Faced with a Choice: How to Select a Skincare Professional

Faced with a Choice: How to Select a Skincare Professional

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If you are in search of a fabulous facial your choices are nearly limitless. But have you ever wondered what training and qualifications your facialist has obtained in order to earn the right to smear products all over your face?

The majority of facials are booked by people who receive skincare treatments relatively infrequently, according to Spa industry statistics. These people are known as peripheral consumers, meaning that their indulgence of an occasional spa service is just that — an indulgence. While they certainly enjoy receiving facial treatments, these individuals are less likely to view the experience as an investment in their appearance or the beginning of a continuing professional relationship with the technician. And so, to them, the qualifications of their technician are not a significant factor in determining when and where they receive service; but, maybe they should be.

Over the last 10 years the spa industry growth has fueled an increasing awareness of the types of services salon and spas provide and this, in turn, has triggered an adaptation of many state licensing programs. It wasn’t that long ago that Kentucky had neither an esthetic nor a massage license. This is very good news for the consumer because, it means that that the bar has been raised and you can now be assured that the technician who renders your treatment is someone who has logged in a major chunk of hours to learn how to do that service.

When it comes to facials however, there are varied degrees of competency. So, if your goals when booking a skincare service are more ambitious and long-term than an indulging “day of beauty” you may want to scrutinize the credentials of your service provider a bit further.

Before I aggravate any of my very skilled salon and spa colleagues, let me also make this point: the licensure a person possesses is the minimum of what the state requires. So, the type of license, a technician is issued, becomes a minimal safety assurance, not a complete assessment of skill. If your service provider is passionate about what they do, they have probably participated in a number of educational opportunities that the state may or may not require, acknowledge and/or keep track of. If you are afraid to ask what credentials (in addition to their license) your service provider has … don’t be. Salon and spa professionals who have spent their time and money to achieve a level of excellence within their industry are usually more than happy to tell you about it.

Another area of potential confusion consumers may face is that the spa industry often applies vague and confusing jargon to describe their facial treatments. So, treatments rendered on the face or to the facial skin can be called a hundred different things. In order to determine who the best person for the job is, you may need to draw some distinctions between the types of facial services that are out there, and which one you would like to receive. Only then will it become important who your technician is and what their qualification are. Here are some general distinctions that need to be made between facial services:

Massage-Focused Facials

What’s the best part of a facial–the massage, right? Spa programmers figured that out too, and now in many states and in many spas you can receive a facial that is primarily geared toward relaxation and not skincare. These can be amazing treatments, most often found on menus at resort spas, but you will encounter them in the occasional dayspa too. These types of treatments can be rendered locally by either an esthetician, a cosmetologist or even a massage therapist. So, what’s the difference? Well, consider the focus of the treatment. If I had the opportunity to choose, on this kind of service, I would pick the massage therapist. If it’s all about the touch, who better than a touch expert? With the other two technicians they may or may not have a personal passion for this kind of treatment; after all they went to school with the intent of studying skin and hair, not massage.

European Facials

This is the traditional facial category that most people are familiar with. The use of the word “European” in a facial description is considered spa code for the inclusion of extractions. This is the procedure through which the debris that resides in your clogged pores is “extracted”, hence the name. When it comes to extractions, I want them and I want a real pro doing it. So, give me an esthetician for that job and ideally someone who isn’t fresh out of school. The quirky skill of pore-squeezing requires some finesse, and that, in my experience, only comes from…well, experience. This type of treatment is also more focused on skincare. So, if you want a thorough analysis of your skin and some recommendations for a home-care program you want someone who has achieved a modicum of esthetic expertise.

Facial Peels

The first thing you should know about this is that all peels are not created equal. The strengths of these professional products range from something that could be purchased over the counter to strengths that could disfigure a person for life. Once you get into the higher strengths however, the liability issues dictate that those products be used only in a medically supervised setting. In a salon or spa it is unlikely that anyone is working with something that strong but, you should always ask for the details. Most estheticians should have garnered some experience with milder products in school, however, the mid-level peels do carry some risks. So, if your facialist is suggesting a mid-level peel, I would want to be certain that I had a seasoned esthetician and also ask the following:

  • What are the risks, if any associated with this peeling procedure?
  • What are the benefits in general, and specifically for my skin, that I can expect?
  • What specific after-care is needed to achieve the optimal results?
  • What training or experience have you had with this procedure?


Medical Esthetic Treatments

These types of treatments are exclusively rendered in medically supervised settings such as medspas, laser treatment centers, dermatology clinics and plastic surgery practices. The interesting thing about the services providers within these facilities is that they could have one of several types of backgrounds. They could be nurses, who have additional esthetic procedures training, or estheticians who have received additional medical procedures training, or even cosmetologists who have pursued specialized training in medical esthetics.

The medspa industry’s unique position causes it to be scrutinized by both medical and cosmetology standards but, actual certification for some procedures still fall between the cracks. What the consumer can be assured of, however, is that the physicians who oversee the practice are ultimately carrying the liability of the facility. With the physician’s, and the facility’s, reputation at stake and procedures that demand a level of proficiency that exceeds most traditional spas, it is likely that consumers will find both esthetic excellence and cutting-edge techniques within the medspa setting.

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