Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Machines used in facials—are they necessary?

Does the facial salon you go to use machines?

Machines are very common, and below I have listed those most often used in facials. The salon you go to may employ all or none of them. Keep in mind machines lack the sensitivity of human contact. Studies show the tremendous healing benefits of touch. It calms the nervous system, and gives you, the client, a sense of connection to the aesthetician. If machines are used every step of the way, I’d think twice before getting a facial at that salon. That is just my opinion. My preference is to make educating my client the number one purpose of the facial, along with utilizing the soothing touch of massage throughout my treatments. If you happen to like machines, by all means—go for it!

Steam machine. This is probably the most widely used piece of machinery. Almost every facial offers steam at least once, and in some cases several times throughout a skin care treatment. The mist coming from the arm of the machine superficially hydrates the outer skin and softens debris held in the pores, ideally making extractions easier. I have found, however, that once the steam is removed, the debris inside the pores hardens along with the outer skin, making extractions more difficult (and by the way—more painful!).

The heat from the steam stimulates circulation, which helps to nourish the cells, although the heat may become too intense for several skin conditions. If you have acne, capillary damage, redness, or sensitive skin, you are not a good candidate for steam. In fact, you should avoid it. If you find yourself in a treatment where steam is used, and you have one of these skin conditions, ask the aesthetician to either move the steam farther from your face or do away with it all together.

Steam is a superfluous step in many ways, but most facials incorporate it. A beneficial time to utilize the steam machine is during the clay mask. Request that it be used then in order to keep the clay moist. Be aware, your aesthetician may balk at this suggestion, but explain that you don’t want the clay to dry on your face or the steam on your bare skin.

For more information on the use of steam on your face, read Is steam good for my skin? as well as that section in One facial experience—not a great one (links below).

Brush machine. The brush machine eliminates dead surface cells by using a rotating brush attached to a motorized unit. The brushes spin at various speeds, come in different textures, and are generally made of goat hair. Your choices for exfoliation in a facial are sometimes limited to the brush machine or a scrub. Neither is terribly effective, but unless the product line the salon uses has other options for exfoliation, you may be faced with this machine. Most salons now include mild to strong acid peels for exfoliation within the facial.

One problem I have with this machine is sanitation. The brushes are used on everyone who has been to that salon for a facial. Of course they are properly sanitized (you hope), but how long has a particular brush been in use? My opinion about the use of a professional electric brush in a facial is similar to using at-home brush machines, like the Clarisonic. 

This machine should never be used on acne, red, or sensitive skin. It should never be used on skin with broken capillaries. It’s not the worst thing in the world, but at the very least, human touch is once again replaced by a machine.

The vacuum. Yes, that’s right—a vacuum. I can’t believe these are still used today, but they are. In case you come across the vacuum in a facial, just say “NO!” Its purpose is to suction out embedded dirt and debris from the pores. Unfortunately, it can cause capillary damage due to the suction and is very ineffective at cleaning out the pores. A vacuum should be used on a floor, not on your face.

Galvanic current. This machine uses a low-level current and two terminals, or poles. One pole is positively charged; the other is negatively charged. Sometimes these poles are called “active” and “indifferent.” The client holds the negative or indifferent pole, and the active pole is placed on the skin, creating a circuit.

The purpose of this machine is to make products penetrate deeper into the skin as well as soften tissue and stimulate circulation. It is my contention that products applied manually penetrate far enough into the skin without the need to incorporate electrically charged machines. I find these devices disruptive to the natural flow of the facial. They aren’t used very often, although some salons subscribe to the benefits of machines and will employ galvanic current. 

High-frequency. This machine uses infrared light that is either violet or orange-red. The light is directed through a glass electrode that is in turn applied to the skin. (When the machine is turned on, it sounds a bit like Dr. Frankenstein’s laboratory.) The uses for a high frequency machine are to stimulate circulation, warm the surface of the skin, as well as to disinfect the skin.

The client’s entire face is gone over with a mushroom-shaped electrode, or individual blemishes can be zapped by lifting the electrode off the skin just over the problem spot. This lifting causes a slight shock or spark that has a concentrated, germicidal effect, destroying bacteria. High-frequency is also used to aid in the penetration of products.

