Saving Face

They come in all guises, but the essence of a good facial is that it makes you feel good. In this June issue and just in time for summer, we look at the benefits a healthy glow can bring to your body and mind.

They come in all guises, but the essence of a good facial is that it makes you feel good, explains Linda Mitchelmore

In today's list of ingredients for facial cleansers and toners, creams and masks, you are likely to find plant oils, fruit enzymes, rose water, almonds, amino acids, ginseng and vitamins, with a side order of organic seaweed on the menu. Good enough to eat almost, and so it has to be these days, with the emphasis on health and beauty.

Don't we all love the idea of the scented promise, the hint of youth in a jar? But a sensible manifesto has to be that it works, plus that it makes you feel fabulous.

An important part of living well is to want to look good - it's an expression of emotional good health. It's well known that women recovering from illness - as they come back to life, as it were - hit the beauty product shelves. And it makes sense, doesn't it? After all, the first thing you see when you look in a mirror is your face. It's a good place to start, having a facial. You might have to try a few facials to find the one that suits you, but heck, what a lovely journey.

Why a facial? What exactly does it do? We all know that traffic fumes and smoky atmospheres play havoc with our skin. Add to that the products that we often put on our faces - the make-up or the night creams which we often don't remove properly because we are too tired, or don't have enough time - and further damage is easily done. Unless we stayed locked in an ivory tower all of us will find our skin looking lacklustre and far from its best at times. Then there are hormonal fluctuations that women cannot escape at whatever age. "Spots? At fifty-six?" a friend wailed at me recently. She was distraught - who wouldn't be? And this is where the skilled beautician is worth her weight in lotions and potions.

First, a skin analysis will take place - dry, oily combination, and lots of variations in between. In its simplest form a facial will consist of a cleanse, tone, exfoliation, massage, mask and moisturise and will take about half an hour while you lie back on a padded couch, often with subdued lighting and soothing music.

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Take the experience up a gear and specially mixed aromatherapy oils will be added to aid well-being. The next level up again will give you a neck and shoulder massage, helping those worry lines diminish as the facial preparations do their work. A peel gel mask is recommended for those looking for the smoother, younger complexion; it deep-cleanses, oxygenates and regenerates the skin.

And there are prices to suit all pockets in every sort of salon, from the one-woman intimate salon to others with many specialist therapies and often a sitting area to meet other clients afterwards. There is a huge range of facials available, as well as specialist products and treatments for the eye area and those grooves that appear at the side of the mouth when we smile, which can be incorporated into your facial treatment. As well as making you look better, a facial will make you feel better because it is also very relaxing, while being energising at the same time. You will leave the beauty salon with a smile on your face, but with rather fewer laughter lines - thank goodness!

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