A Dermatologist's Tips For Enjoying A Spa Day At Home


Every American could benefit from a little pampering right now. The good news: With just a little planning and preparation, you can put together a completely COVID-safe at-home spa day.

"Doing spa services at home is not only a good option during the COVID-19 pandemic, but it's also a great way to relax, take care of yourself and save money, even after life returns to a new normal," says Anna Axelson, M.D., a dermatologist at Henry Ford Health.

Home Spa Day Basics

An at-home spa day doesn't have to be expensive or time-consuming. You can tailor services according to how much pampering you need.

Want a quick pick-me-up? Try a mini facial. Need a more luxurious escape from reality? Take a soak in an Epsom salt bath, followed by a manicure and pedicure.

Here are a few services that are easy to do at home:

Facial Care

Facials can be simple or complex. No matter which path you choose, always start with a gentle cleanser to remove dirt — one that doesn't contain ingredients like alpha-hydroxy acids or salicylic acid.

"An over-the-counter facial steamer can add moisture and warmth to soften the skin," Dr. Axelson says. "Then you can gently exfoliate with your hands or a washcloth." Follow that with a product containing mild alpha hydroxy acids (like glycolic acid) and then finish off with a moisturizer.

Want something extra? Consider a face mask. Whether you choose a product with niacinamide (a form of vitamin B that helps brighten the skin) or one boasting ceramides (lipids that help repair the skin barrier and act as a moisturizer), different types of masks can have different benefits for your skin. "You're not going to cure your acne with one mask," Dr. Axelson says. "But some masks may help and you may find the process helps you relax."

Skin Rejuvenation

A visit to your dermatologist isn't the only way to rejuvenate your skin. There are many at-home products that can help give your skin the oomph it needs to build more collagen. Among the most popular are microneedling tools. "These tools create a sort of micro-injury to the skin that results in new collagen and increased blood flow," Dr. Axelson says.

Unfortunately, they also come with a caveat: Microneedling tools actually puncture the skin, so they're an ideal vehicle for spreading infection. "If you have a rash or other skin irritation, you should probably steer clear," Dr. Axelson says. Still want to give at-home microneedling a whirl? Make sure you're using clean tools and be mindful of how much inflammation you're causing.

Other skin rejuvenation tools include products that boast exfoliating ingredients (think facial scrubs) and those containing retinol (a vitamin A derivative).

Nail Care

At-home manicures and pedicures are a great way to go. You're not sharing instruments with anyone else, and you can ensure the tools you use are safe and clean. Just keep in mind that the skin around your nails (the cuticle) is fragile.

"Your cuticles act as a barrier to protect against infection," Dr. Axelson says. "So you don't want to cut them back." What you can do: Clean, cut, file and polish your nails. You can even use cuticle oils to soften the skin around the nail.

Cautionary nail care notes:

  • Anything you put on the skin or nail can be an allergy risk, including nail polishes and acrylics.
  • Acetone polish remover can dry out your nails and cause thinning.
  • Remove nail polish periodically. Keep your nails naked for a few days so they can recover between treatments.

Home Beauty Savvy

Whether you're giving yourself a facial or clipping your nails, home beauty care isn't foolproof. Even "harmless" products like nail polish and hair dye can cause major complications if you have an allergy.

Your best bet for at-home spa services: "Keep it simple and consistent and avoid harsh products," Dr. Axelson says. "Harsh scrubbing or high-powered exfoliators can cause microtears in the skin, which may lead to redness and irritation."

Before you hit your home spa for a few hours of pampering, make sure to take these precautions:

  • Read the instructions: If you’re using an over-the-counter facial mask or microneedling tool, read the entire instruction packet before you begin.
  • Do a spot test: Test new polishes, moisturizers and other products on a small area before applying as directed. Then wait 24 hours to ensure you don't have a reaction.
  • Get help: There's no reason home pampering has to be a solo affair. Recruit your spouse, roommate or kid for help.

Most importantly, if you run into trouble with your home spa day experience, reach out to your primary care provider or dermatologist. "Unfortunately, there's not a one-size-fits-all protocol," Dr. Axelson says.

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To find a doctor or dermatologist at Henry Ford, visit henryford.com or call 1-800-HENRYFORD (436-7936).

Dr. Anna Axelson is a board-certified dermatologist who sees patients at Henry Ford Medical Centers in Detroit and Grosse Pointe Farms.

Categories: FeelWell