Facials are great - they're (mostly) relaxing, clear up your skin and are precious opportunities for me-time and self-care. But with so many different establishments offering this service, how do you know which is best for you?
Hi, I'm Agent CW. As someone who had clear skin all her life, I certainly didn't.
I've always been more interested in haircare than skincare because I find it fun to experiment with different styles and colours. Additionally, I have fairly clear skin that didn't require me too look too deeply into skincare... until now. My skin started breaking out during circuit breaker but I'm not sure if it's because of diet, exercise, routine or stress.
Here's how my skin normally looks:
About 2 years ago (2018) when I got pink hair art
A year ago (2019) when I got rose brown hair
And this March (2020)
As you can see, I didn't suffer from acne. When my skin was doing badly, it usually meant a few clogged pores and congestion, so I only had to deal with little bumps or uneven texture.
So when my skin became like this:
I kind of freaked out.
My skincare routine is made up of just a lightweight serum because applying too much product irritates my sensitive skin (I'm talking moisturiser, sunscreen and cleanser can break me out type of sensitive).
I think it's time for me to go for professional help. I had some theoretical knowledge about the procedure due to my work as a writer on Beauty Undercover (so I wouldn't have to ask the 10 funny questions people ask during their first facial) but I guess nothing beats actually going down for an actual extraction facial.
And I certainly learnt a lot. Here are 10 things I realised about extraction facials, which hopefully can help you too:
We all know that there are different types of facials to cater to the various skin types, conditions and goals. Some are calming, some rejuvenating, and so on...but not every one includes extractions as part of the process. To clarify (pun intended), extractions are the process of clearing clogged/compacted pores manually. Different therapists perform extractions differently too - in most Singapore salons, the practice is to limit the time to under half an hour because this process does sting and there's a desire to limit the clients' exposure to discomfort (Some facialists might also cut this part short because it's possibly the most labour-intensive bit of the facial and they want to minimise their own time and effort spent). Some salons also only extract impurities that are very very close to the skin's surface, while others might use fine needles to reach deeper.
The Signature Extraction Facial at Apple Queen Beauty took about 2 hours, and over an hour of that was dedicated to the extraction process where my therapist - the eponymous Apple herself - went as deep as it took to clear every single visible comedone.
Once the extraction process was complete, Apple examined my skin to customise the facial based on my skin's needs, including using calming serums and masks to soothe my skin after extraction.
I'm a girl with tattoos, piercings, and a very high pain tolerance - but let me tell you, extractions can REALLY hurt. The skin on your face - especially around your lip, nose and chin area - is jam packed with nerve endings, and to get to the gunk, your therapist might need to poke under the skin as well, and squeeze it after.
Because of the proliferation of blemishes on my face during the facial, very little of my skin was spared, and it didn't help that my skin was sensitive. It got to a point where I felt my entire face almost start heating up from redness and some swellings.
I tried to distract myself and take deep breaths but I could definitely still feel it. I finally did get through it though, and I knew that the discomfort was normal - again, being a Beauty Undercover Writer, I was on the lookout for 3 things that should not happen during extraction facials, which did not occur in this case.
They say no pain, no gain. In this case, it was definitely true. (If you have an extremely high tolerance, here are the most painful but effective facials.)
I personally thought the extraction hurt like hell, and caused my skin to look even more bumpy and swollen immediately after the facial. But within a few days after, I noticed my complexion had become noticeably clearer and smoother than before.
This was me immediately after the facial:
And this was me a few days post-facial:
Apple explained that she always goes extra thorough with extractions because even if your skin looks clear on the surface, you might still have clogged pores that trap bacteria, which then could undergo a pokemon-style evolution into anything from raised comedones to huge, scarring cystic acne. So I was glad I powered through the pain. Plus, the cool mask applied after the extraction process calmed the soreness from the extraction down, and actually felt like heaven on my hot skin.
Skin problems can be caused by so many different reasons - hormones, genes, lifestyle, travel, air, water, humidity, sweat, and so on. It can be hard to pinpoint the root cause without constantly introducing changes to your life to eliminate one possible culprit at a time.
Personally, I had tried everything - changing up my sleep, eating and drinking patterns, and even buying a barrage of supposedly complexion-clearing products. Nothing changed.
But once I went for the extraction facial, my skin's texture significantly improved, and my skincare products seemed to be more effective too. Sometimes, all the best lotions and potions can't work well when there's too much sebum congesting your skin and preventing it from absorbing any of the good stuff you're putting on it.
Going for a thorough extraction can definitely help you clear acne, smoothen uneven skin texture, and reduce the risk of future scarring.
This might gross some people out, so scroll quickly to the next point if you don't want to see what was forced out of my pores.
For those of you who have stayed with us, let me try to reward you for looking at the contents of my comedones - Basically, if you look at the extracted gunk, observe the circumference of the circular head, since this will indicate your pore size. Is this a little larger than you would have hoped? Ask your therapist about pore-minimising solutions. As for the length of the gunky bits, this shows how deeply your pores were clogged - if they're pretty long, you might want to think about more regular extractions, or exfoliating, or using pore-cleansing masks and products so the congestion doesn't get quite so bad.
Apple mentioned that since excess perspiration can both open and then clog your pores, it's best to wait a bit before exerting myself too much, and when I did, that I should pay more attention to cleansing my face before and after the exercise.
I do yoga almost every day and I perspire easily, so it's important to keep my face clean, especially after a facial. Apple advised me to not exercise for 4-7 days after my facial since it was my first extraction. This would help to make sure my pores would stay clear and clean, instead of clogging up when they were still slightly raw. (After my second facial, though, I only had to wait a day.)
