There's nothing like a day at the spa. A massage helps you feel refreshed, a mani/pedi gets you looking polished, and a facial will keep your face looking gorgeous and youthful, right? Not so, according to many dermatologists who are now speaking out about the unrealistic expectations many women have about facials.

DIY Facial

    Just because we're in a recession doesn't mean your skin has to suffer. Skip those pricey spa trips by indulging in your own at-home facials, and piggy bank what would otherwise cost you hundreds of dollars. Read on as celebrity facialists guide you through all of the essential steps, with tips customized for your skin type.

    By: Melissa Goldberg

    1. CLEANSE

    Fill your sink with lukewarm water and add a few drops of essential oil - lavender for normal to dry skin and eucalyptus for normal to oily skin. Drench a terry face cloth in the relaxing aromatic mixture and press it against your face five to 10 times for a gentle cleansing, suggests celebrity facialist Ole Henriksen.

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    2. STEAM

    Lean over a large bowl of boiling water, drape a clean towel over your head and position your face about 10-12 inches above the steam for several minutes. The warm water vapor softens pores so that your skin can reap the full benefits of the treatments to come, says Elena Arboleda, Head Aesthetician of NY's Mario Badescu Spa.


    If you're acne-prone, steaming is a critical step to unclogging pores. Add a drop of tea tree oil to your water to disinfect it, and then dip a washcloth into the very warm water once you've finished steaming. Lay the cloth on your face for several minutes for a deeper steam treatment, says celebrity esthetician Kate Somerville.


    Mix equal parts finely ground sugar and sesame oil into a paste, and apply it to your face with upward, outward circular motions. "This scrub provides all the benefits of natural AHAs for exfoliation while the oil nourishes and hydrates with a smooth glide across the skin," says Henriksen. This recipe is gentle enough for all skin types.


    If you prefer a store-bought scrub, "Look for one that uses natural enzymes that digest skin cells, or one with spherical beads that are round and lift cells off the surface without injury to the skin," says Somerville. If you're super sensitive, you can use plain yogurt instead - lactose, the sugar found in dairy products, is a natural exfoliant.


    6. MASK

    "I love a plain honey mask because it's great for taking redness out of skin, it kills infection with natural anti-bacterial properties, it's soothing and hydrating, and will work on all skin types," says Henriksen. Apply either pure organic or sage honey to your face, keeping safe distance away from the hairline.


    If your skin could use a refreshing and invigorating mask, mix avocado with ground flax seeds and apply as a 15 minute treatment to restore moisture and essential nutrients back into the skin, says Somerville.


    Roll sliced cucumber into a long strip of gauze. Place it over your eyes as you lie down and relax with your mask on for 10 minutes. Cucumber de-puffs eyes and the juices saturate perfectly through the gauze, says Henriksen. Relax, breathe, enjoy and then rinse off.


    Apply your favorite moisturizer to your perfectly cleansed, exfoliated and prepped face. "Don't forget to finish with a lip balm. I love Julie Hewitt's Camelia Lip Balm - we use it at our Hollywood clinic," says Somerville.

    Julie Hewitt Camelia Lip Balm, $14,

Basically, derms are saying that facials are not the best way to defend against wrinkles. Part of the problem, they say, is that many aestheticians use a basic recipe for everyone, and effective skin care has to be personalized. Specifically, Leslie Baumann, writer of The Skin Guru blog on Yahoo! Health, said that aetheticians often don't know what's right for their clients' skin, and that facials are often the cause of deep, painful pimples.

Of course, aestheticians aren't taking this sitting down. They argue that dermatologists are just upset that they're losing business to spas, and downplay the effectiveness of facials in order to sell their patients on more involved treatments, like Botox or a strong peel. They insist that spa treatments, such as oxygen-facials, truly can plump skin and diminish the look of wrinkles.

While we recognize that a facial can't necessarily do what Botox can, we also think that there are lots of great treatments available at spas, and it's ultimately up to us to do the research on whether the procedure we're doing will give us the results we're looking for.

