Have you been neglecting your facial care, haunted by that scene in American Psycho when Christian Bale glacially tears his face away, so you just resort to a quick scrub in the shower with the same brand of face wash you’ve used since you were a spotty teen? Mistake. Your face is your first line of defence against the world. There’s no point in having 40-inch biceps or designer labels dripping off your anatomy when everyone is staring at the your grey, flaky skin. It’s time to facial, lads. Facial hard. Facial like you’ve got nothing left to facial (or just until your skin is the best it can be). As part of a new series into the grooming treatments most men are (at best) 50-50 on, we are going face first into the creams, masks and solutions said to make you more youthful and handsome.
What Is A Facial?
Different places and different faces mean there is no catch-all definition for a facial, but if we had to, we’d say it’s the best bloody wash you’ll ever have. A basic facial will clean those greasy pores and exfoliate any dead and dull skin cells lying on the top of your skin (there are between 15 and 20 layers of them). At Lisa Franklin, a private skin clinic in west London – where we try our first facial, more of that later – the first of five steps in a facial is the cleansing, which washes away any dirt you may have picked up from outside before a steaming process opens the pores. This aids the next step, manual extraction, where blackheads and whiteheads (those pesky little rascals that end up becoming mirror-breaking spots) are squeezed out.
This isn’t the sort of clumsy and damaging squeezing you’ll be doing at home. A qualified dermatologist will use a special set of tools and gloves, while their extensive knowledge will know exactly when and how to press and massage the sewage festering underneath your skin. The final two steps involve exfoliating and hydrating creams and washes massaged into your skin in a way that is meant to put you in a relaxed state – if you can manage that for 20 minutes. Overall, the facial is meant to work hand in hand with your daily skincare regime – a bit like having an MOT every now and again. “Clinic facials often use higher grade products, such as peels and should include the important extraction process which is not easily performed at home effectively,” says skincare expert and facialist, Lisa Franklin, who recommends a routine facial treatment every four to six weeks in order to maintain optimum skin condition.
Why Should You Bother?
“Yeah but ain’t it just for women?” we hear some of those cavemen at the back grumble. Certainly not, and according to Franklin, us chaps put our chops through an awful lot of trauma that needs fixing. “Although the male skin is thicker and pretty resistant it undergoes a significant amount of stress as a result of shaving. Testosterone is also responsible for increased oil production, yet the surface of a man’s skin tends to be much drier due to its thickness and reduced levels of natural moisture.”
The skin is also, and here’s a factoid to take home with you, the largest organ in your body, and the part of your body most on show, so it pays to give it some TLC. Regular facials will boost cell regeneration and promote collagen development to help you in the war against ageing, while also boosting your blood circulation and leaving you with a healthy post-facial glow that continues for weeks after. And the benefits aren’t just skin-deep with the facial massage having been shown to activate and work your sympathetic nervous system, which successfully helps manage your stress levels. One major worry though, and something to bear in mind before your facial is how the product and treatment might react to any allergies or sensitive skin you have. “It is important to disclose any allergy’s if these are connected to skin sensitivity,” says Franklin, “but we are all different and therefore there wouldn’t be one definitive answer. You should ask for a skin consultation before undertaking treatment, so your specialist can assess your skin health and recommend an appropriate treatment. That said gentle and effective products are always advisable for sensitive skin types.”
The Experience: What’s A Facial Actually Like?
My own deep-dive into the facial begins in the rather immodest surroundings of Sloane Street, London, two stories up a twee office building and opposite the marble-laden shopfronts for Salvatore Ferragamo and Louis Vuitton. There’s not much window shopping. It’s mid-morning and my head is still spinning from the ugly commercial lighting from our office and the greasy armpit my face had been thrust into on the tube ride in. “You look very stressed,” says Lisa, my facial practitioner for the morning surveying my lemur eyes and the slabs of sweat gushing over my eyebrows. “London has a way of doing that to you,” I say back in between deep breaths.
A coconut and ginger tea is carefully put on the glass reception table in front of me as I fill out a form that goes through my skin history. It tastes like health, the tea not the form, while the latter goes into far more detail than I was expecting. Allergies, diagnosed medical conditions, past rashes. It brings up some insecurities – there’s a lot of dry skin around my eyebrows and I’ve had a minor psoriasis flare-up that’s linked with the seasonal change in weather. As I’m led into the treatment room Lisa assures me that the treatment will alleviate not worsen these insecurities, before she warns me about my very dull skin that needs more looking after than I’m giving it. My haphazard shaving is another point of contention with in-grown hairs having dug deep into my skin and caused that menacing razor burn up and down my neck. I feel like a plastic surgeon has gone to town on my body with a felt-tip pen, bringing up little imperfections I’d just shrugged off for years as ingrained in my skins DNA. Lisa leaves the room and instructs me to take off my shirt and get comfortable laid down underneath the towel on the dentists-like operating chair while she is gone. The dulcet tones of soft pop band London Grammar plays in the background. It smells like the scented candle section in a garden centre, a hodgepodge of calming herbs and spices. Lisa comes back in and we start off with the cleansing or the face wash. What feels like a series of gels is slowly massaged into my face. They amalgamate into a sludge on my face which starts to feel gloopy and sticky. Lisa then pushes a machine that looks like a paper shredder over me. It billows a white, warm vapour onto my gloopy face. You know when the Nazis open the Ark of the Covenant in Indiana Jones? I can only assume that’s what I must look like now.
Our guinea pig, before (l) and after (r)
“Will I be able to go back to work after this?” I murmur worried. Lisa assures me I will. The extraction comes next, as Lisa takes two cotton pads and starts to speedily go round my face squeezing the pores. The nose is of particular focus, but none of it hurts as much as a pinch. Then what feels like more layers of cream than a wedding cake is slathered and massaged onto my face. This is more of a massage than before with it almost feeling rhythmic. I wouldn’t quite say I saw the afterlife, but I was a load more relaxed than I was in my sweaty state at the beginning. My face starts to go from gloopy to dewy, as the circular movements put me in a meditative state. By the end of the 60-minute treatment which costs £100 here in a costly corner of London, though you can get shorter facials elsewhere for less than half the price – I feel like a baby breaking through the amniotic sac. Admittedly that’s a gross analogy, but a baby goes some way to describing the mirror reflection I was greeted with upon breaking out of my facial induced slumber. What was once dull and pale, was now rosy. Colour had flushed to my face, and the dark, unoxygenated rings underneath my eyes had dissipated. It might sound daft, but it had also seemed to give my face a lift, my cheekbones appearing higher and plumper. And my worries about crawling back into work with a melted waxwork of a face, seemed similarly silly, with the cream having seemingly been digested by my face. I guess not all deep-dives leave you in a wet and flustered state.