Forget the Spa: How to Give Yourself a Facial for Less

Is chilly air starting to irritate and dry your skin? A renewing facial might be the remedy. Depending on the type, facials can help rejuvenate and return softness to the skin's top layer, clean out pores, tighten skin, alleviate the look of wrinkles and lines, or improve skin tone by clearing blemishes and discoloration. But don't bother visiting a spa -- or with trendy "vampire" facials, snail mucus masks, and treatments that zap electricity across your face. You can give yourself a facial at home for pennies.

Many factors determine the price of a professional facial, including length and type, location, and type of business. A typical chain salon in New York City's Chinatown offers a standard one-hour cleansing and pore extracting facial for $40. Walk a few blocks northwest to SoHo and you'll shell out $275 for a 75-minute, 10-step facial at Bliss that involves microdermabrasion and a chemical peel. A spa with robes, refreshments, and high-end toiletries charges more than a salon with bare-bones amenities, even if it offers the same facial and employs the same number of estheticians.

Facials and other spa services must be performed by licensed providers, and salaries are clearly a cost factor. These specialists must complete a required number of training hours (from 600 to 1,000, depending on the state) and pass a licensing exam. They learn to do basic facials -- cleansing, steaming (to open up pores), exfoliation, extraction (of blackheads and whiteheads), and application of a soothing facial mask and moisturizer. Estheticians also learn how to conduct microdermabrasion, chemical or acid peels, laser treatments, facial scrubs, and massages that stimulate facial muscles.

If the benefits sound good but the price tag doesn't, try a homemade formula using ingredients found in most kitchens. Turn to fruits, olive oil, honey, brown sugar, and even baking soda, all of which can do wonders for dull skin. Check Kiss My Face for a comprehensive list of beneficial natural ingredients.

For something quick and cheap, try an olive oil and honey facial. In a video tutorial, makeup guru Michelle Phan asserts that extra virgin olive oil restores hydration to skin, whether it's dry, oily, or both. Beauty bloggers favor honey for its antibacterial and moisturizing properties and heavy dose of antioxidants.

A super-cheap egg white and lemon juice mask, courtesy of the site Makeup & Beauty, needs just one large egg white and half of a lemon. The egg white is packed with protein, and the lemon juice delivers vitamin C, an antioxidant that is supposed to encourage collagen growth and fix damaged skin cells.

An even simpler concoction, from the blog Petit Elefant, involves mixing baking soda and water into a paste that serves as a gentle, natural exfoliant to clear away dead skin cells.

Inexpensive facial kits, widely available online and at local pharmacies, provide a more regimented, multi-step process. One set priced at about $17 on Amazon is based on Ayurvedic recipes and contains five components (including a scrub, massage oil, and cream). Most of the 16 reviewers report that the facial left their skin looking clear and feeling smooth.

There are also do-at-home kits for more complex facial procedures, including a chemical peel to strip away layers of dead skin, promote collagen growth, and reduce the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, scars, and spots. IQ Natural's Glycolic Acid Chemical Facial Peel Home Kit (about $40 on Amazon) gets good reviews for simple instructions and results. Users report "glowing" skin.

Don't forget about massages. Aestheticians spend a good amount of time massaging the face to stimulate blood flow and tone facial muscles and sagging skin. For a DIY facial massage, squirt or scoop a teaspoon of a favorite nighttime moisturizer or rich rejuvenating cream and warm it by rubbing your palms together. In the Gloss and Marie Claire have step-by-step tutorials that take it from there.

Different skin types need different types of facials, so do some homework before starting. Spafinder Wellness 365 provides lots of useful information. Also consult a dermatologist about possible skin allergies.