A 75-Minute Facial Completely Changed the Way I Treated My Skin

Facial - Lead 2016
Photo: Getty

Celebrities are influential people. Kim Kardashian likes a face wash, and it's likely that said face wash's sales might increase. Kate Middleton wears a dress from Asos, and that dress is completely sold out within a few hours. I have no shame in admitting that celebrities have influenced my own shopping habits, or even the beauty treatments I try. Drew Barrymore shaped my decision to get balayaged ombré hair some three years ago and at the tender age of 17, I decided to up the ante on my post-braces makeover and get wispy braids à la Reese Witherspoon. Both decisions, in my opinion, elevated my personal style in a way I couldn't have expected. No, I didn't look just like Reese at the 2007 Oscars, but I felt damn fine, and that's all that matters.

So after learning that Jackie O. and Audrey Hepburn were devoted fans and clients of Dr. Erno Laszlo, a pro who revolutionized the beauty industry with his skin-care treatments and double cleanse system, I knew I needed to explore what a session at the Institute—a namesake spa that offers bespoke treatments in New York City—could do for my skin.

I didn't walk out with blemish-free skin like Marilyn Monroe (um, also a client), but after a 75-minute facial, I left with a better understanding of my skin type and what nourishment my complexion needs in order to stay glowy, bright, free of zits, and all around healthy.

Before I go into what I learned about my face, why I feel like it's legit, and the exact rundown on every step, I should note the 75-minute session proved to be a test on my ability to fully relax—and reaffirmed my anxiety-prone disposition. I'm the girl who gets yelled at by her manicurist to stop tensing up her hands, so more than 30-minutes is a challenge to my meditation practice. Basically, you better be ready to be alone with your thoughts.

The treatment started by sitting down with the brand's skin therapist and answering questions about how your skin behaves, how you would identify your skin, etc. Mine? Normal. Combination. Breakouts around my period. Some clogged pores on my nose. Well, at least I thought those were the correct descriptors.

Then, we headed into the treatment room, where my skin therapist spent time straight up examining my skin. I expected her to reaffirm the statements I made about my face previously, but she told me I was actually rather dry and dehydrated. And because of that, the tiny pores on my nose were holding onto blackheads. Needless to say, she went to town with extractions. I was shocked, always classifying my skin as combination and always assumed the breakouts were do to oiliness along my T-zone. Turns out, my therapist said I was over-drying my skin in an effort to eliminate blemishes, but that was backfiring and creating more. Yikes. So basically my self-diagnosis was sending even more spots my way.

As for the steps of the facial, we started with the brand's signature hydra therapy double cleanse, first with an oil and then with a cleansing bar. Next, we went to microdermabrasion on my neck and face, and then a gentle enzyme mask under steam. After that, my skin therapist treated my face to a 7-minute facial massage with serums, extractions, a high frequency treatment, and an vitamin-infused oxygen treatment, which literally feels like air being blown onto your face, to speed up the skin's healing process. Finally, came a calming hydrating mask and then 15 minutes of LED light therapy.

How'd my face look after that marathon facial? Not too shabby! My pores looked cleaner and my skin felt smoother than it has in a very, very long time.

But it was the "dry and dehydrated" thing that really stuck to me. While I've heard multiple things about my skin from multiple different estheticians and facialists, I decided to experiment with her beliefs, replacing my acne-prone products with formulas made for increased hydration.

While I know you shouldn't be afraid of oils (and I'm not), super thick and luxurious creams scare me, and I generally opt for lighter textures because I like the feeling of weightless product on my face. Turns out, my skin cells might disagree.

I enlisted the help of True Botanicals Hydrating Cleanser ($48; barneys.com), Pestle and Mortar Hyaluronic Acid Serum ($69; pestleandmortart.com), Caudalie's Resveratrol Lift Face Lifting Soft Cream ($76; sephora.com), and Elemis Pro-Collagen Oxygenating Night Cream ($160; nordstrom.com). I even threw in a few hydrating sheet masks, like Talika Bio Enzymes Hydrating Mask ($12; talika.com), throughout the week.

I would replace the above products every now and then, depending on what I was testing for work, but always made sure they concentrated on moisturizing the skin, rather than drying it out.

After a few weeks, I noticed I was seeing fewer and fewer blackheads on my chin and nose, and my general patchiness, due to dryness on my cheeks, cleared up. The result was a clearer, even complexion.

I never identified my skin as dry before, but after calling in the hydrating troops, I can see my skintherapist's point. While I still am more prone to clogged pores around my period, I have kept up this little experiment and have had way less stress about my skin, and dare I say it, used way less concealer.

My advice? Book an appointment at your local spa or dermatologist's office and chat with a pro about your skin concerns. Sometimes they will draw your attention to an aspect you've always overlooked.

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