehead and jaw to release, which in turn increased the blood flow (for that glow), and made my ‘squinting into i-Phone’ wrinkles melt away. Now I also realise that I was going into a meditative state which has helped me on my journey to finding inner peace. It didn’t surprise me when I found out later that this massage therapist was also a counsellor and psychotherapist. Not your average beauty school graduate.
As I learn more about the body and its systems through studying yoga, it follows that a seemingly simple facial treatment could affect the whole body. Our sense organs (eyes, ears, nose, mouth) are all up top, and, via the limbic system in the brain they control our emotions and survival instincts as well as being connected to the spinal column. Plus, the brain stem which extends from our skull to our necks has nerves which control all the major systems in the body. Mind blowing. Now I always search out facial therapists who’ve trained in many disciplines – whether Reiki, massage or Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to get the most from time spent on the spa couch.
Still, as much as I want to go deep, the Beauty Editor in me knows that what we do to the surface of our skin absolutely makes a difference. I’m convinced that years of remaining unfashionably pale, slathering on sunblock and the latest anti-ageing creams has definitely helped stave off the ravages of time. And I’ve certainly learned how to look after my skin properly with sage advice from some of the best facialists in the world. Biggest lesson: keeping skin clean is number one – I always use the professional beauty therapists ‘double cleanse’ trick. These days for me that means using a light, multi-purpose ‘micellar water’ cleanser to remove surface make-up and dirt first, followed by a cleansing balm which I massage into my skin and remove with a hot cloth. I find this keeps my skin squeaky clean, yet never over-stripped.
We naturally want the easy route to a great complexion, but the more we fall for the quick fix miracle solution and believe someone or something can magically administer us fabulous skin, we ‘forget’ the basics. That whether we smoke, drink, sunbathe, how well we eat and sleep will be reflected in how bright our eyes are and how glowing and alive we look. Remember, a great facialist will know to use all the tricks in the book to help you look after your skin from the outside in, inside out.