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Four Restorative Facials to Try at Home

By Kari Molvar

Mari Maeda and Yuji Oboshi. Portrait by IDI.SHOW. Clockwise from top left: Rose MD Skin Calming Booster, Bynacht Hypercharged Glass Skin Serum, Epara Intense Hydrating Mask, Estée Lauder Revitalizing Supreme+ Global Anti-Aging Cell Power Creme, L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Derm Intensives 1.9% Pure Hyaluronic Acid Ampoules.

The New York-based aesthetician Isabelle Bellis, who is accustomed to using her hands for much of the day — lifting, sculpting and massaging the facial muscles of her clients — has felt a noticeable loss lately. Since deciding to permanently close her Manhattan studio after the pandemic hit, Bellis has turned to gardening, at her home in rural Connecticut, as a way to keep her fingers nimble and active — and, she says, to “fill the void.”

But to lend support to her regulars, who miss her healing touch, and to anyone else looking to clear pores, de-puff under-eye bags and calm inflammation, she and many other facialists who are physically distant from their clients have also been dispensing at-home care tips. The Los Angeles-based aesthetician Joomee Song, for example, has been fielding emails and sending out curated care packages of skin products while Elaine Ng Huntzinger has teleconferenced with clients to offer pointers on gua sha — the ancient Chinese facial toning practice — from her Paris apartment. Much can be done remotely, the experts say: Masks and creams can impart treatment-like benefits and high-tech tools can substitute, when necessary, for a professional’s deft hands. Here, four quick but effective facials to incorporate into your routine, to brighten, lift and revitalise your complexion.

While exfoliating gently each day, or even once a week, can work wonders, sometimes a deeper cleanse is called for — especially in summer, when sweat and sunscreen can lead to buildup and a dull, uneven complexion. For a facial that will counteract this effect, Song recommends beginning by lightly sweeping a gauze pad saturated in a pore-refining toner, such as Circumference’s Active Botanical Refining Toner, US$60, over the face. For a more powerful remedy, buff with a dermaplaning tool — Dermaflash’s One, US$139, has a vibrating edge that lightly removes the top layer of skin. Then, apply a potent brightening serum, such as Klur’s Brilliant Light, US$80, which contains ferulic acid and vitamins C and E, ingredients that work in harmony to reduce dark spots. To speed absorption when applying any serum, Huntzinger recommends rubbing it between your fingers for a few seconds, then tapping it into your skin. “Next, I make fast, brush-like motions from my jawline to my cheekbones,” she says. “With my fingers, I lightly pat around my eyes, and finish by pressing my face with my whole hand, making sure the serum has fully penetrated.” Finally, slather on a moisturiser with sunscreen to prevent any discolouration from returning.

Facialists typically rely on multiple products — including mists, essences and concentrates — to give skin a fresh, plumped appearance. If you don’t have the patience (or budget) for quite so many layers but want to achieve a dewy look, start by finding a single, high-quality serum that contains hyaluronic acid — a humectant that pulls in moisture like a sponge. Bynatch’s Hypercharged Glass Skin Serum, US$320, is made with a blend of eight hyaluronic acids — of varying molecular weights — to ensure it reaches the skin’s deepest layers (a more affordable option is L’Oréal Paris’s 1.9% Pure Hyaluronic Acid 7 Replumping Ampoules, US$25). Apply the serum with a gentle touch — starting at the centre of the face and then moving out to the sides and up to the temples — for a relaxing massage, says Song. Follow with a creamy mask, such as Epara’s Intense Hydrating Mask, about US$133, or a sheet mask: 111Skin’s Y Theorem Bio Cellulose Facial Mask, US$32, delivers softening amino acids into the skin via a bio-cellulose film.

Manual lymphatic drainage massage helps remove excess fluid (lymph) in the body with carefully choreographed motions that can be difficult for a novice to master at home. A more accessible technique is gua sha, says Huntzinger, which involves gliding a stone tool (she likes the versions by Lanshin) over your face to boost circulation and release muscle tension. Start by applying a mist, oil or serum so the stone has some slip (try Rose Ingleton MD’s Skin Calming Booster, US$70). Position the notched edge of the tool at the centre of your chin, keeping the stone flat against the skin. Lightly drag the stone along your jawline, moving it up to your right ear. Repeat this five times, then do the same on the other side of your jaw, moving the stone up to your left ear. Continue this process by working in zones: across the cheeks, under the eyes, and forehead, always beginning in the centre of the face, and moving upward to the sides. Another option, says the Dallas-based facialist Joanna Czech, is a toning microcurrent device, such as the NuFace Trinity, US$325, which zaps muscles with (mostly painless) pulsating electrical currents for a noticeable lift. Follow with a toning serum — Czech swears by Biologique Recherche’s Serum VG Tensil, US$72 — and a firming cream, such as Estée Lauder’s Revitalizing Supreme+ Global Anti-Aging Cell Power Crème, S$182.

Now that many of us are homebound, Bellis says, there’s an opportunity to “liberate one’s skin from the pore-clogging effects of daily makeup.” To further clear the complexion, Bellis recommends beginning with a double cleanse: Lather on an emollient balm to dissolve debris, then an alpha-hydroxy wash to eliminate excess oil (try Holifrog’s Kissimmee Vitamin F Therapy Balmy Wash, US$42, and Shasta AHA Refining Acid Wash, US$38). From there, minimise acne-causing bacteria with a blue-light therapy device — Huntzinger is a fan of Foreo’s Espada, S$209 — or consider a pore-refining clay mask, such as Aesop’s Chamomile Concentrate Anti-Blemish Masque, S$59, followed by a non-greasy moisturiser (try Shani Darden’s Weightless Oil-Free Moisturizer, US$48). Bellis likes to finish by applying a cold compress made from a chilled herbal tea blend of calendula, chamomile, rose hips and fresh mint, which, she says, contains antihistamines that reduce swelling. “And make enough so you have a cup to drink,” she adds: a facial should be relaxing whether the setting is a spa or your living room — and hydrating will only give your skin an added boost.