Why Every Man Needs A Facial
I don’t know about yours, but my face has had a skinful. The stress of a global health crisis and everything that came with it: inferior sleep, excess alcohol, endless screen time and the clammy microclimate under our face masks. They have all taken their toll on our skin.
“It’s not the years, honey, it’s the mileage,” said Indiana Jones in Raiders Of The Lost Ark. I wish I could say the same, but in my case, it’s both. On top of the lockdown blues, I’m turning 40 next spring. I’ve never been unduly image-conscious, but lately I have become more than a little preoccupied with my ageing face. The lines, the shadows; the creaking contours; the jowls appearing where my jawline used to be.
So, I’ve booked myself in for a facial. That’s right, a facial, with the creams and the cucumber slices. The treatment your mother booked with the Avon lady in 1989. We’ve come a long way since then, of course, but even so, I’ve never had a facial. Like a lot of men, I thought they were for other people – for women, if I’m being honest.
Nevertheless, I find myself at the door of Ms Chelseé Lewis. A facialist with 25 years’ experience, her practice in London’s Mayfair offers bespoke facials designed to the needs of each client. Inside, I lie down half-naked with an intensely bright light in my face. At first it feels more like an interrogation than an indulgent bit of me-time.
Lewis quizzes me on my diet, my sleeping habits, my stress levels and more. Then she changes tack, switching roles from detective to forensic scientist. She prods at my features like a pathologist inspecting a murder victim. (And to be fair, I had shuffled in like the walking dead, sunken features, pallid complexion, utterly done in.)
“There’s a little dryness,” she pores over my pores. “Some poor circulation and a little congestion in your T-zone.”
What she finds on my weather-beaten mug is exactly what I expected: evidence of two young children, stress and poor sleep, exacerbated by a sub-optimal diet and altogether too much wine.
I’m not alone. If the pandemic made us all a little more face-conscious, Lewis says it simply accelerated a trend that was already gathering steam. “For the past five years, I’ve seen men paying more attention to their skin in having non-invasive preventative treatments,” she says. “A lot of men are looking at themselves in a different light.”
The post-Mr David Beckham modern man has been spending heavily on skincare for more than a decade. Data from market research firm Million Insights puts the global value of men’s grooming beyond $78bn by 2025, driven by an increasing appetite for self-care among men.
For facials, male-specific treatments are becoming more prevalent, offered everywhere from your high-street barbershop to high-end destinations such as the Soho House members’ clubs and Dr Barbara Sturm’s luxury spas.
If you have any hesitation about booking a treatment, know that male skin does have its needs. “Men’s skin tends to be oilier with larger pores,” says Ms Abi Oleck, a facialist who recently launched a treatment tailored to men called Beau Bespoke. “Dehydration and congestion are also typical male concerns.”
Lewis says the number one complaint from men is that they look tired and feel their skin is looking older. “For men, the ageing process seems to happen overnight. But a lot of younger men in their early twenties have really started to look after themselves and have regular treatments to prepare their skin for later on in life.”
Unlike those farsighted youngsters, I was once a soap-and-water kind of guy. Now, on the cusp of my fifth decade, I’m a damage-control kind of guy. I moisturise regularly, exfoliate when I remember to and put SPF on when it’s 30°C outside. If I’m looking particularly haggard, I’ll slap on some eye cream or any tonic labelled “anti-ageing” hoping they will reverse time.
Clearly, I’m winging it, so the most obvious benefit I notice during the facial is simply the face-time you have with an expert, who can tell you in detail what your skin needs. In my case, my poor circulation has robbed mine of oxygen and nutrients, resulting in a greyish, slightly zombified complexion.
Lewis toils for over an hour to correct this. The process involves cleansers, steaming, creams too many to mention, a peel designed to speed up skin renewal and a facial massage that promotes “lymphatic drainage”. This brings oxygen and nutrients to the skin and stimulates the flow of fluid and toxins in the body’s lymphatic system. Apparently, it makes your skin look less puffy or bloated – something my under-eye area was particularly keen to hear about.
I wasn’t expecting it to be a relaxing experience. The only other person to prod and poke my face this much was the zit-squeezing teenage me, and as well-practised as he was, his treatments were anything but chill. This is different. It’s a post-pandemic dose of self-indulgence, a chance to close the door on the world for an hour or two and reenter it feeling fresher, more relaxed and ever so slightly filtered.
After the treatment, there’s no redness or irritation as I’d half-expected. I don’t suddenly resemble Mr River Phoenix, either, but I’m certainly not the worn-out zombie I was when I arrived. My complexion is warm and even, my eyes are noticeably less heavy.
“You’ll find your skin better takes to the products you use now as well,” says Lewis. She adds that her clients always leave with instant results, but the best outcomes appear with regular facials combined with a good skincare routine at home.
“Having a facial every three to four weeks, has a tremendous effect on the skin,” she says. “The skin will be more rejuvenated, refined, toned and refreshed, and the appearance will look much younger.”
The (dermato)logical conclusion: everyone should do this when they can. For best results, look for treatments that are tailored to your own skin type, says Lewis. Your treatment should also be fully explained so you can be confident of your practitioner’s approach.
Oleck recommends a hydrodermabrasion treatment. “It’s a skin-resurfacing treatment that integrates vacuum extraction, exfoliation, hydration and serum infusion, which leaves your skin fully cleansed, revitalised and hydrated.”
Sounds good to me. After a single facial, I am officially pamper-curious. And while there’s only so much a middle-aged father of two can glow, at this point I’ll do anything to save face. If an in-house treatment doesn’t appeal, become your own facialist with our expert-approved and easy to use bathroom-cabinet essentials below. On face value, you’d be crazy not to.
Dr. Dennis Gross Pro Facial Steamer
Cleanse your pores with this desktop-friendly steamer from Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare. The device turns distilled water into steam: the perfect way to start a DIY facial, hydrating the skin in preparation of the steps ahead.
La Mer Crème De La Mer
Something of an open secret in the beauty industry, this well-loved face cream has a quasi-mythical reputation for bestowing a smooth and even complexion. It’s made with micronutrients derived from sea kelp, the formula left to alchemise for up to four months before it’s bottled.
111SKIN Celestial Black Diamond Eye Cream
An eye cream is the essential that many men forget, but this one from 111SKIN is worth remembering. It comes with a cocktail of ingredients designed to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and dark circles alike. Dab it on gently and rub it in with your ring finger to avoid excess pressure on an area where your skin is at its thinnest.
Natura Bissé Glyco Extreme Peel
Glycolic acid is the key ingredient in this product, dissolving dead skin cells and leaving your complexion smoother and clearer. It also boosts the luminosity of the skin, helping to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and dark spots.
Dr. Barbara Sturm Men’s Kit
A complete facial in a single set, this convenient travel kit from celebrity dermatologist Dr Barbara Sturm includes a cleanser, scrub, moisturiser, eye cream and anti-ageing serum. Just the tonic for ensuring your holiday photos don’t need a filter.
Susanne Kaufmann Obsidian Face Roller
Lymphatic drainage massage is one of the most talked-about treatments in the world right now, but it doesn’t have to be left to the experts. This face roller, made of a naturally occurring volcanic glass, gently expels fluids from under the skin and reduces inflammation. It feels good, too.