Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Facials But Were Too Scared to Ask

I’ll admit it: Before becoming a beauty editor, I had only had a couple of facials in my life. Let’s be honest—facials are a luxury that many can’t afford on a regular basis, including me. Facials can also be kind of daunting if you don’t feel prepared going into them. Take it from me, someone who has found herself furiously googling random facial etiquette questions before a fancy facial to make sure I don’t do anything stupid.


(Image credit: @justinemarjan)

If you’ve ever wondered the dos and don’ts of a facial before you go, I reached out to some of the industry’s top experts for the lowdown. Keep reading to find your ultimate guide to facials so that you don’t have to be like me and anxiously google anything pre-appointment.

How should you prepare for a facial?

For the best facial possible, you can set yourself up for success before you go. "Don’t exfoliate your skin four days before the facial,” says Taylor Worden, celebrity aesthetician and founder of Taylor Worden Skin. Most facials include exfoliating treatments, so exfoliating beforehand can irritate your skin. The same goes for using any retinols—try to avoid them for the week beforehand.

You should also be prepared to communicate openly and honestly with your facialist. "Be prepared to discuss your top three skincare concerns, as facials include a consultation prior to your treatment to ensure you get the most benefits for your skin,” says Renée Rouleau, celebrity aesthetician and skincare expert. They can tailor their treatments to better meet your needs.


(Image credit: @kimseidensticker)

It’s also helpful for facialists if you show them what products you’re currently using, since this helps them better understand your skin. Worden recommends taking a photo of your skincare lineup before you come in to show your aesthetician.


(Image credit: @amy_lawrenson)

How should you dress for a facial?

It really doesn’t matter what you wear to your facial appointment, since you’ll likely be asked to change into a gown or robe, but the best rule of thumb is to dress comfortably. Worden notes that you’ll need to take off any dangly earrings or necklaces before your facial starts.

Now for the million-dollar question: Should you take your bra off? (This is what I’ve personally been known to panic-google before a treatment.) The answer is yes, as long as you feel comfortable. "I always prefer taking it off, so this frees the shoulders and décolleté for massage and products,” says Joanna Vargas, celebrity facialist, founder of Joanna Vargas spas and skincare, and author of Glow From Within.


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What are some basic dos and don’ts of a facial?


Show up on time. "Aestheticians run on a tight schedule, so your consultation or treatment will be cut short if you show up late,” says Rouleau. It’s better to show up a few minutes early if you can, especially if you’re a new client.

Speak up if you need to. "Always be honest if you feel like something is bothering you during a service or if your skin is reacting to a product,” says Vargas. "Facialists want to make you happy and glowing. You must be perfectly upfront with us if something feels wrong so we can adjust in the moment and fix it.” 

Change your pillowcase when you get home. Your skin will be very clean right after a facial, so you’ll want to change your pillowcase, sleep with your hair up, and even clean your cell phone right after a facial, according to Worden.


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Withhold information from your facialist. Make sure you tell them about any medications you’re on or any physical conditions you have. "It can really harm your skin to not be truthful about these things, and facialists are knowledgeable about contraindications of the treatments and products they are using,” says Vargas. 

Get a facial right before a big event. Remember how Samantha looked at Carrie’s book party in Sex and the City? While it’s unlikely you’d end up looking quite so raw, you could still have irritation after a facial or even an allergic reaction. "It’s best just to let your skin calm down naturally and not have to worry about applying makeup to cover it up,” says Rouleau. "This is especially true if you will be having extractions for the removal of blackheads and clogged pores.”

Work out after a facial. Skip this for the day.


(Image credit: @kat.shearer)

Is there any basic etiquette that people often forget?

There are a few things that will make your facialist’s life harder than necessary. For one, come alone—Vargas says it can be stressful if you bring a dog or child to your appointment. 

Also, leave your phone in the locker room or in your purse. Talking on the phone, texting, or using your phone for any other purpose will get in the way of your treatment, according to Worden. She also recommends using a mint or brushing your teeth beforehand, since facialists get extremely close to your face. 

It should go without saying, but don’t go to a facial appointment if you feel sick, have been exposed to COVID-19, have a rash, or have an active cold sore.


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Should you talk during a facial?

This is entirely your call. "It’s your time to spend it however you feel,” says Rouleau. "If you want to talk about your skin or have an aesthetician be an ear for whatever is going on in your personal life, it’s up to you. However, if you don’t want to talk and you want to relax, be sure to let your aesthetician know this so they don’t become too chatty.”

How much should you tip?

Twenty percent is the minimum here. You should factor this into the price before you go so you’re not caught off guard.


(Image credit: @aysha.sow)

At-home facial products that are almost as good as the real deal:

Associate Beauty Editor

Katie Berohn is the associate beauty editor at Who What Wear. Previously, she worked as the beauty assistant for Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and Prevention magazines, all part of the Hearst Lifestyle Group. She graduated from the University of Colorado, Boulder, with a major in journalism and minor in technology, arts, and media, and earned her master's degree at NYU's graduate program for magazine journalism. In addition, Katie has held editorial internships at Denver Life magazine, Yoga Journal, and Cosmopolitan; a digital editorial internship at New York magazine's The Cut; a social good fellowship at Mashable; and a freelance role at HelloGiggles. When she's not obsessing over the latest skincare launch or continuing her journey to smell every perfume on the planet, Katie can be found taking a hot yoga class, trying everything on the menu at New York's newest restaurant, or hanging out at a trendy wine bar with her friends.