Happiness Is... Beautiful Skin Every Day

    Happiness Is...That In-Love Glow
    Why do you look so radiant when you're in love? Because excited hormones increase blood flow to the skin, says Beverly Hills dermatologist Debra Luftman, M.D., coauthor of The Beauty Prescription. But it's easy (and perfectly acceptable) to fake that blush-y look. Polish your skin with a peel that has a gentle acid; try Clinique Turnaround Radiance Peel Once-A-Week System ($55, Or use this tactic from Carmindy, makeup artist for TLC's What Not to Wear: "While my face is wet, I rub on a handful of sugar and gently scrub. It gives me a real radiance boost." Follow up with a tinted moisturizer for even more sheen. Totally free tip: Sex. Research shows that endorphins, the body's natural uppers, are released during orgasm--one reason for that afterglow. Experiment!

    Patric Shaw

    Happiness Is...Looking Like You Actually Got Sleep
    Yeah, you know: Sleep looks good on you. It's when skin regenerates and repairs itself. If you aren't getting your fill (we'll spare you the tsk-tsk), use a potion that brightens you as you rest. "Your body's temperature rises slightly at night, which helps skin better absorb lotion," says Kevin Taylor, a senior scientist for P&G Beauty. Try Olay Definity Night Restorative Sleep Cream ($25, at drugstores). To depuff bags in the morning, run a washcloth under icy-cold water and press on, or use a dark-circle fighter like Aveeno Positively Ageless Lifting & Firming Eye Cream ($20, at drugstores). Totally free tip: Well, sleep (sorry)! Consider it a necessity, not a luxury. "Try to get seven hours a night as often as possible," says Dr. Luftman. "There's no such thing as catching up on weekends."

    Patric Shaw

    Happiness Is...Getting Carded
    Who doesn't love the ego boost when the bouncer asks to see ID (unless you're 17, that is)? To ward off lines, minimize squinting by wearing sunglasses even when it's cold and cloudy--rays still seep through. In the morning, apply a de-wrinkling serum that has peptides; these microscopic do-gooders enhance collagen production, which keeps skin spongy and makes lines less obvious. Try Kinerase C8 Peptide Intensive Treatment ($98, For hyperpigmentation, use a cream like Avon Anew Alternative Photo-Radiance Treatment SPF 15 ($25, Totally free tip: Exercise. It helps deliver oxygen and nutrients to the skin, says David Bank, M.D., director of the Center for Dermatology, Cosmetic and Laser Surgery in Mount Kisco, New York, and will keep you young-looking and healthy.

    Patric Shaw

    Happiness Is...Really Hydrated Skin
    Keeping skin moisturized in winter may feel about as easy as making a snowman stick around till summer, but it's actually achievable if you rethink your routine. Switch to a cleanser with hydrating ingredients. The classic: Dove Beauty Bar ($2.50 for two, at drugstores). Pick a moisturizer that lasts all day--try Neutrogena Ageless Essentials Continuous Hydration Moisture SPF 25 ($15, at drugstores). If you wear foundation, try a softening kind, such as CoverGirl & Olay Simply Ageless Foundation ($14, at drugstores). And avoid hot showers, which dry you out like a raisin. Totally free tip: Drink water. You need to down six to eight glasses a day to hydrate from the inside out. One easy (and eco-friendly) way to do it: Bring in that oversize mug to work, and keep it filled.

    Patric Shaw

    Happiness Is...No Breakouts
    "I'm seeing more patients with skin troubles since the economy went haywire," says Dr. Bank. Make blemishes recede with acne fighters that have salicylic acid; try Clearasil Ultra Pimple Blocker Pen ($10, at drugstores). To keep stress-related hormonal surges under control, the Pill is still derms' go-to fix. A lesser-known option: a prescription diuretic called Aldactone, which makes oil glands less productive and may be taken the week before your period. Laser treatments can kill acne-causing bacteria, but you'll need a few sessions at $500 or so a pop. Totally free tip: Take mini breaks during the day to walk or chat with friends. Calming activities trigger your brain to quit producing cortisol, a pimple culprit. Most happy-making of all? Don't stress over "imperfections" only you can see-it'll do your skin good!

    Patric Shaw