A facial can do great things for your skin and your stress level, but if you’re having one at a salon, it can be tough on your wallet. That may help explain why, in a poll at Self.com, 53 percent of you said you give yourself facials at home. The good news is, a DIY treatment can be as rejuvenating as a professional version. SELF persuaded the top aestheticians in the country to spill their spa-caliber secrets: You’ll learn the essentials of a tailored-to-you routine you can do in your bathroom as well as new, savvy techniques to take basic at-home skills up a notch. (We’ve also scored helpful tips for extending your facial to the rest of your body.) Whether your goal is to clear up acne, calm irritation and blotches, give your skin some serious, head-to-toe spoiling or all three, your appointment is waiting for you!
Use steam to deep-clean
A facialist has a heavy-duty steam machine to prep pores for exfoliation. “Steam’s heat helps soften skin, so you can slough away debris without causing inflammation,” says Kate Somerville, founder of Skin Health Experts in L.A. You can get heat’s benefits without the machinery: Soak a washcloth in warm water, wring it out and drape it over your face for five minutes. Extra soothing: Add three drops of lavender oil to the water, says Tammy Fender of Tammy Fender Holistic Skin Care in Palm Beach, Florida. The oil combats bacteria and has that I’m-at-a-spa aroma.
Although aestheticians are trained to perform extractions to squeeze bacteria out of clogged pores, you could bruise skin if you try this trick at home. (Their expert techniques don’t harm skin.) Thankfully, there is a safe way to clean pores. Try a peel with at least 5 percent glycolic acid (such as Boots No7 Advanced Renewal Glycolic Peel Kit, $25). Paint it on with a fan brush; start at the jawline and work toward the forehead (avoiding eyes). Read the label to see how long you should leave it on, then rinse. You might feel a slight tingling—that means it’s working!
Quench thirsty skin fast
After cleansing, steaming and sloughing, your face may feel a little tight. Pros swear by this make-it-yourself rehydrating mask for leaving skin especially dewy: Cut cotton gauze into four 4-inch strips (or use cotton pads). Dampen with an alcohol-free toner (try June Jacobs Cranberry Hydrating Toner, $40) and lay them across your forehead, chin and cheeks for 15 minutes. (Up the spa factor: Play relaxing music or do some deep breathing.) The gauze pulls the toner’s moisturizers into your skin, says Olga Lorencin-Northrup, founder of Kinara Skincare in L.A.
Lock in moisture
Your skin will now be smooth and plumped up. Further seal in moisture with a serum containing strengthening peptides, which experts say help stimulate collagen production. A good one: SK-II Signs Wrinkle Serum, $200. Lightly tap it on using only your fingertips; facialists warn that rubbing can wipe the product back onto hands. Because skin under your eyes has fewer oil glands, use an eye cream with hyaluronic acid, which draws in water to condition the skin. Gently pat from the inside corner of the eye outward to help reduce puffiness.
Customize your treatment
Now that you know the basics, make these skin type–specific tweaks for your finest facial ever.
Oily and breakout prone
As a substitute for applying toner (step 4), try a yogurt mask. The lactose exfoliates and helps kill acne-causing bacteria, Somerville says. Smear on a thin layer of plain organic yogurt (use regular, not nonfat, to get the full benefits), and rinse after 10 minutes. Follow with a cream that has salicylic acid. Try Avon Anew Night Revitalizing Cream, $32; it contains chlorosalicylic acid, the newest version of salicylic, which penetrates farther into skin to battle breakouts.
Dull and dry
To customize your cleansing, massage a dab of almond oil into skin in place of a cleanser, then rinse. “Almond oil is great for removing makeup while also soothing the irritation often associated with drier skin types,” Dakar says. And, instead of the glycolic peel, apply a peel with lactic acid (we love Philosophy Microdelivery Peel Pads, $55), which helps draw in moisture as it exfoliates. “Lactic acid will remove skin plaque—dead cells, dirt and makeup—without stripping, so you’ll look luminous,” says Christine Chin of Christine Chin Spa in New York City.
Another substitute for toner: a clay mask (such as St. Ives Mineral Clay Firming Mask, $4), which will dry up excess oil and clean out any remaining clogged pores. Apply a thin layer on only your oiliest areas to avoid drying out already-parched zones. Rinse after 10 minutes. And contrary to what you might have heard, don’t skip moisturizing altogether. It can cause skin to overproduce oil to compensate.
Red and irritated
Because heat can spark inflammation, switch steaming (step 2) for a cool compress. Soak a washcloth in a mixture of half a cup of whole milk (its fat is calming) and half a cup of chilled black tea (the tannins reduce redness). Drape it over skin for 10 minutes, then rinse. Next, switch out the glycolic peel for a gentler, fruit-enzyme scrub, such as Kiehl’s Pineapple Papaya Facial Scrub, $25. “Because enzymes digest only cells that are hardened, there is no danger of overexfoliating,” Dakar says.