From a smile and the light in your eyes to flushed cheeks, your face defines and expresses you. It also gets slapped with weather, pollutants, and indoor heat, while hormones jack up the oils in your skin and aging squeezes it dry.
You may already regularly cleanse and moisturize your face, eat well, drink plenty of water, and exercise in an effort to keep your skin as healthy as possible. But if you really want to pamper yourself with a facial that’s healthy for you and for the environment, go to a licensed natural esthetician.
Unlike a traditional esthetician, a natural esthetician uses mainly chemical- and synthetic-free products on your skin. This is a good thing because “whatever you put on your skin, the body absorbs into your system,” says esthetician Connie Segal of Connie Segal Natural Skin Care in Port Townsend, Washington.
Training, state exams, licensing, and basic services are similar for both natural and traditional estheticians. But natural estheticians learn on their own, with no separate training, about natural and organic mineral- and vitamin-rich cleansers, oils, creams, and exfoliants.
Says Korina McNair, a natural esthetician at Elephant Pharm, a California prescription and herbal pharmacy with three Bay Area locations, “We also tend to know more about industry scares, like the dangers of parabens and propylene glycol,” which are found in many moisturizers and other body care products.
What to Expect
Your initial visit to a natural esthetician may begin with a consultation. Stephanie Tourles of Orland, Maine, a natural esthetician and author of Organic Body Care Recipes, takes a holistic approach. “I’d want to know what products you use on your face, how much sleep you get, and if you’re overworked or overstressed," she says. "All of which can affect the appearance and health of your skin.”
The exact order of the steps of your facial will depend on your practitioner and your skin, but generally a natural cleanser is the first thing applied to your face. Your esthetician will then peer through a magnifying class to hunt down hyperpigmentation (darkened skin), clogged follicles, and other imperfections.
Next comes an exfoliant scrub of finely ground almonds, sunflower seeds, or oatmeal, or perhaps an enzyme peel with papaya or pineapple—both of which remove dead skin (as does a gentle, fine electric brush).
Steam is then used to help further soften your face. A facial massage, which McNair says “stimulates and stretches the muscles, in a way they can’t by themselves, to prevent sagging in certain areas,” follows.
Blackheads are then banished through extraction. A calming moist clay or seaweed mask will then be smoothed onto your face to “soothe any irritations and tone and tighten the skin,” says Tourles.
After rinsing off the mask, you may get a spritz of a botanical toner with aloe vera, lavender, or rose, which will hydrate your skin. The subsequent application of moisturizers made of jojoba and olive oils and shea and cocoa butters will also add hydration. And don’t forget to wear an effective natural sunblock when you leave.
Your esthetician should also guide you in a skin care regime you can follow every day. Should your skin need extra help due to cystic acne, rosacea, or excessive dryness (the most common problems), see your healthcare provider.
Find a practitioner
To find the best licensed natural esthetician for you, ask for referrals from your yoga instructor, massage therapist, naturopath, and other holistic health professionals. Take note of the esthetician’s products. “Do your own research and ask a lot of questions,” says McNair. “You have to be educated enough, yourself, about their products to know if the esthetician is.”
Before you make an appointment, be sure to go to the shop and see how it feels. “A big part of your experience is the environment—cleanliness, lighting, decor, and overall ambiance,” says Segal. “There’s also the service, the esthetician’s ‘bedside’ manner, rapport, personality, professionalism, and quality of touch. You want to feel a sense of trust with them and feel safe in their hands.”
The right natural esthetician makes it easy for you be loyal “if not monthly then seasonally,” urges McNair. In between, keep up your daily skin care routine. When you regularly attend to your skin with natural products, “you get infused with a glow. It’s all about beauty and exterior loveliness,” says Tourles. “But it’s also about lifting your spirits and being comfortable with the skin that you’re in.”