Bad Facials

bad facial
••• The best thing to do when you have a bad facial is to calmly talk to the front desk. Getty Images: Stockbyte

There are a lot of ways a facial can go wrong.  The esthetician doesn't follow sanitary practices.  She leaves the room while the facial is going on.  She uses too much pressure during extractions and can even damage the skin. 

You can avoid a bad facial by asking friends for referrals to a good esthetician.  And when you are staying at top hotel and resort spas such as a Four Seasons, St. Regis, Mandarin Oriental or Hyatt Regency, you can trust them to have quality protocols in place and rigorous hiring practices.


However, independent properties are a little less reliable.  I once worked at a three-star rated spa  connected with an inn which was beautiful, but the owner was extremely cheap.  The spa director had estheticians reuse sponges during $100 facials because she thought they had been "sterilized" in a piece of equipment designed to hold hard tools.   I talked to her about it (three times) made my own cotton pads at home, and soon quit because it was unethical.  But everyone in there was paying $100 to get a facial with contaminated sponges.

Ever since, I've been squeamish about getting a facial anywhere but from someone I know, or a top resort.   Here are some of the most common ways a facial goes wrong.

  • Unsanitary Practices. You are relying on the knowledge and ethics of the esthetician and management.  The sheets need to be changed for every facial.  The hard surfaces, ​equipment and products need to be sprayed or wiped with sanitizer.  If a towel is dropped on the floor, it shouldn't go into the hot towel cabi.  Two things you can monitor yourself. Does she wash her hands before working on you?  And do the sponges come out of a sealed bag?  
  • The Wrong Products. You have super-sensitive skin, and it's summer in Phoenix. You're signed up for an expensive anti-aging facial with an aggressive chemical peel that is going to leave your skin vulnerable to the sun on your vacation. The esthetician is all set up for the expensive treatment, and goes ahead with it even when she sees it's not appropriate for your skin. It may feel good -- but that's a bad facial.
  • She Leaves The Room. The esthetician should be with you the whole time. While the mask is on, she should be giving you a neck massage. The only exception is if she has to quickly step out of the room in an emergency. It should NOT be part of the treatment.  If an esthetician leaves me during a facial, I would never go back.  You can also check at the front desk to see if it is approved behavior.  I mentioned it to the spa director at one spa and she said what the esthetician did was against their protocol.  "We train our therapists to be in the room during the entire service and for there to be a constant connection with the client during the service,"she told me.
  • Too Many Extractions. Lots of estheticians love to do extractions, but sometimes they get carried away. It shouldn't be more than ten minutes of the treatment. If you need more than that, you should come get another facial.
  • It's a Mismatch. You like a calm facial, and she's slapping you around. You want to relax, she wants to chat. She wants to talk politics. You don't. Maybe her work is technically good, but it wasn't the experience you were looking for. You can't change someone's style, but you usually can get someone to stop talking by spelling it out: "I just want to rest and be quiet."

    What To Do If You Have a Bad Facial

    If you're not satisfied with your facial -- if you think it was really bad -- the best thing to do is to say something to the person at the front desk right after your treatment. Don't get mad, just calmly let the person at the front desk know you were dissatisfied and why.

    The front desk clerk should let the spa director know, and he or she should be in a position to address the situation right then and there. If it's a reasonable complaint, the best possible solution would be "comping" the treatment (giving it to you complimentary) or offering another treatment. Obviously, don't make up things to complain about so you can get a free treatment.  It's unethical, and unfair to the therapist.