7 Steps to the ultimate home facial for glowing skin

by Lisa Fogarty
Jul 31, 2015 at 8:00 a.m. ET

I love professional facials and am not operating under the delusion that my skin care skills exist on the same planet as those of my favorite dermatologists and estheticians.

But there are many months when I can't find the time to get to a spa for a treatment — or have decided to blow all my play money on shoes.

Since my skin isn't going to behave just because it knows I'm flying solo that month, I've learned how to give myself a quality, at-home facial that sloughs off all dead skin (every last flake), deep cleans and adds much-needed hydration.

Great news: It can be done in seven simple steps. Remember not to skimp on quality products — and to leave extractions in the professional hands of those who really know how to do them.

1/8 :Cleanse

Your first step should always be to cleanse your face so that you remove all makeup and impurities from your skin. If you're wearing eye makeup, remove it with a makeup remover and tissue or cotton before using a light hand to work your cleanser onto skin in a circular motion.

If I've just woken up and my skin is bare and maybe just slightly shiny, I opt for a gentle, soap-free cleanser like Cetaphil Daily Facial Cleanser (Target, $5). If I need to step up my game — either because I've applied a tinted BB cream that day or it's that time of the month and my skin is oilier than usual, Tracie Martyn Amla Purifying Cleanser is a skin savior (Nordstrom, $65).

2 /8: Exfoliate

2/8 :Exfoliate

Exfoliating is an important step in your facial because it removes dead skin cells that clog and block pores, thereby preventing skin from reaping the benefits of all of those moisturizers and serums we love. The result is flaky, dry skin that looks like it has lost its youthful glow.

Experts suggest avoiding exfoliants that are made with jagged, sharp edges, like nutshells and pit fruit seeds, and sticking with circular exfoliants such as jojoba beads, ground nuts, grains and "square" exfoliates like sugar and salt, which become circular when wet. The correct way to exfoliate is by gently working the scrub onto your skin in small circular motions all over your face. Not too rough! Suki Exfoliate Foaming Cleanser uses nonabrasive sugar to slough off dead cells, but also contains lemongrass and chamomile to soothe the skin (Birchbox, $33).

3/8 :Steam

The next step is to fill a bowl halfway with very hot or boiling water and — carefully — while draping a towel over your head, hold your face a few feet away from the bowl so that you can feel the steam. Relax and let yourself soak in the soothing experience for five to 10 minutes while the steam opens up your pores.

If you'd like, you can even add a few drops of an essential oil such as lavender or bergamot to your bowl. Never put your face in the bowl, of course, and be careful not to steam for too long, as you don't want to aggravate your skin.

4 /8: Clay mask

4/8 :Clay mask

Don't let the fact that you shouldn't perform your own extractions frustrate you — there are many clay masks on the market that do a fantastic job of lifting impurities from your pores, and, yes, that includes stubborn blackheads.

After you've steamed your skin, apply a clay mask, let it sit for 10-15 minutes, and then remove it with a warm washcloth.

Since discovering GlamGlow Mud Mask (Sephora, $69) I've never been tempted to perform another extraction again — and I'm sure my skin is thrilled about that fact.

5 /8: Hydrating mask

5/8 :Hydrating mask

After thoroughly removing your clay mask, introduce moisture into the equation by following it up with a cooling, hydrating mask — one that comes in gel form is always a sweet treat.

Peter Thomas Roth Rose Stem Cell Bio-Repair Gel Mask (Sephora, $45) helps eliminate redness in the skin, uses rose stem cells and extracts to tighten and tone and has a comforting fragrance that always makes me feel like I'm away at a spa retreat in the Caribbean.

It doesn't hurt that it's also pretty as a flower.

6/8 :Toner

Remove your hydrating mask with a warm washcloth and apply a toner to tighten and close pores, as well as to add a bit of moisture in preparation for the final step in your facial.

Because I have somewhat sensitive skin that despises drying alcohol-based toners, I stick with products like Murad Hydrating Toner (Sephora, $27), which contains grape seed, peach and cucumber fruit extracts and always leaves my skin feeling supple and soft.

7 /8: Moisturize

7/8 :Moisturize

No facial is complete without this crucial last step, as a great moisturizer is like an incredible pair of shoes — it adds protection, pizzazz and oomph to your complexion.

On days where my skin needs a little more TLC (assuming the sun has already set or I plan to follow up with a separate SPF), Dr. Hauschka Rose Day Cream (Dermstore, $43) is luxuriously hydrating. A nighttime routine calls for a fantastic overnight treatment cream like Dermalogica Pure Night (Dermalogica, $76), which contains ingredients said to stimulate collagen and control hyperpigmentation.

If the sun is still shining after your facial, make sure your moisturizer contains sunscreen — sticking with my Dr. Murad love, Murad Perfecting Day Cream with SPF 30 (Sephora, $49) absorbs quickly and never leaves those annoying white streaks you might notice from some sun protection products.

8 /8: Pin for later

8/8 :Pin for later