Recently, my Instagram stories have been flooded with beauty editors getting their faces slapped. All in the name of beauty, I mused, and continued to scroll. Until I saw it again. And again. And again.
The beauty market is no stranger to facials. This was different, though. FaceGym, which was founded in London in 2016 by facial exercise advocate Inge Theron , just opened its first U.S. location this summer in New York City. And, it was an instant hit.
“I think it’s a similar trend to dry bars. It provides access to people for a quick appointment with many different locations,” says Gary Goldenberg, M.D., assistant clinical professor of dermatology at The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital. It is clear why people are excited about it.
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When Drybar first launched in 2010, the concept seemed, well, strange. A salon that only provided blowouts but no cuts or color? Fast forward eight years, and Drybar has infiltrated the beauty community. With over 100 locations and a constantly expanding product line, Alli Webb has created an empire.
And where there is a hair empire, the opportunity for a beauty one follows. There has been an outcry for accessible beauty in recent years — with services like Glamsquad performing manicures and makeup at home — that it is no surprise “facial bars,” like Heyday, picked up steam (pun intended). “These sessions can temporarily improve the skin,” says Goldenberg. “[But] they won’t help with true wrinkles and lines and pigmentation.”
But everyone loves the concept. In 2013, Yen Reis launched Skin Laundry, where you can get a laser facial, often one of the pricier options on the traditional spa menu, for just $75. Oh, and it only takes 15 minutes. The beauty community has eagerly embraced Reis’ brainchild, with 21 locations worldwide offering her laser treatments.
Drybar but for your face quickly became cult worthy.
Heyday first opened its doors in New York City in 2015. In Webb-esque fashion, CEO and founder Adam Ross created a unique type of facial bar, and this new take on Drybar but for your face quickly became cult worthy. For a company that both looks like it was designed just for Instagram, and actually offers results, it was destined to win. Three years later, Heyday just opened its first Los Angeles location.
FaceGym focuses on facial exercises and massages to sculpt the face without a needle (hence the slapping). While it might seem strange, paying to have an esthetician hit your face, people are flocking to the bar for the so-called instant results. But Goldenberg isn’t sold. “I don’t love [facial exercises],” he says. “We’ve been using Botox and other neuromodulators to decrease muscle movement to decrease wrinkle appearance and formation. Facial exercises, while [they] can help some [with] muscle tone, can lead to those etched in wrinkles and lines.”
So, what is the appeal? “It’s a quick way to improve your skin — for example before a party or event,” says Goldenberg. With celebrity estheticians like Tracie Martyn, Joanna Czech and Joanna Vargas— where snagging an appointment can be challenging — the stigma of high-end beauty lives on. But the beauty society is fighting this trope. If wellness and self-care are the new hot things, then shouldn’t everyone have access to a facial, without having to set aside three hours of their day and a large chunk of change?
From booking to treatment, the amount of time spent is minimal. At Skin Laundry, you have to give up just 15 minutes of your day. Heyday’s quickest facial and the signature workout at FaceGym are both just 30 minutes. Taking care of your skin shouldn’t be a hassle, and facial bars are dedicated to making the experience worth your time without the commitment. “I do recommend to patients they find one person to work with. Because every aesthetician is different, you may get different results,” says Goldenberg.
But it’s about cost, too. A facial can set you back — a lot. In the new wave of affordable beauty, these facial bars are making it easy for everyone to take care of their skin. You wouldn’t think twice about applying moisturizer, and the goal is to make facials the same. Heyday’s services start at $65 and go up from there. With others following a similar fashion, you can spend as little or as much money and time on your treatment. But Goldenberg warns “not every treatment is right for every patient. For patients with melasma, hyperpigmentation, wrinkles, lines and acne scarring, facials aren’t usually very effective. Laser and microneedling are usually more effective.”
And, let’s be honest, spas can be intimidating. This writer frequents spas, and there is still that anxiety inducing moment when you are sitting in the waiting room alone, everyone is silent, and you wonder for a split second if you belong there. The short answer is yes, of course you do. In fact, the U.S. spa industry generated $17.5 billion in 2017. But research shows that in the first six months of 2018, only 2.82 million Americans received a classic facial four times or more. So, one could understand the attraction of these new companies. They are a wholly unintimidating experience — from start to finish, the experience is for the customer.
There is a hurdle, though. They aren’t the most accessible, that is, unless you live in a major city like New York City or Los Angeles. If you don’t live in close proximity to a facial bar, Goldenberg suggests trying to find an aesthetician you can work with. “Better yet,” he says, “see your dermatologist.”