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Last year, Americans spent nearly $17 billion on spa services. A lot of that money went toward facials: treatments that claim to remove blemishes, combat wrinkles, moisturize, regenerate, tighten and otherwise beautify the skin so that your face looks fabulous.

But is there evidence to support the claims (and costs) of these treatments? Experts say it depends on the type of facial, where you have it performed and the skin benefit you’re hoping to get out of it.

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It can’t help you cleanse the liver

There are some dubious claims made about what certain facials can do for you. One facial that we went to claimed to help us improve our ‘liver’. That’s quite a lofty statement to make, especially since our livers were situated nowhere near our faces. If internal cleansing is what you hope a facial would do, you’re better off going for a juice fast or eating healthily for a week.

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It can’t change your facial structure

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Facials from the East tout their own brand of snake oil. We’ve seen claims of face slimming facials, or facial massages that claim to be able to sculpt your face to a V-shape appearance. Sounds magical? It probably will take some magic to achieve the claims made by these spas. Doctors we spoke to say that Botox of the jaw muscles can help teeth grinding and slim down the face, as can buccal fat reduction surgeries. They have yet to see a case of facial bone reduction achieved by massage alone.

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It can improve skin hydration

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Some facials can improve the hydration of the skin, the extent of the improvements achieved will largely depend on the technology (if any) used. The truth is that the aesthetic industry is advancing by leaps and bounds, so non-invasive facial equipment can deliver deeper benefits than ever before. Sonophoresis and iontophoresis are modalities employed by high tech spas and clinic to enhance penetration of topical vitamins and other ingredients into the skin. However, not all facials may employ them so do check out what your facial entails before signing up for a costly package.

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It can deeply cleanse skin

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There is no doubt that a facial can leave you with cleaner skin than your own rudimentary home cleansing regime. Using devices such as ultrasonic deep cleansing and aquadermabrasion, they are able to dislodge sticky dead cells and unclog pores.

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It can heal pimples

That’s where a bit of science comes in. I-clear photobiomodulation lights in the blue spectrum has been shown to reduce pimple count, and is commonly employed in clarifying facials to clear zits. Studies show that manual extractions may not be the best way to achieve clear skin, as not all pimples can be safely expressed in this manner.

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It can help slow down the ageing process

Ageing is a multi-factorial process. The key factors that promote premature ageing include pollutants and free radicals which result in skin damage and loss of elasticity that results in skin sagging. Free radical damage can be effectively neutralized by a heavy dose of antioxidants, Facials such as Vitamin therapy are specially designed for this purpose. Skin lifting facials are now possible with technological advances such as HIFU-inspired Sygma Lift. Why not embrace science to give your skin a boost?

It may lighten pigmentation

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There’s debate over this one. If your pigmentation falls into the stubborn hormone-induced type such as melasma, your best hope is a good doctor with a pico pigment laser and a prescription for anti-pigment topicals such as mequinol and retinoids. If your pigmentation is milder, or if you are concerned about general dull skin, facials that saturate your skin with vitamin C has been shown to brighten and lighten superficial blemishes to a degree. So while we are on the fence on this one, there’s no harm giving skin brightening facials a shot.

It may close pores

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Pores are the result of sebum and grime clogging up over time as well as loss of elasticity of the skin. Facials that use AHA and BHA peels have been shown to be effective in reducing clogged pores and promoting cell turnover, essential for flawless skin. What they may not be able to deliver is a return of the springiness in your skin. That will require the skillful hands of your aesthetic doctor administering a skin renewal laser or a skin tightening therapy such as Thermage.

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