When I asked Apple to be more specific with when I should exercise (because I love my fitness), she mentioned that nighttime was best. This is because both the temperature of your body and the environment are usually cooler, which helps to prevent overheating and excessive perspiration.
Of course, exercising in general is beneficial to both your health and - in the larger scheme of things - your complexion too, so don't skip your workout just because you want to stay sweat-free.
So... yeah, I guess I'm no longer confused when people spend hundreds of dollars (or more) on facials every month because I've witnessed the results first hand. Your face is what forms other's first impression of you, and it can be a real damper on your confidence if you're stressed out about how it looks. I know I felt more wary and self-conscious when I was having bad breakouts, and I'm so thankful they're now cleared and I'm able to feel more sure of myself again. It's not just me, though, here are 5 other customers that always go back to Apple Queen Beauty to tackle their acne problems.
Here's how my skin is looking a month and two facials later:
Remember, you have to go for facials regularly to maintain the good condition of your skin and so that they don't return to their initial levels of congestion. Of course, it's not like your skin will immediately bounce back to their worst state if you miss a session, but it will definitely help to get the thorough cleansing they provide to prevent and improve skin problems. Read all about why home-care isn't a suitable substitute for facials in this article.
Yes, as I mentioned, extractions hurt. But when your skin is slightly numb from the pain, your facial therapist trimming and plucking your eyebrows will feel like nothing.
So if you're one who normally feels a pinch whenever you go in with tweezers, it's the perfect time to let a pro beautify your brows.
Want to take advantage of this bonus?
Read this article before your facial treatment to find your desired eyebrow shape.
Want to know how my first facial actually went? Read on below:
We started with a consultation where Apple looked at my skin and asked me a few questions about my skin concerns. I shared that this was my first bout of bad breakouts and that I was unsure about the cause.
Apple assured me that this was fairly minor and that she could help me with it.
I didn't have any 'active' or 'puss-filled' pimples but there were a lot of tiny bumps on the sides of my face. (Excuse the white-cast from sunblock!)
Apple said that this is likely due to sweat and my baby hairs. She advised me to try wearing a headband at home and to make sure I cleanse my face well after washing. She also shared many other tips which I shared in another article on how to deal with clogged pores.
The facial started with cleansing so we could have a clean base to work with.
Can't forget the eyes.
It was then time to get started on extracting all the impurities in my skin. Before starting, Apple covered my eyes to protect it from the bright lights.
Then, the pain began.
I didn't have any big pimples, but lots of tiny bumps that were clogged, so there was actually a lot to be extracted.
Apple had to use a needle once or twice for pores that were really blocked.
This actually felt less painful because the needle point is so fine that it's harder to feel.
Bigger bumps had to be pinched:
As you can see, I had quite a lot of blood oozing out of all the extracted bumps because it was my first time. Apple told me that this usually happens during the first extraction facial because there is dirty blood trapped in the pimples.
Skip this picture if you don't want to see what came out of my face...
Yup, that came from my face. Gross. No wonder it was so bumpy and clogged.
Apple then applied a serum to soothe my skin. Yes, that is a tear you see glimmering. I told you extractions hurt!
She then used a purifying ampoule on the red areas. Apple shared that purifying ampoules, while helpful, should not be used on unaffected areas as it can cause tightness and dryness.
Apple made a mask mixture containing chamomile.
Time to slather it on!
It was cold which was great in cooling my skin down. Once my face was covered, she switched off the lights and I had a short nap.
After 15-20 minutes, the mask could be removed.
Here's how my skin looked after removing the mask - clearer and more hydrated.
My skin looked really scary after the facial when the bumps started to rise...
The bumps were so raised and red because I have sensitive skin and this was my first extraction facial.
Needless to say, I was pretty worried.
Thankfully, though, everything settled down once I got home.
Here's how I looked on the night of my first facial:
My skin significantly settled down by the third day:
I went back to Apple Queen Beauty after just 2 weeks because it was my first time doing extractions and I still had congestion.
Don't you think my skin looked much clearer by then?
I went through the same Signature Extraction Facial to thoroughly get rid of the remaining clogged pores.
The extractions didn't cause bleeding this time because my skin had already expelled the blood that was trapped in the clogged pores during my first facial.
Look how red my face was immediately after the facial:
It was less raised than the first time because I did not bleed.
Thankfully, the swelling and redness had settled by the time I reached home.
Want to see how my skin changed in just a month?
Definitely didn't expect to see a noticeable change so quickly, especially since I've tried and failed with various masks and skincare products at home. But I'm glad to be proven wrong with Apple's skill and knowledge.
Now, my skin is happy and healthy a month after the facials:
You can still see some of the darkness from the pimples/extractions,
but I'm so happy that my skin isn't rough anymore because my main concern was the uneven texture from the bumps.
You can see that the pigmentation and bumps on my face have cleared up and it is most noticeable on my forehead and temples. Even though you can already see the even texture through the pictures, the greatest change is how it feels! My face is finally back to feeling smooth, not bumpy from all those small unknown spots.
She's very comfortable to be around and she is kind about your skin. You won't get those pushy facial therapist talk like 'oh your skin is so bad, you have to come back for this facial' or 'actually your skin is very bad because XYZ' or 'aiyo why did you scratch your face now the surface is so bad'. She will objectively tell you the issue and focus on how she can help you. It just felt really encouraging without any judgement or negativity.
Thank you, Apple!
Do you have a favourite facial salon? Or are you looking forward to going for your first facial? Share your experience on BU.sg!