My patients often ask me which spa treatments I think are best for their complexions.
The truth is, very few treatments offer benefits that you can't get with at-home products, or that are better than comparably priced (but more effective) procedures available at your dermatologist's office.
Still, sometimes nothing beats a pampering day at the spa. For those moments, consider some of these pointers to ensure that relaxation doesn't turn to frustration:
Do tell your aesthetician about all your known allergies or sensitivities. Skin reactions don't just happen when you use inferior products - even at the nicest of spas, otherwise top-notch ingredients, particularly essential oils, can irritate sensitive skin.
Don't get a facial if you have acne. Contrary to what many people believe, steaming skin can actually worsen the redness and inflammation of breakouts - and almost all facials involve steam or warm compresses. A better bet for acne-prone skin would be a peel, which unclogs pores without the friction that exacerbates inflammation. Talk to your dermatologist about the many excellent peels you can try.
While we're on the subject of facials, even those of you who don't experience acne should know that they don't really do much except clean out the pores, which a salicylic acid product or a retinoid can also do. So if you enjoy the pampering of a facial - and it doesn't irritate your skin - go for it. But if you're deciding between that decadent mani-pedi or a facial, I say pick up an inexpensive cleanser with salicylic acid and get your toes done instead!
Don't waste your money on professional microdermabrasion. There are quite a few excellent scrubs and at-home microdermabrasion kits that exfoliate the skin just as well, for a fraction of the cost: I like the Alchimie Forever Excimer Plus Gentle Antioxidant Refining Scrub and L'Oreal's Refinish Micro-Dermabrasion Kit. Anyone with acne, rosacea, or very sensitive skin, though, should avoid abrasive products of any kind, whether in a spa or at home.
Light at-home peels are also a great way to slough off dead skin - the MD Skincare Alpha Beta Daily Face Peel, for example, is a very effective option. Yes, it's a bit of a splurge too, but it'll last much longer than a single spa treatment!
Do splurge on a massage whenever you can instead of investing in cellulite creams that don't work. Massage drains lymph fluid from your cells, which actually does more to minimize the appearance of cellulite than "firming" products with caffeine or theophylline (they simply dehydrate fat cells for up to 24 hours). No, a massage won't dramatically change your body, but it still offers far more health benefits than questionable topical products.
Do remember to exfoliate - or add a professional scrub to your spa itinerary - before undergoing any sunless tanning treatments. Many spas include a scrub in their bronzing treatments, but it's always a good idea to double-check. DHA, the active ingredient in all self-tanners, reacts to the amino acids in your topmost layer of skin. Excess dead skin cells can lead to an uneven tan or darker orange patches.
Wishing you great skin!
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All of Dr. Baumann's recommended skin care products are available online, and a portion of proceeds goes to The Dermatology Foundation.
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