Facials are not all born equal. A facial at its best will up your glow, help to treat whatever's going on at that moment on the surface of your skin, and send you on your way with a greater understanding of how to look after it going forward. It should be more than a series of masks applied and taken off - it should be an experience, an education.
A bad facial can be anything from ineffective to a total disaster, triggering bouts of acne or overly stripping skin if the wrong products are applied. This brings me to the crucial thing you need to know when picking a facial: it's much more about the person giving it than the name of whatever it is you book in for; a good facialist will have the confidence to err from the prescribed steps, tailoring the treatment to you.
It's also worth noting that the best don’t only know how to pop a spot perfectly, they also know how to read your skin. Case in point: during a facial at Vaishaly, my facialist insisted that I go to see my doctor to be checked for polycystic ovarian syndrome, as she was convinced my skin bore signs of the the exact hormone profile that signifies the condition. She was right - much to my doctors amazement; he'd chalked my adult acne down to lingering teenage bout of spots.
While such facialists are, of course, a rarity, I've assiduously taken my face around town to see who's great and who's not so great at treating skin (tough job, I know). Here are the former - and their particular area of expertise:
See her if: You want someone to take a good, proper look at your skin and identify the potential reasons it's misbehaving - and to then give you a treatment that'll leave your skin smoother and clearer.
Expect: A bit of tech and a lot of good products - basically, Chelsee will tailor her treatment to your skin's needs.
See her if: You just can't figure out what the hell is wrong with your skin. Pam combines her expertise with really good common sense, going through a list of potential aggressors and unearthing the root cause of your skin's issues.
Expect: To bulk book. Once you've spent time in Pam's Mortar & Milk salon, you'll want to go back. Oh - and you'll leave knowing a lot more about your skin than when you walked in.
See her if: You want a results-based facial and your skin is frazzled and starting to show signs of damage like pigmentation, broken capillaries and scarring.
Expect: Some laser action - Teresa has dedicated an entire wall of her Notting Hill treatment rooms to the most cutting edge tech that she regularly uses on her A-list clientele.
See her if: You need some sage advice from the woman who treats royalty of the celeb (Madonna) and actual (Camilla P-B) variety.
Expect: To learn. I left with instructions on how to rub my stomach to ease the stress that was causing my spots and her ruling that wearing foundations absolutely doesn't have an averse effect on skin, provided it's washed off properly.
See her if: You want a massage but need a facial: Su-Man quite literally dances her hands over the planes of the face - sometimes, it must be said, rather firmly/borderline painfully - and in so doing pummels all tension out of muscles. The result? Firmer, smoother skin.
Expect: To emerge with the resolution to look after yourself more holistically: Su-man believes in brilliant skincare, sure, but she’s also a big fan of sound advice like getting enough zzzs and eating your broccoli.
See her if: You’re keen on a plant-based approach to skincare and want to see someone who can harness the power of nature to treat your face.
Expect: To be quite frankly amazed at what skin gems lie all around us - from oat powder to the blend of herbs that deeply exfoliate and turn over skin, Nataliya has never failed to introduce me to a new find.
See her if: You don’t know where to start with skincare and need someone to take a good, proper look at yours and prescribe a bespoke regime.
Expect: To want to mine Cherry’s extensive knowledge of ingredients and clinical trials - what this woman doesn’t know about skincare isn’t worth knowing.
See her if: You hold tension in your face. Scratch that: see Nichola if you hold tension anywhere - she’s the queen of both massaging out knots and of talking patients through woes.
Expect: Her to don surgical gloves; Joss’s speciality is massaging from inside the mouth to loosen tension. The result is a huge lift to cheekbones and firmer jowls.
See her if: You want someone to treat your skin as you properly zone out; Vaishaly takes the sanctity of facials seriously and really works on putting you at ease - and, based on personal experience, often to sleep - during your time on her treatment bed.
Expect: Your skin to glow and to also feel enormously calm on leaving her Marylebone clinic.
See her if: You need more than a facial: you need a bit of emotional comfort, too. Marie has an arresting ability to diagnose the person rather than the skin, meaning that you’ll leave with fewer blemishes and emotional baggage in one.
Expect: Marie to touch your feet, look at your tongue and inspect your ears - they’re all part of her diagnosis procedure.
See her if: You just can’t get to the bottom of what’s making your skin misbehave; Debbie is nothing if not a skin problem-buster.
Expect: A mix of laser action and good sense: Debbie combines her passion for cutting-edge tech with wisdom. In my case, she prescribed aftercare based on both, telling me to avoid sugars and to book in for light therapy sessions to reduce break outs and help heal damaged tissue.
See her if: You can get an appointment. Seriously: an hour with Una is harder to score than one of those golden tickets all the kids were after in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. If you worm your way in, Una will quietly go about making your face a happier place as you recline in her ultra-zen treatment room.
Expect: To be surprised. During my appointment, Una covered my face in a colder than cold mask and kept adding layer upon layer of ice to it. It was uncomfortable, but took down all the redness in my skin like nothing before.