The Beginner’s Guide To Facials

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Photograph: Lola Swan

The Beginner’s Guide To Facials

Words: Abisoye Odugbesan

Considering that a large proportion of my time is spent trying out the latest beauty products and services it probably seems inconceivable that I’ve only just had one of the most obvious of beauty treatments, the Facial. Yes that’s right, up until December (2018) I had never had a facial and I’m not sure whether I should be proud or embarrassed about the fact.
Why, I hear you ask? I asked myself that same question, I guess I have always seen facials as a luxury that were not worth the expense. For the price of a 50 minute treatment, I can stroke my own face and buy a new pair of shoes or eat out at a nice restaurant instead. I also feel as strongly about a stranger touching my face as I do about a stranger touching my hair and in truth there is something about facials that just seems intimidating and invasive. Lastly, adverts for spa treatments and clinics aren’t very inclusive, rightly or wrongly I’ve always translated this as exclusion. Skin types react differently to treatments so unless I see representation I’ll assume that you don’t cater for me.

However, as I’ve gotten more immersed in the world of beauty and skincare, I’ve come to realise that the best investments that we can make is in our health, wellbeing and if your goal is also flawless skin then investing in your skincare is necessary, you can always buy new shoes, you only get one face.

If like me you find the realm of professionally skincare services intimidating then finding the right treatment / salon might feel overwhelming, so I’ve enlisted the help of Dija Ayodele founder of Black Skin Directory and London based aesthetician, one of the most respected in the industry and an expert on treating the skin of women of colour. Frankly what Dija doesn’t know about skincare simply, isn’t worth knowing. If you’re thinking about trying out a facial or just looking for trustworthy advice, follow Dija’s guide below to help you navigate all the jargon, endless treatment options to help you make an informed decision.


Research, research, research


Women of colour struggle to find dermatologists and skincare professionals experienced in the unique demands of darker skin.  The Black Skin Directory,  was launched earlier last year to connect women of colour with expert skin professionals in the UK so this is a good place to start. Ask around for personal recommendations, most facialists will probably tell you that they get the majority of new clients through word of mouth.

The consultation

Always go for a consultation, some dermatologist offer a free consultation and some may charge, don’t let this fee put you off. You will leave a good consultation armed with so much knowledge about your skin, but may decide not to proceed with treatment, so I think it’s fair to pay for this advice.
Be prepared and ask questions, like what products are they using? Are they available to buy elsewhere?
Do your research on what brands and products are being used, do you agree with their practices?
How much does the facialist know about the brands and products that they will be using? Do they know how they all interact with each other? Be concerned if a facialist uses a lot of brands, most clinics only carry 2 or 3 products lines some only use 1 brand. Ask your facialists how results will be tracked, will they take photos? To a client it might look or seem like nothing is happening so I take HD pictures of my clients so that we can track progress.

Ask what the treatment protocol is, is there any thing you want to change or add in. What equipment are they using? It can be intimidating to ask this but ask how the equipment used will benefit your skin? If you’re 25 you don’t need ‘lifting equipment’. Equipment is used for different life stages so make sure they are suitable for you. If a practitioner is recommending a laser treatments then ask if it is suitable for women of colour, Nd:YAG are the most suitable for darker skin. Check that they have used this before on WOC and ask to see case studies.

Any professional worth their salt will be happy to answer your questions. It’s about making sure that they are the best professional to treat you, sometimes I’m not the best person for a client and so I would refer them to someone who is.
It is also very important to check if they are insured and what training they have had, a good professional will confidently and proudly tell you what they are insured to do and will show their certificates, which are usually on display. If you don’t feel comfortable asking to see them then ask where they trained. You hear a lot about cowboys doing injections, only doctors and nurses are insured to carry out injections, if you go to a high street salon and they say that they can inject walk away! Fillers and botox can blind you, things can go wrong in the wrong hands, always check for qualifications.

Be prepared to do some prep work. Depending on the products being used darker skin tones will need to prep two sometimes up to four weeks before a treatment. You can always tell from a client’s reaction to a treatment if they’ve put in the time before a session. If they’re having a peel and they’re squirming or jumping out of the chair you know they didn’t follow through on the prep work! So plan in the recommended prep into your schedule, the more seriously you take it the better results you’re going to get. A consultation should act as guide through the whole treatment process, once you’ve had a consultation, if you decide that a results driven facial is not for you then don’t bother having one, why go for a facial for someone to just stroke your face?


What’s your budget?

Consider your budget and your commitment to your skin goals. Do you need to have a facial every month? Technically no, maybe you would benefit from a facial just once a quarter but the key to long lasting results is commitment to a good skincare routine, you have to be disciplined with your at home care as this is where most of the hard work is done. It might be tempting but avoid voucher sites that offer discounted beauty treatments, aestheticians are pricey because it is expensive to be trained and expensive to be insured. It may also be difficult to find out in advance what products they will be using during your treatment. My advice is to stick to reputable sites and companies. Don’t forget to factor in the cost of products into your budget. Results driven facials are likely to include a chemical peel or an exfoliation, with these types of treatments you will need to apply sunscreen before you leave the salon and potentially other products that your beauty practitioner may recommend so be upfront about your budget if you’re price conscious.


After care

Ask in advance if you will be able to contact the facialist after your treatment. I always give my mobile number as it offers me and the client peace of mind. In the unlikely event that they have a reaction, perhaps they’ve done something that I’ve advised them not to do after a treatment, like going swimming or having a sauna. I am always contactable out-of-hours in case a client needs to get in touch. I do a lot of hand-holding as I need to hear back from them that they are ok. A client of mine once had a reaction to one of her regular treatments, which is very unusual and after talking through her symptoms with her it seemed that the reaction was potentially hormonal. This prompted her to see her doctor which resulted in her finding out that sadly her ovarian cancer had returned. This is why it is important to keep in touch, that’s how you distinguish a genuine aesthetician, they care because you are their client but it’s also their reputation on the line.

Words: Abisoye Odugbesan

Photography: Lola Swan

Follow: @dija_ayodele

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