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I rarely miss the chance to get on my soapbox about the inconsistencies of before-and-after skincare photos. You know the kind—the before is usually taken in poor quality light, and the individual looks melancholy and dull-skinned. However, in the after photo, the individual is suddenly awash in bright, natural light, and there's perhaps even a pinch of makeup involved. It perturbs me for a couple of reasons. First, it implies you're an unhappy person if you have skin concerns. Also, it doesn't accurately represent the transformation (however small or big) that's occurred. In other words, I would much rather see a subtle shift from a before-and-after than a drastic one that feels misleading. This is why when I came across Sofie Pavitt's Instagram, I let out a rapturous "Finally!"
The NYC-based aesthetician and certified acne specialist (who also refers to herself as the "IRL face tuner") feels like a breath of fresh air for anyone dealing with breakouts. As someone who used to have bouts of cystic pimples, I wish I had heard about Pavitt sooner. Though she's garnered popularity for her Insta-worthy mask treatments (the hydrojelly one is remarkably soothing to watch), it's her acne consultation program that has my interest permanently piqued. Ahead, get the scoop firsthand on why this type of customized skincare game plan may be for you.
What Is an Acne Consultation?
If you're experiencing persistent breakouts that impact your day-to-day, it's time to tap a professional Pavitt explains. "An initial consult can determine whether you're a good candidate for a more 'hand-held' approach or if you just need gentle guidance," she says. Many of her clients have become fed up with trying to fix their acne by themselves, so the consultation model works especially well. "They're happy to let us guide them with bi-weekly check-ins," Pavitt says. "On the flip side, we can recommend you to a dermatologist and work hand-in-hand with you while you're using topicals and medications from them, too. I always describe myself as an esthetician-meets-supporting actress to a dermatologist."
Why Do An Acne Consultation?
All acne, she explains, begins with the over-shedding of skin cells. If you're genetically predisposed to acne, your pores function differently. "[When this happens], a series of events take place—like oil production and bacteria—to cause a breakout, and this is why acne can feel cyclical," she says. "Some weeks it’s fine, and some weeks are terrible." On top of possibly being predisposed, things like menstruation and stress come into play. "It needs to be looked at with a 360-degree approach, and all aspects of what could be contributing to your breakouts—not just products—must be addressed."
Pavitt also points to acne's three-month lifespan as a reason to consider a consultation program. "From the beginnings of a microcomedone (the congestion of dead skin cells that cause a pore blockage) to a breakout fully forming as a pustule, you’re looking at around 12-16 weeks for that cycle to form fully," she explains. "That’s why I think a lot of people fail when treating their own acne. They don’t spend long enough on a consistent routine to clear it."
What Does the Program Involve?
Pavitt's program focuses on root causes: diet, lifestyle choices, home care, and professional treatments. If you're based in NYC, you can expect home care and twice-monthly follow-ups and treatments. The first meeting is a consultation with a treatment and sensitivity test. It rings in at $100. If you decide to move forward with the program, you take your whole product routine with you that same day. This usually costs around $200 to $250. Those are the only products you'll be using for the remainder of the program, and clients replenish their stock every four to eight weeks. After that initial meeting, there's a check-in every two weeks for the rest of the program (which lasts around four months). Check-ups include peels, extractions, or LED treatment; it all depends on what your skin needs are at that time. It's a 16-week program, and you can expect to be spending around $140 a month on treatments and the additional refills of your products. It's a commitment but one that offers serious results.
"[At the beginning of] the pandemic, we went completely virtual with our acne program, which yielded amazing results without the need to come in for regular treatments," Pavitt says. "If a client is in NYC, we also happily see them in-studio for additional help towards clearing, but we are also consulting a lot with clients out of state, shipping them their products, and checking in virtually to clear them up."
Many of Pavitt's clients don't realize they're contributing to their acne. "They're using comedogenic ingredients not only in their skincare but also hair care and body care. And by using the wrong type of vitamins and supplements," she notes. This is for a whole host of reasons we go into during our consults."
Pavitt notes that she can usually tell within two check-ins if a client will be successful on the program. "I can tell just from the way they approach our direction. Some clients don’t want to stop using their comedogenic shampoos and makeup, for example, and that will slow their results," she says. "I always manage people’s expectations on just how long the clearing process can take, too — there are no overnight results."