What To Expect When You Book A Facial Abroad

Are you reading from the US? If so, you might have an idea of what a facial here entails—or what you want out of one, anyway. A facial in the States could be a lot things, but the really great ones are often tech-forward, include extractions, and come with a hefty price tag. For most people, they’re more of a luxury than a necessity. And you might choose your facial based on specific aestheticians. “Since opening my salon in 2006,” says LA-based facialist Joanna Vargas, “I’ve noticed more and more facialists are focused on bringing the best technologies into the traditional facial space.” Joanna herself offers microcurrent, cryptotherapy, LED, oxygen, and the laser treatment Clear and Brilliant—and her clients love her for it. But that’s just what’s happening over here! We were curious: what does a facial look like in other countries? What’s normal to expect, and is there anything we might be missing out on? We spoke to seven different experts about the beauty rituals in seven different countries to find out.


Where prevention is key and extractions are a big no no.
“In Japan, the philosophy is to specialize. Most facial salons only carry one brand, and follow that brand’s guidelines for treatments. A new aesthetician may have to go through extended training under each spa’s Sensei for a minimum of six months after they graduate aesthetics school. Until the master says they’re ready, they can’t perform services—so when you go for a facial, you know your aesthetician’s skill set is solid. A widely practiced facial in Japan offers a deep cleanse, a longer facial massage, and many layers of products. You’ll see many Japanese women using umbrellas, face masks, and gloves to avoid sun damage, and bihaku whitening treatments are advertised all over Japan. Kogao, or face-slimming treatments are also popular. The focus is on prevention—due to stricter regulations, Japanese aestheticians don’t practice extractions or have access to lots of facial machines. Many people commit to monthly facials, or give themselves regular facials at home—there’s no shortage of Japanese skincare products.” —Joomee Song, founder, Faceworks


Customized facials for everyone!
“India is the birthplace of Ayurveda, a holistic science of life that treats health and beauty as a complete lifestyle concept. Everything you do is prescribed based on your dominant mind-body type, called a dosha. Doshas are combinations of the elements: Vata is air and space, Pitta is fire and water, and Kapha is earth and water. We each have a unique ratio of the three doshas within us—there is no one-size-fits-all in Ayurveda, and facial services are customized to balance the natural elements in your body and mind. Treatment techniques include cleansing and polishing the skin, marma massage to increase circulation, and support of lymphatic drainage to naturally detox. Ayurvedic products avoid all synthetic chemicals and preservatives—instead, they rely on natural ingredients like herbs, flowers and minerals that support the body’s intuitive instinct to heal and rejuvenate. If possible, you should have a facial every 30 days—and for women, it is ideal to schedule right before your menstrual cycle.” —Dr. Pratima Raichur


Where good skincare starts with a good drink.
“In Chinese culture, great skin is directly linked to the overall health of the body and its systems. The strength of this approach, and traditional Chinese medicine in general, is that we are taught to look under the hood, correcting internal problems that directly contribute to skin concerns. The most serious skin conditions, like hormonal acne, rosacea, perioral dermatitis, eczema, and melasma, are treated with a daily intake of custom herbal prescriptions. Historical records date using herbs to treat psoriasis to as early as 500 AD. Another option is mei rong, or cosmetic treatments. One example is facial acupuncture: the insertion of tiny needles into the face, neck and body. A landmark study of facial acupuncture performed in China over 20 years ago found that, out of 300 cases of cosmetic treatments, 90-percent demonstrated benefits including improvement in skin texture and color, increased skin elasticity, reduced wrinkles, and overall rejuvenation. Facial gua sha is another popular cosmetic treatment to contour and lift facial features, improve skin tone, and relax myofascial tension. Cupping, blood-letting, and moxabustion are other treatments widely studied in China for cosmetic benefits, though DIY skincare is very common in Chinese culture, too. Virtually every mom, auntie, or grandmother has her own recipes—my mom taught me to mask with eggs. She’d say, ‘Use the white if oily and yolk if dry. To soften skin, add milk powder.’ If I had pimples she’d cook bitter melon for dinner because it ‘cools heat,’ which I later learned reduces inflammation.” —Sandra Lanshin Chiu, Licensed Acupuncturist


