I'm almost 30 and had my first facial last week. What the… hell was that.

It’s a Tuesday afternoon at work and I catch my reflection in the mirror. 


It’s my face.

Miraculously, it’s both dry and oily at the same time. Hours upon hours of sitting at home with my face almost touching the heater has surprisingly dried out my skin, but then every day, post-midday, I develop a very pretty sheen of oil. 


So it’s wet but dry and also splotchy, and honestly, with all the things I have no control over right now (a global pandemic, Donald Trump being the leader of the free world, Ciarran Stott being emotionally unavailable on Bachelor in Paradise), I feel a sudden urge to do something about my face. 

My mind flashes to the beautiful people I follow on Instagram who have facials, and how glowy their skin looks afterwards. Yes, their skin already looked glowy before. Yes, they’re all younger than 25 and I’m pretty sure they’re doing more than just having facials. 

But none of that matters. 

I decide that maybe if I get a facial, I too can have a glowy face. Maybe an entirely new face! One that doesn’t have visible blackheads or red dry patches or a few ‘lil wrinkles. The problem, however, is that I’ve never had a facial in my life and I don’t really understand what 

What's a carbon facial, and what does it look like? Post continues after video.

Video via Mamamia.

I ask around and get some recommendations. I choose a place that’s semi-expensive (excuse me I’ve been very good with my money in isolation and it’s important to treat yourself in these difficult times, etc etc) and book it in. One new face coming right up. 


The day of my facial, I wake up late. In a rush to get out the door (when you’re getting your face judged, you don’t also want to be judged on your lateness), I decide I should just wash my face with hot water and not moisturise because they’ll probably wash off anything I put on anyway. 

Narrator: What. The. F*ck.


I arrive at my appointment (managing to still be late) and meet the woman who will be doing my facial. The expression on her face is one of… horror.

She asks what I usually do for my skincare, and I explain my very clever routine this morning. 

‘I didn’t put moisturiser on, but now my skin feels kinda tight,’ I say.

‘I can see that,’ she responds. 


She braces herself and explains that she’ll be focusing on hydrating (since you seem to have absolutely no idea what you’re doing, she says with her eyes), and will be using organic products.

I wonder whether the $7 face wash I have at home is organic and decide that, no, it’s probably not. 

As she starts doing magic on my face, I notice that the focus isn’t actually just my face. It’s my neck and chest - what fancy people call your 'décolletage'. I ask her whether you should be using the same products on your neck and chest as you do on your face and she says yes. 

That seems ridiculous but okay.

She applies an exfoliant face mask-y thing to my skin and rubs it in for what feels like 20 minutes, which is lovely. But just as I’m relaxing and wondering whether really, really rich people just hire staff to wash their faces instead of doing it themselves, she picks up a mirror. ‘See all those white flakes?’ she asks. ‘That’s dead skin.’



Later, once I’ve been talked into purchasing that exact product and try it at home, I become fairly certain it’s not dead skin. It’s just the product. It comes off in flakes. 


But mid-facial Clare doesn’t know that, and now it’s time for the nice facial lady to adopt a serious tone and ask if I want to talk about my skincare. 

‘Ummm, I guess I’m kinda lazy,’ I say. ‘I just want two things I can do, not eight. But I have a retinol at home. Should I use that?’

I’m pretty sure she doesn’t understand. 

She looks like she has a 72-step skincare routine and makes her own retinol in a lab. She probably also thinks it’s bullsh*t that I want ‘two things’ to do, considering before seeing her, I did none.

‘Please don’t use retinol,’ she says kindly. ‘If you use it and you’re lazy with everything else you’ll just end up with a sunburn.’

I see. 

She asks what cleanser I use at home and I start describing that it has gritty bits in it and I bought it one time from the supermarket. 

‘You need a cream cleanser,’ she says, explaining that the one I’m using now is too harsh and is drying out my skin. 

I nod, but point out that cream cleansers are a lie, because they don’t remove makeup, which is like the number one thing a face wash is meant to do. 

But, according to the nice facial lady, you’re meant to double cleanse with a cream cleanser. By the second round, all your makeup will be off. 


She then suggests I buy the exfoliant that got off all my dead skin, giving me another look in the mirror. 

It's okay lady I don't need to see myself again.

I know I’m meant to feel all clean and fresh, but now that years of fake tan, makeup and lord knows what else have been removed from my skin, what’s left is… kinda grey. 

But she’s the expert, and I’m the one whose face manages to be oily and dry at the same time, so I agree. I'll buy the things.


The total comes to an amount I refuse to disclose because my mum might be reading this and she will kill me. 

I'm then told to come back 'in a month or so' to 'see how my skin is progressing'. 

So, I definitely didn't make this clear at the beginning, but I am not made of money. This facial was a one-stop-shop for a better face and I feel like it didn't... happen. 

I go home and use the cream cleanser, and after washing my face twice, I wipe it with a towel:

Get. F*cked. 

 Over the next few days, something bizarre happens. My skin… breaks out. 


‘Oh yeah,’ a colleague says. ‘Your skin is purging.’

Um, so apparently after you get a facial, you often break out. Something to do with the crap coming to the surface. 


I guess after the purging phase your skin is meant to look really good, but tbh, it’s been a week since my first ever facial and my skin seems exactly the same, except that I’m pretty sure I still have remnants of makeup from Saturday (it’s Wednesday). 

Sometimes I feel bad that I don't prioritise things like skincare. I look at friends who are far more disciplined than me and wonder if I could have a different face if it were just for the right products. Could my bags be gone? Could the lines on my forehead disappear? Could my crow's feet evaporate and my skin be brighter?


But can I be f*cked?

Not really, no. 

Maybe one day I'll be the sort of person who has a multi-step skincare routine, and gets regular facials. 

But for now, the products in my shower are fine, and when I catch my reflection in the mirror and notice the millions of imperfections staring back, I'll remember the time I paid a lot of money for a facial and left with a face wash that didn't actually wash my face.



For more from Clare Stephens, you can follow her on Facebook or Instagram.

Are you more of a beauty person? Procrastinating at work? Take our survey to tell us how you look after your hair and you could win $50.