March 22, 2017



Natural Standard Monograph, Copyright © 2013 ( Commercial distribution prohibited. This monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. You should consult with a qualified healthcare provider before making decisions about therapies and/or health conditions.

Related Terms

  • Blemish extraction, dead skin cell removal, mask, pore unclogging, skin treatments, spa treatment.


  • Facials are a group of skin treatments intended to improve the cosmetic appearance of the skin. Advocates claim that facials will also improve the health of the skin. In general, facials are thought to alter the texture, tone, coloring, or firmness of the skin in a way that many people consider attractive.

  • Facials usually involve the application of various mixtures to the skin, involving materials such as clay, seaweed, oils, and creams. Deeper body organs are not affected by facials.

  • Throughout history, people have sought to change the appearance of their face to fit the standards of what was attractive at the time. The exact date of origin of facials is not known.

  • By combining relaxation with cosmetic enhancement, facials performed at spas may offer patrons a uniquely enjoyable experience.

  • Facials are not endorsed by any major medical organization as a treatment for any particular medical condition, including dermatological conditions.

  • As herbal products and natural medicines become integrated into the mainstream American market, non-chemically based facials making use of natural and organic substances are becoming more popular.


  • Facials may focus on supposedly improving one aspect of the skin's appearance, or they may offer a general benefit. A facial may focus on removing blemishes, eliminating discoloration, firming the skin, or unclogging pores.

  • Facials are most commonly performed at beauty salons and spas. However, facial materials are widely available for daily and at-home use as well.

  • To receive a facial, the patron generally removes all makeup. The face is then usually washed and dried, and any head hair is tied back. Individuals with facial hair may choose to shave in order to have the treatment reach their entire face, or the treatment may simply miss these areas. The patron sits down in a chair, which is usually designed to be comfortable and may lean back.

  • Generally, the application of the facial is performed by an attendant, called an aesthetician. Warm steam may be applied to the face prior to the application of the facial mask. The patron relaxes as a variety of materials are applied to the face, either by hand or with a brush or towel. The mixture is applied to the front of the face while avoiding the lips, ears, nostrils, and head hair line. The lips, ears, and nostrils are avoided because the facial mixture may irritate mucous membranes. Hair is avoided because removing materials from the hair may be difficult.

  • Mixtures may contain a variety of ingredients, from mud to caviar. As a whole, the mixture is generally intended to improve the appearance of the skin, remove dead skin cells and open the skin pores. The attendant then leaves the facial mask on for a period of time, usually 15-30 minutes. Depending on the mask ingredients and duration of the application, the facial mask may dry or it may stay moist. Several different layers of mixture may be applied. Though the sensation of having a thick substance spread on the skin may be an unusual one, patrons should never feel any discomfort or pain.

  • During this time, the patron should try not to touch the face or rub the eyes. Eating or drinking is not recommended, which may smear the facial mask or get the mixture into the mouth. It is usually recommended that the patron try to avoid moving or touching the face.

  • The attendant may also perform a procedure called blemish extraction for the patron. This procedure ruptures pimples and blackheads in a way that minimizes scarring and does not encourage the spread of infection.


  • Facials are popular as a means of tightening the skin to give it a younger appearance.

  • Blemish extraction removes localized infections in a manner that does not encourage the infection to spread.

  • Many facials are intended to remove dead skin cells, unclog skin pores, remove dirt that is trapped in the skin, and give the skin a smoother appearance. Heat may be applied prior to a facial in order to supposedly open the pores. Many individuals consider the process of getting a facial a relaxing experience.


  • Individuals with severe allergies should make sure that the materials used in the facial will not irritate their skin.

  • Individuals who have sensitive skin may develop a rash as a result of receiving a facial.

  • Individuals with open facial wounds or severe facial swelling should not receive facials.

  • Individuals with severe facial tics may not be able to receive facials.

Author Information

  • This information has been edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (


Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to Selected references are listed below.

  1. American Academy of Dermatology.

  2. American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

  3. Association of Pool and Spa Professionals.

  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Copyright © 2013 Natural Standard (

The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.


March 22, 2017