Land of weekly facials.
“Moroccan culture is steeped in cleansing and purification rituals. A visit to the hammam or bathhouse is weekly for many Moroccans, and a traditional facial is done as part of the hammam ritual. Morocco has a wealth of natural resources—the same local ingredients are used on the body, hair and face. First, beldi soap, whis is a paste of black olives and essential oils, is applied to damp skin. It’s also known as savon noir, or black soap. The soap stays on for approximately 15 minutes as you sit in the hammam’s steam to really penetrate the pores. After cleansing and a vigorous exfoliation with a kessa mitt to remove dead skin, rhassoul clay and Moroccan rose water are mixed together to form a mask. Both ingredients are unique to Morocco—the clay is harvested from the Atlas Mountains, and the rose water comes from distilled Damask roses in Morocco’s Valley of Roses. The mask is applied to the face, body and hair. Finally argan oil, the ultimate Moroccan beauty secret, is massaged everywhere. Known as Morocco’s liquid gold, argan oil moisturizes and balances sebum production. Hammams are an important part of the social fabric, as women use the opportunity to socialize and pass on beauty traditions.” —Katharine L’Heureux, founder, Kahina Giving Beauty


Where you can find the best body exfoliator.
“Skincare in Ghana is very effortless. A combination of sun, cleanliness and shea butter is the simplest routine—but of course, good skin genes play into that, too. In Ghana, facials usually range from 150 to 300 cedis, which equals about 26 to 53 US dollars. They’re definitely growing in popularity, but it’s still considered a privilege to get one every month. I’ve never gotten a professional facial—I actually have my first appointment coming up—but I love doing facials on myself at home. In Accra’s local shops and markets, you can find things like charcoal, moringa, and baobab oil. And I recently discovered an amazing wellness store called Relish in Osu that carries herbs, like spirulina and lavender, to use on your skin. They even have an in-store herbalist there to help guide you. But nothing beats using sappo, a wash net that I think is the best body exfoliator ever, and then applying nkuto, or shea butter, all over. Since I travel to Tamale often for work, I get ingredients directly from producers.” —Abena Boamah-Acheampong, founder, Hanahana Beauty

South Korea

Facials to move your muscles.
“There are a wide range of facials available in Korea. There are quick facials that last about thirty minutes—they’re typically very cost-effective and all about maintaining skin health. You can even get membership passes or coupons for weekly facials. Then there are your spa facials, where techniques can vary widely. A popular Korean treatment is the rubber modeling mask that deeply hydrates skin. But the main difference I see is that, in Korean spas, there’s a much greater emphasis on facial massage. Korean facials that take place in clinics or dermatologist offices can use more intensive devices including lasers and microcurrent. There’s also a category of facials called kyung-rak. These facials are a bit like intensive deep tissue meets a chiropractor meets acupressure, and can actually hurt quite a bit. They’re all about facial muscles and bones and their most natural and harmonious positions. Over time and with continued usage of only certain parts of the face, they can become misaligned. It doesn’t need to be a full hour at a spa but facials should be done often and consistently.” —Alicia Yoon, founder, Peach and Lily


Where the aestheticians are a lot like nurses.
“In Poland, skincare is taught and encouraged at a very young age—as soon as you hit puberty, you go to a facialist. After that, facials are usually done about once a month for good maintenance. Polish women never use soap, harsh cleansers, or hot water on the face, and at-home skincare is reinforced by all the women in the family. When acne occurs, instead of going on retin-A or Accutane, Polish women get a deep cleansing facial. They typically begin with a lot of steam to prepare for hardcore extractions—Polish aestheticians are trained like medical nurses to perform deeper extractions than we are used to in the States. Polish spas have offered hydrotherapies, salt inhalation rooms, and high frequency electric currents for many decades. Herbal remedies are another big part of the Polish beauty philosophy, and probiotics via fermented foods like sauerkraut are a part of daily culture. It’s even normal practice for Polish women to rinse their hair with apple cider vinegar and beer.” —Danuta Mieloch, aesthetician and founder, Rescue Spa

Photos via ITG

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