Here again, there is only so far a product can go into the skin. I don’t feel the need to use a machine to penetrate products when a pair of hands can do the job. Manually applying products soothes the client with human touch as well. Many skin care salons utilize the high-frequency machine, so you will probably come in contact with it. You might want to give it a try to see if you enjoy this form of treatment.

I don’t use any machines in my facial. I prefer to use my hands and let the products do their magic. Machines leave me cold, and stimulating someone’s skin this way doesn’t feel right to me. Earlier in my career I had access to a high-frequency machine. I rarely used it because I felt it was doing little to improve my clients’ skin and added a strange, cold indifference to the facial. Employing foreign objects with peculiar, electrical noises in place of the soothing nature of human touch didn’t create the relaxing environment I wanted to provide for my clients. 

Oxygen facials. These treatments usually combine products with special oxygen-related ingredients, along with pure oxygen applied directly to the skin. The products supposedly reduce the function of the skin so the oxygen can penetrate through the skin’s barrier. Then a blast of oxygen from a tank is applied to your face, and voila—your skin miraculously absorbs this added oxygen! Actually, most doctors agree that although this is surely a harmless treatment, you cannot make oxygen penetrate into the skin this way.

Having a blast of oxygen directed at your face may feel good and may do wonders for your circulation, but the oxygen carried in your blood is what is feeding and nourishing the skin—from the inside out. There are many people, many professionals, who may disagree with me. There are also a lot of people making money selling these kinds of facials. I have a very different approach to skin care. It rarely, if ever, incorporates the latest trends or fads that are presented to the public.

Perhaps mine is an old-fashioned approach. I don’t, however, see any great improvements in skin after having trendy treatments (such as oxygen facials) or using the latest miracle product. If you’re curious about this or any other procedure or skin treatment, check it out and see for yourself whether or not you receive the results that are promised. Oxygen facials tend to be quite expensive, so be forewarned.

What about oxygen bars? These booths or bars administer large amounts of oxygen, which is supposed to be purifying. The truth is, your body breathes in oxygen and exhales carbon dioxide perfectly without any help. Trust your body and seek to cleanse and purify it through proven, effective means such as diet and exercise. Again, I know people will disagree with me, people who have gone to oxygen bars. My response to them is—great! In life you have to find what works and what doesn't work for you. I prefer to spend my money on products that will affect my skin on a daily basis. In short: to each his or her own.

Please don't ever use one of these!
Comedone extractor. This is a metal instrument that looks similar to a knitting needle. It has a small, donut-shaped hole at one end. As the hole encircles the blackhead and pressure is applied, the extractor helps to drive debris out of the blackhead.

As the name implies, it is to be used on comedones, the technical term for blackheads. Used on closed pores, a comedone extractor could lead to disaster. I highly discourage letting anyone use one of these instruments on you. The aesthetician has little or no sense of how much pressure she is applying. At the very least, this can cause capillary damage, not to mention the insensitivity of unyielding metal on your face. I would never use one of these in a treatment or even on my own skin at home. See Just say NO to comedone extractors! to read about a client’s experience (and it’s not a good one) with the use of a comedone extractor in a facial she had.

I have to say it one more time: Please—do not use a comedone extractor on your skin or let an aesthetician use one on you either!

PLEASE: Don’t use these either!
Lancets. A lancet is a disposable pin or needle-like implement originally designed for diabetics to prick a finger in order to draw blood and test their blood sugar levels. Lancets are used in facials to make a tiny opening in a closed pore or pustule so the debris can gently be nudged out through the opening. Not to fear, a lancet is not used to dig into the blemish. In the hands of a skilled aesthetician, it can be an effective tool to help with extractions.

Some of you may love having facials with some of the machines listed above. As with many things in any particular facial treatment, it all comes down to preference. Everyone is different; almost every facial and aesthetician is different. If during a facial the professional uses a machine that you aren’t familiar with and especially if you don’t want it used on you, stop her and ask her to explain why she thinks the machine is necessary for your skin before she actually uses it on you. You always have a choice in any kind of treatment, facial or otherwise, so be sure to ask questions and feel confident before going forward.

For more information, see: