My pro facialist pal* is begging you to stop using that super-scary DIY “extractor”

You can do this. (But gently, pretty please.)
You can do this. (But gently, pretty please.)

I lied. Snap.

*Angela Ericksen-Stanley isn’t actually my pal. In fact, I’ve never even met Angela Ericksen-Stanley.

But she’s the Director of Education for Phytomer, a kickass French skincare line I really love. As such, she’s been training estheticians for 15 years, teaching them best practices for facials, body treatments and thalassotherapy-based spa care.

And to stay up to speed on cutting-edge products and techniques, Angela trots the globe attending all manner of serious complexion summits.

Given her skin smarts, I asked Angela to help all of us get a little better at DIY-ing at-home facials. Because as much as I love a good trip to the spa, sometimes you have to take matters into your own hands.

Happily, my cherished, life-long pal* Angela provided so much intel that I’m busting this post into two parts.

Today: Act I of the Q+A.

Tomorrow: Act II of the Q+A, helpful tips, product recos and a cute pic of Angela, my BFF. On y va!

1. DANA: What are some key mistakes women make when attempting DIY facials?

ANGELA: Skipping steps or performing steps out of sequence. For example, you wouldn’t want to skip exfoliation, as masks and serums that follow exfoliation penetrate and work better once dead skin cells have been eliminated. Also, using products that are not adapted to their skin type. Right now, stronger exfoliating ingredients are popular, but not everyone should use them – especially sensitive-skinned individuals. Or some women think that because they get a small monthly hormonal breakout that they have oily skin, so they use products that are too drying.

Truly knowing what skin type you have can help navigate the many choices of skincare products out there.

2. DANA: What’s the best first step? A light removal of makeup or a deeper cleansing?

ANGELA:  First, remove eye makeup with a product specifically adapted to the eye area.

Next, perform a more thorough cleansing over the entire face and neck to remove the impurities that are constantly accumulating on the skin, including perspiration, sebum, dead skin cells, pathogens and various types of airborne pollutants captured from the environment.

Twice-daily elimination of these impurities helps prevent skin weakening and a dull complexion. Using a cleanser adapted to your skin type removes impurities to prevent congestion, and allows for perfect absorption of products that follow. Cleansers can also contain specific targeted ingredients to improve the complexion.

Toning is an important final step of the cleansing process. Toners are designed to restore the pH levels of the skin to a slightly acidic 5.5. When you cleanse the face, cleansers are typically rinsed from the skin with water, which has a neutral pH of 7. Also, depending on where you live, tap water can have hard water deposits, chlorine, and other impurities.

Toning the skin after cleansing helps to restore pH balance, while picking up traces of cleanser and impurities from tap water.

3. DANA: Should steam ALWAYS follow cleansing? Are there any at-home steamers you like? Dr. Gross has a newish one, but it’s pretty pricey.

ANGELA: My favorite next step of an at-home facial is to use a gentle, yet thorough enzymatic exfoliant. Steam is a great way to activate enzymes in exfoliating products. For me, using steam while standing in the shower or hovering your face over a boiling pot of water works really well. You don’t always have to use steam with your exfoliant, especially if you’re using a scrub. But adding steam to an enzymatic peel will definitely make the results of the exfoliation closer to that of a professional treatment.

4. DANA: What do DIY-ers do wrong with steaming? Too hot? Not hot enough?

ANGELA: I tend to think in our culture of “more is better,” women probably go too hot.

5. DANA: How do you feel about those scary blackhead extractors?

ANGELA: Resist the urge to pick! If you must, schedule a facial and request that your esthetician perform extractions. At-home extraction can lead to bacteria spread, redness, damaged skin and even permanent scarring.

6. DANA: If used properly, can they be okay?

ANGELA: If you don’t know how to use one – and most women don’t – stay away from them. In general, performing extractions on yourself isn’t a good idea. If a trained professional esthetician wants to use an extractor, that’s fine; they can make extractions less painful. Leave extractions to the pros.