It's no secret that harsh winter weather and indoor heat can wreak havoc on your skin. While switching to rich moisturizer proves helpful, for those who really want to tackle the conditions head on, now is an ideal time to invest in a professional facial treatment. Treating a slew of issues, from fine lines and wrinkles to dark spots and dullness to dehydration, a good facial leaves skin soothed and smoothed. But it’s important to be mindful of what a professional is applying to your skin, as well as how they’re treating it, ensuring you don’t worsen any sensitivities. Here, trusted dermatologists and aestheticians recommend the best winter facials, plus what you should avoid during colder months.
Book: An anti-aging facial
This is especially true if you already have a habit of booking regular facials, says Karen Asquith, the national director of education and lead aesthetician for G.M. Collin. “Anti-aging facials should be maintained throughout the winter, as the reduction of moisture in the skin could lead to an increase of visible lines and wrinkles,” she explains. These facials typically involve a thorough cleansing followed by an alpha hydroxy acid treatment to remove the buildup of dead skin cells that accumulate on the skin, causing dullness and uneven texture. A highly-concentrated serum or cream is then applied to double-down on the TLC. “A hydrating concentrate might be used to provide intense moisture, a lipidic concentrate to balance the skin’s protective barrier, or an anti-aging concentrate to reduce expression lines and enhance overall brightness,” Asquith says.
Book: A dermalinfusion facial
For Jeannel Astarita, aesthetician and founder of Just Ageless Medical Spa, the dermalinfusion facial is a go-to all year. However, the winter is a prime time to invest in its benefits, when skin is drier and duller. “Dermalinfusion facials use a diamond tip applicator and gentle vacuum suction to simultaneously exfoliate and remove impurities,” Astarita explains. “The pneumatic seal created by the gentle vacuum suction drives a serum, which is selected for your skin’s need, deep into the dermis to provide the most beneficial and lasting results.” The outcome: Skin that is significantly plumper and glowier immediately after use. Unlike some exfoliating treatments that can leave skin red or irritated for the rest of the day, there is no downtime with dermalinfusion. Experts typically recommend several treatments scheduled two weeks apart for maximum results; the average price is $150 per session.
Avoid: Aggressive peels
Celebrity aesthetician and laser technician Graceanne Svendsen, LE, explains that aggressive exfoliating treatments can be too harsh on an already compromised skin barrier, causing inflammation and irritation. “Protecting one's moisture barrier is the utmost importance,” she says. “Over scrubbing is a no-no anytime of the year, but it can be really problematic in the winter.” Avoid abrasive physical scrubs and intense chemical peels, especially if you are experiencing any type of barrier dysfunction (eczema, psoriasis, acne flares). “Acne patients have a notorious problem of over-exfoliating and upsetting the healthy flora of the outer layer of skin, which is the protective layer,” Svendsen notes.
Avoid: Fast acne fixes
While you may be tempted to apply every available mask, proceed with caution. Don’t book a facial that features a sulfur mask or one that incorporates benzoyl peroxide or beta hydroxy acids, Astarita warns. Because these ingredients soak up excess sebum, they encourage the skin to produce even more oil to compensate for what's lost, which can cause acne to flare up even more. “The most effective acne treatments focus on killing bacteria and restoring a balance of hydration, which ultimately results in less oil production,” she shares. Paying attention to the ingredients used will lower your risk of excessive drying and new blemishes.
Book: A photofacial
Many laser and light therapy treatments cause skin to be super sensitive to sun exposure, which is why many aestheticians, including Astarita, recommend booking them when there are more snow clouds. One of these treatments is the photofacial, which utilizes an intense pulse light (IPL) device that targets excess pigment with pulses of light that are outside of the damaging UV spectrum. “This causes sunspots to absorb the energy and dehydrate to the point that they naturally shed,” Astarita explains. “It also stimulates collagen, and studies have shown it to dramatically contribute to even-toned, firm, and youthful-looking skin.” Because you’re required to avoid the sun for at least a week post-treatment, she recommends making this a winter must. The price for a single photofacial session is around $500.
Book: A dermaplaning treatment
“Dermaplaning is one of my favorite treatments during the winter for gentle exfoliation and increased hydration,” says aesthetician Maren Brown. This type of mechanical exfoliation is performed using a scalpel to gently remove the top superficial layers of dead skin cells, as well as any peach fuzz, creating a smoother, brighter surface. “Removal of vellus hair allows access to dead skin that may be stuck underneath or blocking the follicles, resulting in ingrown hairs or blemishes,” she adds. You’ll notice a different in your skin's texture and tone immediately post-treatment, which will cost you upwards of $150. It’s a great option for anyone with sun damage, large pores, and very dry or dull skin; anyone with inflamed acne should avoid.
Avoid: Facial steaming
According to Brown, it’s a common misconception that facial steaming opens up the pores and allows for bacteria to be removed. “Pores do not open or close,” she says. “Steaming the face prior to extractions simply heats up the contents of pores, temporarily softening the sebum and debris, which can also stimulate the oil glands.” So in the winter, when our skin barrier becomes more sensitive, steaming can aggravate and cause flare-ups of acne, melasma, and rosacea.
Avoid: Flowery facials
Though botanical oils are having a major moment, some new studies show that the overuse of “volatile organic compounds” can worsen skin sensitivities or cause contact dermatitis. This can be especially true during colder months. “Even things that you aren't normally allergic to or irritated by can bother you if your skin has openings or is compromised,” says Papri Sarkar, MD, president of the New England Dermatological Society.