I Tried Monthly Facials to Get Clearer Skin—Here’s What Happened

Photo: Stocksy/Victor Torres
Beauty products are my bread and butter. It is quite literally my job to slather creams and oils across my body and face in an endless search for the very best cleansers, serums, moisturizers, and more. I kid you not when I tell you that my bathroom looks uncannily like a mad scientist’s lab, and I’ve been known to walk around with three sunscreens on different parts of my face on sunny summer days, all in the name of "research."

But I’ve got pretty sensitive skin and eventually all of said “research” took its toll, which is how I found myself laying face-up on a table at facial hotspot Heyday earlier this year. “I need help,” I said to my skin therapist, Alexandra Adevai. My face was puffy, inflamed, and covered in tiny red bumps that looked suspiciously like dermatitis. I had been trying to fight my skin problems with my extensive product arsenal, but things were only getting worse.

As I lay on her table, Adevai did a full skin analysis, noting my dehydrated-looking cheeks and red, bumpy chin and t-zone. All the while, she asked gently probing questions about what kind of products I was using (too many of them!), what my diet and exercise habits were like, and how many glasses of water I drink every day.

Photo: Heyday
Photo: Heyday

The diagnosis: A professional intervention was in order, complete with monthly facials and a specific at-home skin-care plan. She asked me to commit to three months on her regimen. If it didn’t work, I could go back to playing the (beauty product) field.

Why is once-a-month the facial sweet spot? “Coming in monthly allows you to set aside some much-needed time for self-care, refresh your New York City-ravaged skin, and use me as a sounding board for any concerns or questions you might have,” said Adevai. Heyday, with its no-frills treatment "rooms," busy women-approved options (you can be in and out in 30 minutes), and facials starting at $60, makes it even easier to justify turning what we commonly think of as a luxury into something a bit more routine.

Though I was skeptical, I was at wits' end with my complexion woes so I acquiesced, agreeing to use only products recommended by Adevai and to forego any experimental skin treatments while under her care.

Here's how my skin changed after getting regular monthly facials and sticking strictly to a skincare expert's plan.

Photo: One Love Organics
Photo: One Love Organics

Month 1: My new skin Rx

My first Heyday visit was all about diagnosing my skin-care issues and figuring out a plan of attack. Adevai decided to err on the side of caution with her treatment, doing just a few extractions and using super-hydrating masks and creams to nourish and calm my skin.

When I got home that night she sent me my customized skincare routine (which all clients receive post-facial). Her recommendations?

As if that weren't enough (!), I was told to double my daily water intake and use a face wipe immediately after any sweaty workout (Adevai hypothesized that maybe sweat was causing my skin irritation). I invested in a bunch of my favorite Kaia Juicy Bamboo wipes, threw them in all my bags, and went on my way.

Photo: Naturopathica
Photo: Naturopathica

Month 2: So far, not so good

After a month of following Adevai’s recommendations to a T, I felt mentally liberated—how nice to not have to think about my skin care!—but my face wasn’t looking a whole lot better. In fact, I had a bunch of new breakouts on my chin (ugh). She assured me that my condition wasn’t as dire as I thought, and explained that it can take multiple treatments to get everything back in order.

We opted for another calming, nourishing facial with a few more extractions, but no peels or microdermabrasion (which Heyday can do for those who need it). We determined that it wasn’t the sweat causing my irritation, though the face wipes were a good addition to my routine and I opted to stick with them anyway. I also let Adevai know that the Kantic Calming Cream was a bit too fragrant for my sensitive nose, so she switched me over to Naturopathica’s Calendula Essential Hydrating Cream instead.

Adevai sent me home with the advice that I should practice patience (and maybe meditate a little). She was confident my skin would be restored to equilibrium yet—and I really wanted to believe her.

Photo: Osmia Organics
Photo: Osmia Organics

Month 3: A breakout breakthrough

Turns out that after a second month on the Heyday program, my skin did start to calm down. It was by no means perfect (in fact, there was a nasty cystic pimple brewing on my chin), but the red bumps that had plagued me for almost a year were becoming fewer in number and my original skin texture was returning.

For this facial, we continued down the hydrating-and-nourishing path but added some blue-light phototherapy to reduce inflammation and help clear my hormonal breakouts.

I asked for permission to use my beloved Osmia Organics Black Clay Facial Soap as a deep-cleansing face wash a few days per week and to swap in Drunk Elephant’s C-Firma Day Serum, because Drunk Elephant has always played nicely with my skin and I like their non-toxic M.O. The attempt at compromise worked—Adevai approved both of my requests.

Photo: Heyday

Month 4: Smooth sailing

It’s now been a little over four months and, though my skin isn’t quite perfect, it’s completely free from those dermatitis-style red bumps. It’s slowly becoming smoother and more luminous, too. And though it’s unrealistic to assume that I won’t have to try new products ever again (unless I change careers), I’m being far more particular about what goes on my face.

I’ve always been a fan of facials for the whole relaxation element—my favorite part of the treatment was always the neck and shoulder massage—but I never really considered them a crucial part of my skin-care routine. Now, I’m a dedicated convert to Heyday’s ethos, which is all about making facials as big a part of your self-care routine as the gym.

And the best part? Those regularly scheduled treatments don't have to be complicated or crazy expensive. “We believe basic is a great place to start with skincare,” says Adevai. “We care about educating our clients about their skin and getting it in ideal shape. Once we get the basics right, we build from there. We’re not here to be pushy. We’re just here to give you the information you need to take care of your skin in the best possible way.” In my case, mission very much accomplished.

In between facials, maintain your glow by stocking up on these herbs, avoiding these skin-sabotaging foods, and trying your best to chill—stress is a serious complexion bummer. Oh, and if you insist on doing extractions at home, make sure you read this first

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