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Close-Up Look at the New Facials

Read this guide before you book a treatment

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A close examination of your face will help you select from an array of new facial treatments.
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Mother’s Day gift cards offering a day spa or salon facial are this year’s most-wanted swag. It’s a luxury indulgence favored by celebs before any red carpet event or photo shoot. How do you think stars such as Cate Blanchett, Famke Janssen, Halle Berry and Uma Thurman get that megawatt glow? From star facialists such as Joanna Vargas, Olga Lorencin, Gina Mari and Joanna Czech, of course. Fancy names, high-tech gadgets and medi-treatments have complicated facials, making what to book and what to resist a challenge. Here’s a quick commonsense guide. 

Soothing de-stress facial

Ask for one that plumps up wrinkles and includes an intensive face and scalp massage. It will relax your mind, soften “angry” expression lines, relieve jaw pain (for night grinders or clenchers ) and ease tension headaches or migraines. Aromatherapy — with calming essential oils like lavender or rose — is also an option. Try this.

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• Classic moisture-boosting facial. It may be listed on the spa menu as a "rejuvenating," "collagen," "paraffin," "European" or "antiaging" facial. Expect a steaming so that manual extraction (removal of blackheads and whiteheads) is easier, a moisturizing humectant/antioxidant mask and a blissful face/head/neck massage. (Do not arrive with a fresh shampoo and blowout.) Not fancy or high-tech — but it works! Make sure to request that the steaming be warm rather than hot (to avoid exacerbating broken capillaries or ruddiness) and a gentle extraction (no after-marks, please). You’ll look radiant, feel vacation-fresh and your makeup will glide on.

Glow-up facial

Dry, dull, ashy skin that’s uneven in texture will benefit from the removal of dead surface cells to expose fresher ones beneath. Avoid this choice if you have sensitive skin, eczema or rosacea, or use Renova or Retin-A. Choose either a:

• Microdermabrasion facial (also called the "lunchtime peel"). A jet stream of micronized crystals (usually aluminum or magnesium oxide) polishes crud and flakes your skin before they are “vacuumed” off. This high-tech controlled scrub requires an experienced pro to select the correct degree of exfoliation to restore a rosy bloom without irritation. Book a day or two before a big event.

• Brightening facial. A mild chemical dead-cell dissolving mask — of vitamin C, fruit enzymes or alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) — de-grunges aging skin and deep-cleans large pores around the nose and chin. 

Face-lift facial

It claims to sculpt saggy, loose skin, and fans insist facial contours are tighter. Is this an alternative to the scalpel, Botox or fillers? The curious might try a:  

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• Microcurrent facial. Clients of superstar aesthetician Tracie Martyn — such as Kate Winslet and Diane von Furstenberg — love ’em. How it’s done: Low-voltage electric currents are applied by wands connected to a device. Your face might twitch a little, and your mouth might taste a tad metallic. (This is not a relaxing facial, if that’s your goal.)

• Radio frequency facial. This is similar but uses a combo of heat and light waves to tighten and sculpt. But is it all wishful thinking?

Are your kids sticking with flowers and perfume for Mother’s Day? If you are not a mom or are reading this postholiday, go ahead and treat yourself to a facial anytime. FYI: No. 1 is my choice!

For more beauty and style tips for women 50-plus, check The Woman’s Wakeup, How to Shakeup Your Looks, Life and Love After 50 by Lois Joy Johnson and AARP’s Beauty & Style Guide (available on tablets).

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