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Fashionista Beauty Helpline: How Can I Give Myself a Professional-Level DIY Facial at Home?

Guidance from a pore expert.

Beauty editors and writers are used to getting late-night (or early-morning, or literally 24-hours-a-day) texts with zero context and burning questions. No, we don't mean of the "U up?" variety. These inquiries are about skin freak-outs, product recommendations and makeup mishaps... and we've seen 'em all. With that in mind, we welcome you to our series, "Fashionista Beauty Helpline," where we address the beauty questions we get asked most frequently — and run them by experts who really know their stuff.

The beauty editor's "U up?"

The beauty editor's "U up?"

Our recurring series "Fashionista Beauty Helpline" first came about a few years ago as a means of directly addressing the beauty questions I encounter most often from friends, family, social media buddies and random, distant acquaintances. I saw it as a way to clear up common beauty- and grooming-related gripes, frustrations and confusions, offering trustworthy and straightforward assistance to anyone who might not have access to an expert on their own.

Fast forward to 2020, and in a time of coronavirus, social distancing and self-quarantining, it seems more practical than ever. Now I'm using this series to enable all of us to take a little piece of our self-care into our own hands. During this inherently stressful and uncertain time, piling on extra stress and self-imposed pressure about unruly, grown-out brows or rapidly greying roots simply doesn't serve. What does serve, I believe, is arming ourselves with knowledge and skills that will enable us to have a little more autonomy over our beauty routines.

It's ok to take a little time off from the news to pamper, self-soothe and indulge in a bit of escapism. It's also ok to want to find some semblance of normalcy in an abnormal time or a sense of control amid chaos, and it's ok if beauty is your way of finding it. So consider this your guide to how-to-DIY-all-things-beauty-in-the-time-of-coronavirus. If you have specific questions you'd like to see answered here, feel free to drop us a note at with "Fashionista Beauty Helpline" in the subject. We'd love to hear from you! I'll also be using this opportunity to highlight beauty industry professionals whose ability to work has been impacted by the pandemic, and share what we can all be doing to help show them compassion and support. 

In our last installment, we focused on hair color. Next up? Facials and DIY general skin-care maintenance. To get some expert advice on techniques, products and what not to do when attempting an at-home facial treatment, I turned to Sofie Pavitt, an esthetician and self-described "IRL Facetuner" based in New York City who generously shares her knowledge via social media on the regular. (She's also currently offering personal skin-care consult appointments — DM her on Instagram for more info!). Read on for her guidance on how to get an at-home facial right, including insight about why ice (yep, ice!) is your complexion's best friend.

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What are the basic tools and products you would suggest having on hand for a DIY facial?

I think you can be really flexible when performing a DIY facial, but my favorite tools to use are a heated washcloth, gauze pads for applying toners and essences, and the basic steps should be a cleanse, exfoliation and some kind of treatment or moisturizer at the end.

What are the easiest skin concerns for someone to address at home on their own, and what would you suggest focusing an at-home facial on right now?

Hydration is an easy concern to address and it's really safe to do so! I feel being inside a lot more has led to dryness in a lot of people.

Can you please go through the steps you'd recommend for the entire process of an ideal basic DIY facial for cleansing and calming skin?

Cleanse: Make sure skin is prepped and clean ready to receive product. I like to use a hot towel while cleansing the skin to open up the pores, too.

Exfoliate: Removes dead cells revealing fresh healthy skin underneath and prepares the skin to receive active ingredients.

Mask: Treatment masks can be brightening, hydrating, purifying — whatever you'd like.

Finish off with a moisturizer to seal it all in.

Are there any skin concerns or typical facial steps you would never suggest someone attempt at home on their own? What about extractions?

Extractions should be left to the professionals! Picking at the skin is never a good idea, even though I know how hard of a rule that can be to adhere to.

What is your general guidance for tackling a breakout at home? What about blackheads?

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I'm a huge fan of icing a breakout. Icing pimples is like going to the gym, keep doing it and you'll see results — a reduction in inflammation. If you only do it once it probably won't do much, so do it regularly and you'll notice it really working.

What do you think is the most common mistake people make when attempting DIY facials?

Doing too much. Keep it simple, don't bombard your skin with too many products.

If someone is used to getting pretty regular facials but hasn't been able to see their esthetician recently, what are the most important things they can be doing on a regular basis for skin maintenance, protection and prevention?

I think keeping everything relatively simple and giving yourself a little at home facial once a week will be beneficial. Exfoliate three times a week. And make sure you're wearing sunscreen!

What are some of your favorite drugstore products for at-home skin-care routines?

Love the Neutrogena Naturals Purifying Face Cleanser with salicylic acid for gentle pore cleansing.

Are there any more foolproof/easy to use tools you'd suggest that maybe don't have much room for user error?

I like gua sha stones for lifting and sculpting, and depuffing. Icing is also a great way to treat pimples without doing any damage. Fill up a disposable shot glass with water and freeze and you'll have a little hand-held icing tool to use to reduce inflammation.

Can you walk through some facial massage techniques you'd recommend?

Upwards movements. Pinching the skin along the jawline and pressing down on acupressure points on the face can all feel incredibly relaxing and rejuvenating. I suggest YouTubing 'facial massage videos' for a complete step-by-step.

What can clients be doing to support their estheticians and other beauty pros right now?

Replenishing your products through your esthetician instead of a large company helps keep that small business afloat during that time. Preparing for a facial service, booking virtual consultations — all these things help guarantee your service provider will be around to start working when everything is up and running again.

Anything else to add?

Keep it simple. It's hard sticking to this rule when we ultimately have more time at home and more time to stare in a mirror at our skin and routines become longer and more complex. But keeping it simple is key.

In the gallery below, see (and shop!) some Sofie-approved products.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

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