Are Facials Worth the Money?.

STEAMING. “If pores are clogged, steaming lets you clean out dirt without excessive pressure, which can cause inflammation,” says Amy B. Lewis, a New York City dermatologist. It works on all skin types, but the facialist should do it only on clean skin. Bottom line: Do it.

EXTRACTIONS. “Attacking a pimple on your own causes redness and swelling, because your fingers carry bacteria,” explains Doris Day, a New York City dermatologist. “A comedone extractor—which is more precise than gloved fingers—can clear a pimple or a blackhead with less trauma.” If your skin is sensitive, the extractor may cause mild redness or irritation. Bottom line: Proceed with caution.

MASKS. Soothing and exfoliating masks tend to have the best results, but doctors are less laudatory of collagen masks: “Topical collagen cannot penetrate the skin,” says Leslie Baumann, a Miami Beach dermatologist. As for antioxidant masks, “the ingredients begin to work on the surface to neutralize environmental damage, so there may be some benefit,” says Day. Bottom line: Don't waste your money on the collagen variety.

FACIAL MASSAGE. “There's no science to indicate any real gains beyond the way a face massage makes you feel,” says Day. Avoid this step if your skin tends to break out. Bottom line: It's fine if you're into it, but don't expect massage to really do anything.

MICROCURRENT/ELECTRICITY. These treatments send a painless low-level current to the skin, causing muscle contractions. “The evidence is anecdotal, but this appears to produce subtle, temporary toning,” says Day. Bottom line: “Get it done before a party, but don't rely on it for long-term results,” Days says.

OXYGEN. Pressurized oxygen is said to drive wrinkle-fighting serums deeper into skin. But, says Baumann, the treatment can “increase free radicals, which lead to aging.” Bottom line: Skip it.

PEELS. Experts agree that any peel with glycolic, salicylic, malic, lactic, or citric acid will exfoliate skin's top layer more effectively than will a grainy scrub. There is also evidence that a high-concentration AHA peel (20 to 30 percent) can increase collagen production. “This is where you should spend your money,” Baumann says.

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