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Skin tech: Estheticians on the Central Coast beautify skin with techniques old and new 

Low level electrical impulses push through layers of facial skin at A Beautiful Face Salon in Templeton. It sounds like torture, but really it's just an electrical facial—and salon owner Linda Davis said the impulses mimic those currents produced by the human body.

Called microcurrent treatment, two white wands with metallic tips work to lift, firm, and tone the muscles beneath the epidermis in an attempt to fight against the signs of aging. Davis uses tempered glass filled with argon gas to deliver another high-tech facial. It glows purple-pink over a face covered in thin gauze. The setup is designed to increase circulation and reduce belmishes and acne.

click to enlarge FACIAL LAB A Beautiful Face in Templeton does facials that run the gamut from tech to creams—each one treats a different condition, whether it's acne, wrinkles, or sagging skin. - PHOTO BY JAYSON MELLOM
  • Photo By Jayson Mellom
  • FACIAL LAB A Beautiful Face in Templeton does facials that run the gamut from tech to creams—each one treats a different condition, whether it's acne, wrinkles, or sagging skin.

Clients seek out facial treatments for a variety of reasons, whether they're looking to treat serious skin conditions such as rosacea or acne, brighten their skin and reduce dry spots, or turn the tables altogether on Father Time. And the treatments that target those conditions are countless—from techy ultrasonic machines to enzyme therapy, the quest for perfect skin unfolds as one of the ultimate races against the clock.


Alana Silva, a professional esthetician based in Santa Maria, said customization is the key to a good skin care regimen. An esthetician's role is primarily to isolate and identify individual issues in a client's skin and help formulate the correct treatment, both in a salon and at home.

Skin care specialists first consult with clients before jumping into treatments, asking questions about daily habits and other topics.

"The first thing that I do is start with a very thorough consultation," Silva said. "We go over skin care products that they are using, any medications that they are on, their diet, exercise regimen, or any allergies they might have. We just review anything that might have an impact on their skin."

Common complaints among clients include dry skin, fine lines and wrinkles, hyperpigmentation (a condition that results in dark patches of skin from an excess of melanin), age spots, and acne. Silva said clients can have any combination of one or more of these conditions.

"Each person is an individual, and their skin should be treated that way," Silva said. "So even if I'm doing something like a microdermabrasion, everything is customized from that point from their cleanser, their moisturizer, even the mask that I use afterward. Even though you are getting a set treatment, it's still customized for your skin and condition."

Microdermabrasion and chemical exfoliation are options Silva uses to treat signs of aging such as hyperpigmentation or age spots (brown spots that appear like freckles), a top complaint among many of her clients. Microdermabrasion requires a high-powered tool that sprays the skin with crystals that penetrate the first layer of skin.

"Microdermabrasion is a form of exfoliation," Silva explained. "It's a resurfacing treatment using a machine; the one that I use has a diamond-tipped wand. It is used to gently resurface the top layer of skin to remove the dead skin cells, so the result afterwards is bright, glowing skin."

Treatments can cost up to $150 per visit, depending on the salon and add-on services. Silva, whose microdermabrasion sessions start at $75, said the key is building up a routine to maintain healthy skin.

"Anything that you choose to do to treat your skin is best to do as a series," Silva said. "Whether it's a series of three or six treatments, the more you do the better results you're going to have."


Another popular treatment for combating signs of aging is the chemical peel. With a peel, a chemical solution exfoliates the top layer of skin, which then peels off, allowing new skin to grow. As it grows back and regenerates, the new skin is typically smoother in appearance and has fewer wrinkles.

The immediate results of a peel, depending on the strength of the product, can leave skin bright and red, almost blistered looking. But some estheticians say it's not always necessary to endure such extreme treatment to get positive outcomes.

Mallica Roberts, with Mallica's Natural Beauty in Orcutt, said she sees many clients concerned with signs of aging who opt for the peels she offers.

"As you get older, things slow down," Roberts said. "You don't produce as much hyaluronic acid, your skin is not shedding as much as it used to, so you need that step that's going to penetrate on a deeper layer. Not a lot of people have been preventative in their early 20s. So they're coming to me looking to do something to correct what they don't like."

Roberts offers a peel that uses a glycolic and lactic acid formulation. Glycolic acid removes the outermost layer of skin and is frequently used to treat scars and other types of skin discoloration. Her salon also offers a salicylic gel peel, ideal for treating congested skin and acne.

Roberts said her treatments and the products she uses help stimulate collagen production and treat fine lines and wrinkles, but they don't turn clients into the beet-red-faced beauty victims seen in sitcoms and movies.

"I don't do anything that requires a lot of downtime," she said. "My peels are maintenance peels. They're good to do before an event or something like that."

She said that while the services estheticians such as herself offer are not like what dermatologists provide, they do complement medical treatments and serve as a good way to maintain skin care after plastic surgery or procedures such as Botox.

