What Men Should Expect from Their First Facial

Chances are if your partner is looking adoringly at your face under really good light, their not really thinking romantic thoughts. What they’re really thinking is what they’d like to do to fix your skin. While we try to maintain a regular, healthy, at-home skincare regime, there are some things — automotive repairs, taxes, and medicine — that are just best left to the professionals. Sometimes even a guy needs to break down and go get a good facial.

Cindy Kim is the co-founder of Silver Mirror, a New York City facial “bar” that focuses on customized facial treatments. After business school, Kim founded Korean beauty e-commerce site Peach and Lily. Despite having access to the world’s best skincare products, Kim had finicky skin of her own and began to seek out a more effective solution for her problems. Before long she realized that frequent treatments in the form of fast (affordable) facials (like she could get when she lived in Korea) were important, and Silver Mirror was born. We asked Kim about some of her thoughts to make a guy’s first time a little more gentle and a lot less awkward.

first time facial for men
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While men are still a relatively small percentage of Kim’s business, she is seeing an increase. “When I speak on industry panels,” says Kim, “it’s always the men who have questions about skin care. They want to do the right thing … they just don’t know how to or where to turn.”

Clearly they aren’t reading The Manual.

Silver Mirror offers a more gender-neutral space and experience, so you won’t feel like you’re walking in on your sister’s Sweet 16 or your Mom’s bridge club. Like a good barbershop visit, at a facial bar you sit down and the facialist or esthetician gets right down to work.

Before you show up for your first facial, don’t worry. There’s not a lot you have to do.

Some businesses offer more of a pampered, European spa experience, where you’ll be placed in a chair and covered by a blanket, almost like a massage. You’ll be invited to remove your clothes and make yourself comfortable because the facialist may also massage your neck, shoulders — even your feet — as part of a wholistic, relaxing experience. It all depends on what you’re into and how much time you have.

Before you show up for your first facial, don’t worry. There’s not a lot you have to do. In fact, Kim suggests that you don’t even shave. “When you shave in the morning, you’re already exfoliating, so it makes the skin too sensitive for our treatments. We use light chemical peels and stimulate the skin a lot. Shave the day before … stubble is okay,” says Kim. “Unfortunately, there’s not a lot we can do if you have a beard, but if you’ve got to keep it, you’ve got to keep it. In that case, we can work on the skin around the beard — the T-zone (your forehead and nose) and eye area, which are just as important. Other than that, just show up! I get guys that come in and say ‘I don’t know why I’m here, my girlfriend sent me.’ Then they get their first facial and they’re sold!”

man facial beard
Martinedoucet/Getty Images

Kim also points out that if you’re on any topical medications from a dermatologist, or using any acids as part of your skin care regime, you should stop using those for about two days before the procedure. (Check your products to see if they contain hyaluronic acid for moisturizing or glycolic and alpha hydroxy acids for exfoliation.)

Because Kim’s company is very results-driven, they pack a facial with anything and everything your skin needs. The first focus is a deep cleanse, in a way that you won’t be able to do at home. “We use a steamer to soften the skin and open the pores,” explains Kim. “We use professional-grade products to cleanse and exfoliate. We may use enzymes or a light chemical peel … even microdermabrasion (think of it as like using an orbital sander on your skin, but a lot smaller and gentler) … to get the dead skin cells off your face. Exfoliation is probably one of the most important parts of a facial. It cleans and preps your skin for what’s to come.”

“We do two rounds of exfoliation, especially for men because they have thicker, tougher skin than women,” says Kim. “The rest of the time is spent in extraction, infusing the skin with hydration, oxygen therapy, LED therapy … whatever your skin needs.”

Of course, “no pain, no gain,” so the worst part of your experience will probably be the extractions — but don’t worry, it’s nothing like the kind you get at the dentist.

“Extractions (removing dirt and gunk from the pores) are never that comfortable. It’s probably more so for men because they’ve never had them. There is a lot of stuff in there that the aesthetician needs to get out,” says Kim. “They’ll need to work harder and apply more pressure to clean properly, but you shouldn’t really be in pain … just uncomfortable. In this case, the discomfort will pay off.” Kim also points out that sometimes a men’s facial will focus on folliculitis, removing ingrown hairs, etc.

One note of caution: Don’t do your first facial, a new kind of facial, or a facial at a new facility before any kind of a big occasion (your wedding, a media appearance, your TED talk). “Depending on the person and the type of facial you get, you may break out,” says Kim. “It’s a purging … but it’s a good thing. Your skin is pushing all the bad stuff out. If it’s a concern, let us know and we can go a little lighter.”

One note of caution: Don’t do your first facial, a new kind of facial, or a facial at a new facility before any kind of a big occasion.

Post-facial, for a couple of days afterward, Kim recommends not use anything with acids in it (just like your prep period). Try not to stress your face in any way. “You should also definitely wear sunscreen,” emphasizes Kim. “You should anyway, but especially following a facial because we’ve removed a few layers of skin. Hopefully, you also have a good skin care routine at home to pick up from there. Then, depending on your skin care goals, we recommend you come back in!”

How often? Kim says that of course, it depends, but if you have decent, normal skin, probably once a quarter is good for a follow-up. Those who are more interested in skin care should stop by once a month. “If you have problem skin, though, probably every two to three weeks is good,” says Kim, “until we can get it under control.”

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