In high school, my favorite place to hang out was my esthetician’s office. As bourgeois as it sounds, it was the one place other than my house where I felt loved and cared for. The estheticians at Southlake Clinical Aesthetics in Southlake, Texas, would shower me with compliments and let me tell them all about my crush of the month — all while perfecting my skin. Because of my weekly facials, break outs were manageable. Since graduating from high school, I’ve only gotten one facial… and became a beauty editor.
At 25, I’ve had more breakouts than I did at 15. My cheeks are constantly little zit-filled war zones. Last year, my dermatologist determined it wasn’t hormonal after I got my blood tested. Alas, I stuck to topical treatments and saw measly results. Our digital deputy editor Sam Escobar suggested I return to my high-school routine and get one facial every week for a month. This may not the most economically savvy route to clear skin, but I went for it. After a month, my skin dramatically improved. Not only am I more confident about the state of my skin than ever, I’ve renewed my love for skin care.
Before I set off on my skin-care journey, this is what my skin looked like.
I got lip injections a couple days prior, so pardon the super cute bruising. As you can see, my left cheek has seen better days — and thanks to the four spas I visited around Manhattan during the month of May, it finally has.
The treatment: Fire and Ice at Haven ($205)
The fire part of the facial was a peel that smelled like a Yankee candle I imagined would be called “Fall Harvest.” The esthetician informed me that it didn’t have anything autumnal, like pumpkin, in it, though. Instead, the peel was packed with glycolic acid. Because it was a medical-grade peel, my skin burned something fierce. To calm it down, it was followed up by the ice part of the facial: a hyaluronic acid mask. As you may know, hyaluronic acid is deeply hydrating and locks in moisture.
Extractions were a major part of the facial, too. The esthetician poked and prodded at my face with her fingers. When I got my first tattoo, someone asked me what it felt like, and the first thing I though of was extractions. I was reminded of why I felt that way during this facial. I could have sworn needles were involved, but it was truly just her fingers pushing and squeezing at my skin. Once she was done, she shamed me for picking my skin. I don’t blame her, though, because I know better. She recommended I apply Is Clinical’s Pro Heal Serum, which is formulated with vitamin C, to help reverse the damage my bad habit has caused.
After a couple days, the breakout on my left cheek started smoothing out, and I wasn’t feeling any sort of urge to pick at my skin. In fact, I hardly picked at my skin at all last month. I guess the shaming helped.
The treatment: the 50 Minute Facial at Heyday Tribeca ($95)
My best friend Brooke always raves about Heyday, and now, I fully understand the hype. It has an approachable, afforable Instagram aesthetic with kickass results. Also, they played R&B instead of waterfall noises. (Nature stressed me out, so listening to SZA is much more calming.) As the esthetician, Elizabeth, analyzed my skin, she kept referring to parts of my face being congested, particularly my T-zone. To help combat this, she slathered my face with a peel infused with cherries, lactic acid, and salicylic acid. Together, they help to kill bacteria, slough away dead skin, and reduce inflammation.
Elizabeth also introduced me to the Image Skincare Ormedic Balancing Antioxidant Serum, which smells like an orange creamsicle pop, to calm inflammation and refine my pores. To help banish any remaining bacteria and fight the final stages of the break out on my cheek, Elizabeth waved a zapping wand over my skin that is scientifically called a high frequency machine. It uses electrical currents to literally zap away zits.
The next day, my skin was actually glowing — and it wasn’t because of my usual three layers of highlighter. I didn’t have an ounce of dullness, and the inflammation on my cheek was starting to dissipate. For the first time in years, I only had to use a bit of concealer to even out my skin tone. That’s a major win in my book.
The treatment: The Anja at Floating Lotus ($85)
By this time, getting a facial every week started to feel like a chore. Sure, I looked forward to laying down for a minimum of 45 minutes without staring at a screen while someone pampered my skin. Making the time to do so proved to be difficult, though. Alas, I got a quick 30-minute microdermabrasion session. When I walked in for my appointment, the aesthetician noted how clear my skin looked and didn’t even do a single extraction. Instead, she spent most of the time smoothing my skin and fading my post-break out scarring with microdermabrasion device. Honestly, it felt like I was getting my skin vacuumed.
A couple pimples did pop up in following days, but I’m writing them off as a part of the purging process. Another skin concern I haven’t mentioned yet that I struggle with is extreme oiliness. By noon, my face tends to form little pools of greasiness around my nostrils and on my chin. By week 3, it dawned on me that I wasn’t worrying about blotting my skin during my lunch break. My skin was finally starting to find an equilibrium. (Insert all the praise hand emojis here.)
The treatment: the Champagne Couture Facial at Savor Spa ($225)
As someone who doesn’t drink alcohol, the allure — pun intended — of a Champagne Couture Facial was lost on me. But I wanted to go all in at the all-organic spa. The treatment combined two elements from the ones that came before it: a heavy-duty peel and microdermabrasion. Oh yeah, and champagne. My esthetician, Alexis, used a cleanser spiked with the bubbly stuff, as well as a truffle face cream and caviar eye cream. Indulgences aside, my favorite part was the peel. It burned oh so good, and it gave me an epiphany:
Now that I was on my final facial, I started to realize that the major part of my skin-care routine that I was neglecting was exfoliating. I mistakenly thought you only needed to do so when you had dry patches. I actually needed the peels and microdermabrasion help kick all the dead skin cells away that were congesting my skin, just as Elizabeth mentioned at Heyday.
With June in full swing, my skin care routine is nothing like it was at the start of May. My glow used to be courtesy of highlighters. Lately, it’s all about brightening serums like Drunk Elephant’s C-Firma Day Serum. I take the time every morning and night to apply them, as well as cleansing, exfoliating, and toning my skin. I’ve even added an at-home peel to the mix: the Renée Rouleau Triple Berry Smoothing Peel.
Also, I hardly have to wear any foundation or concealer. Instead, I use a bit of IPKN’s Moist & Firm Beauty Balm because it has SPF 45 in it. One or two facials would have been enough for me to come to this conclusion, but sticking to the routine of going once a week helped me get into these daily skin-care habits.
More beauty challenges I’ve done:
- I Tried the Color-Blocked Makeup Trend That’s Blowing Up on Instagram
- I Stopped Wearing Mascara for a WEEK and This Is What Happened
- Here’s What Happened When I Tried At-Home Dermaplaning
Now, learn how to blot oily skin with literally anything:
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