[title subtitle=”Why You Should Make the Most of Spa Week”]Confessions of a Pimple Popper[/title]

Hi. My name is Paula and I’m a picker.

Much to the dismay of estheticians around the world, I love to pick at my zits. Whiteheads, blackheads, big ones, small ones—I’ve picked them all. Truth be told, there’s nothing quite like helping a swollen, throbbing, already-to-a-head pimple burst. Maybe it’s the excretion of pus from my pores that makes me as giddy as a kid in a candy store. Maybe it’s the sense of accomplishment that always accompanies a satisfying pop. Either way, the amount of time I’ve spent coaxing a mixture of sebum and dead skin cells out from my pores, along with the unsightly brown marks left behind as hard evidence of my untiring will to do so, proves one unfortunate fact: I’m an addict and I need help.

The best story to illustrate my affliction, if I may, has to be that one time I ran into an old acquaintance from middle school. I was struggling to graduate college, running around lower Broadway waving thesis notes like a chicken with its head cut off, while she—calm, cool, and collected—just so happened to stroll down the same street, prepared to start her Masters at the same university.

“Paula, is that you?”

After exchanging a couple pleasantries, each of us eventually parting our separate ways, I was surprised to receive her text, shortly after, that read something a long the lines of:

By the way, do you know what I remember best about you? There was this one time you told me that if I squeezed my nose hard enough, white stuff would come out. It changed my life.

Responding with way to many “ha-s” in the “hahaha” chain I sent back, I died of mortification. Is Paula Pimple Ho who I’m reduced to? Of the many things she could have remembered like talented artist or hash brown lover, did she have to cling on to the memory of Paula Ho, acne savior? I mean, did I really save her? Or did I contaminate her with my penchant for popping?

After playing myself an emotional rendition of Tchaikovsky’s Op. 35 on an extra tiny violin, I eventually laughed. Who was I not to share the wisdom of my ways? After all, I am Paula “Life Changer” Ho.

A year and a half older, none the wiser, but perhaps more open-minded, I recently tried a hydro microdermabrasion treatment at the White Tea Med Spa by Union Square. Tired of my hyperpigmentation, the ones I’ve accumulated from years of giving into my nasty habit, I finally sought out professional help.

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[infobox subtitle=”What is it?” bg=”blue” color=”white” opacity=”off” space=”30″ link=”no link”]Hydro Microdermabrasion[/infobox]

Unlike a regular microdermabrasion that relies on crystal exfoliants to remove dead skin cells, the hydro microdermabrasion treatment uses water jets to even out congested, blemished, and dull and discolored skin. With the help of a diamond-tipped wand, the esthetician performs a vacuum massage that simultaneously exfoliates and hydrates the face. Gentle enough for all skin types, the the hydro microdermabrasion is known to increase blood circulation and improve both collagen production and skin tone.

[infobox subtitle=”(I Had to Ask, Albina, My Esthetician)” bg=”yellow” color=”white” opacity=”off” space=”30″ link=”no link”]Pressing Questions[/infobox]

Q: What are the settings on the hydro microdermabrasion machine and what do they do?

A: “I used the medium on you. It’s slight strong, slight not. Some places I used strong, like your forehead, where your pigmentation and scarring is. Under your eyes I did a medium. Sometimes if I see that the skin is reacting, I go low, but barely. For you, I did a medium.

Q: What does the treatment really do?

A: “It gets rid of dead skin. It sucks out all the damaged layers. So, that will be your blackheads and your whiteheads. It’s the top facial I recommend to all my clients. It’s a great facial for the winter, spring, and summer because it’s not a peel so it’s safe.”

Q: And the difference between this and a regular pore-cleansing facial? What would you recommend to facial virgins?

A: “If it’s their first facial ever, I always recommend a regular facial. It’s called a deep pore-cleansing facial or we have a great “High-Tea” facial where we use the steam and analyze the skin. If I see blackheads or white heads, I clean the skin. If I see that their skin has a lot of blackheads and scarring and acne, I recommend the hydro microdermabrasion.”

Q: Why is a professional facial important?

A: A facial is important every 4 to 6 weeks. Even though you’re at home and you do use a cleanser, an exfoliator, a toner, a serum, a moisturizer, an esthetician will be able to tell you what you did right and what you did wrong. It’s important to use good products. Let’s say you do come see me every 4 to 6 weeks. You come and you tell me, ‘Albina, I don’t see any results on my skin.’ I’d say, ‘Okay, but what are you doing at home? Do you cleanse? Do you exfoliate? how do you treat your skin? How is your diet?’

Q: You mentioned all-natural products as being generally “better.” Can you elaborate?

A: “Unnatural products are stronger. They’re stronger for wrinkles and for fine lines. They’re stronger because they have a lot of chemicals in them. What we put on our skins daily to cleanse and to exfoliate, to tone and to moisturize, is better if they’re organic because it’s made of fruits and vegetables. Of course, you see faster results with chemicals, but I always say go with organic first.

Q: Okay, so now the me, or people like me, pickers, why shouldn’t we do what we do?

A: “It causes scarring. It causes pigmentation. You’re opening up your pores when you pick. I have a couple of clients who when they feel that it’s ready, when the pus is ready to come out, they pick [the pimple] without taking it to the root, to the follicle. The next day, that pimple may go to your forehead or your lip because the pore is open. I always tell my clients don’t pick because it’s always bad for scarring and for pigmentation. You’re young, you’re beautiful.”

Q: How is your picking different from my picking?

A: “I use gloves and 4x4s cotton pads. After picking, we estheticians close the pores. I put a mask on you. The mask that you had on you closed your pores. When you’re at home, be honest, you pop the pimple, and that’s it. You put no toner, you put no moisturizer—maybe you put alcohol on—but that’s not the way to do it. It’s about analyzing and extracting professionally.”

Q: Why do we have to drink water after getting facials?

A: “It’s important to drink water everyday. Water moisturizes your skin, not just your face. It keeps you hydrated. A lot of my clients who don’t drink enough water come in with dark circles under their eyes.”

Q: What is a good age to start getting facials? Is there an age to start?

A: “Facials are good for any ages. If you’re 16 and I don’t see fine lines but I see hormone changes, I would give you a deep pore cleanse to exfoliate and scrub your skin. I always tell my clients that it’s super important to come for facials especially if they’re already going through puberty. You’re going to see great results. Massaged skin is very important for the circulation. It stimulates the collagen.”

Q: What do you think about preventative care?

A: “I have clients who come in a little over 30 who say ‘I wish I started earlier.’ 30 isn’t old but they’re starting to see fine lines. It’s really important to start early and to take care of your skin. Once you hit a certain your skin doesn’t produce collagen as quickly.”

[infobox subtitle=”Here’s How to Make the Most of It” bg=”green” color=”white” opacity=”off” space=”30″ link=”no link”]It’s Spa Week[/infobox]

If you’re wondering whether or not the hydro microdermabrasion reduced my hyperpigmentation, it did! If you’re wondering whether that was enough to help me quit pimple popping, on the other hand, I plead the fifth.

But hey, this week is officially SPA WEEK, so I say leave the extracting to the professionals!

From today through Sunday, April 17, spas across the country are offering their various services for only $50. Rejoice! Oh, and take advantage of the crazy discount by booking yourself a facial (or more extravagant) here.

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Your ever faithful pimple fanatic