"What a dermatologist can do is more aggressive and faster," Roberts said. "But if you're not on a whole regimen, your skin is just going to go back to what it was. My services are good maintenance for in between those treatments."

Tori Simons is an esthetician who works in Solvang, and she bases her recommendations for clients' treatments on the time they have available (30, 60, or 90 minute facials) as well as their skin type and what their goals are. She said peels are a vital treatment that can show immediate results.

"An enzyme peel is like an exfoliator," Simons said. "It goes a little further than a scrub. You don't have to stay out of the sun afterwards. It's something that just gets the first layer of the skin. The glycolic peel is more in depth. You have to manage and treat that after you leave. You don't want to be in the sun for about 48 hours afterwards. It hits those lower levels of the skin."


While combating the signs of aging is an issue for many clients, a lot of local estheticians stay busy treating younger people who want to curtail acne or start on a healthy skin care regimen. Estheticians all stress that the No. 1 thing people should do when starting a program is protect their skin from the sun.

Silva and other estheticians point to sun damage as the No. 1 culprit in skin damage that leads to expensive treatments.

"Most young people aren't really aware that they need to use sunscreen," Silva said. "The sunscreen that's in your makeup just isn't enough. Most people don't know that you have to do things like apply your sunscreen 30 minutes before you go out in the sun and reapply it if you're going to be out more than a few hours for it to be truly effective either."

But it's not just the sun that can cause serious damage. Human skin has a number of enemies, including toxic elements in the environment and allergens.

Estheticians also point to a lack of proper hydration as one of the major cause of skin problems clients complain about. The biggest mistake people make when it comes to their skin care is simply not drinking enough water, Simons said.

"I don't think people realize how much it can change your skin," she said. "Drinking more water seems like such a simple step, but it really can make a difference."

Dry skin can often appear sallow, resulting in flaky patches that never seem quenched by typical moisturizers. Pores look small, almost invisible, and fine lines become much more visible.

click to enlarge PINK PRETTY You can tackle acne and blemishes by getting a high frequency treatment with argon gas at A Beautiful Face in Templeton. - PHOTO BY JAYSON MELLOM
  • Photo By Jayson Mellom
  • PINK PRETTY You can tackle acne and blemishes by getting a high frequency treatment with argon gas at A Beautiful Face in Templeton.

"The very first thing I do is I put you on my table and I do a hydration test," said A Beautiful Face owner Davis. "I feel your skin. All I really need to do is feel your skin to know what's going on. But then I would talk to you about what your concerns are. Because what I see might not be what you want to work on."

Davis said dehydration is the No. 1 issue in a lot of the cases she treats at her salon. Without enough water in the skin, it cannot function properly, resulting in myriad issues that show up in the mirror.

"That's when you start to get congestion, breakouts, blackheads, hyperpigmentation, things like that," she said. "All of these negative conditions of the skin really are a direct result of not having enough free water levels in the tissue. That's one of the things I really work on restoring in my treatments."

In your hands

If chemical peels and diamond-tipped mini-sandblasters are too intimidating, facial specialists say there are plenty of other ways to get into the habit of proper skin maintenance.

Simons also offers facials such as "The New Yorker," a basic cleansing, exfoliation, and hydrating treatment that lasts 30 minutes. There's also "The Parisian," which takes up to 60 minutes and includes extractions, a specialty mask, and a facial massage. Simons' deep exfoliation facial lasts 90 minutes and comes with a hydrating eye treatment, full skin analyzation, and solar protection for each client.

She said one of the most important things she does for her clients is to teach them to maintain her treatments on their own.

"You're always aging," Simons said. "I think having a good skin regimen at home is really important in dealing with that long term. You might only come in here to the salon once a month, but you see your skin at home every single day. If you have good products at home and are consistent about how you take care of it, that's extremely helpful."

Simons advises clients to stick with something basic at home that highlights what many specialists refer to as the holy trinity of skin care procedures: cleanse, tone, and moisturize.

"I think the first thing is to do an easy three-step system," Simons said. "Sometimes it gets over complicated, and then people quit and don't want to do it anymore. A simple cleanse-tone-moisturize system, something easy and basic, can keep people consistent to start with. If they see results then they can move into the serums and peels and other things like that."

But be careful what kind of products you buy, Simons said. Many over-the-counter products have fillers in them that only serve to extend shelf life and have little benefit to consumers.

Simons also said products that are older than a year don't belong on your face—they belong in the trash.

"Don't keep it in your drawer," she said. "Just get rid of it."

Whether it's aging or hydration that plagues someone's skin, one of the most important factors to combating problematic skin issues is perseverance. Develop a plan and stick to it, Davis advised.

"If you're willing to put in the commitment, such as having professional treatments, as well as using professional products and a real rigid regimen at home, you'll have amazing changes," Davis said. "You will see the results you're looking for." Δ

Contact Sun Arts and Lifestyle Writer Rebecca Rose at

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