This guy had his blackheads squeezed by someone. Here's what happened.
Any minute now, an aesthetician named Irina was going to reappear for something called “the extraction.” But I wasn’t sure exactly when she’d be back. The last thing she’d told me had been, “Because it’s your first time, you’re going to need a lot of steam. I don’t want to kill you.”
I was getting a facial. And if you don’t know what that means, neither did I. Even though I write about grooming, I had only the vaguest idea what happens during this kind of spa treatment. All I knew was that you go in with dirty pores and a nose covered in blackheads and come out… well, I was about to see for myself.
My choice of spa was the Mario Badescu Skin Care Salon, tucked into a residential building on NYC’s Upper East Side—the same building where the founder got his start massaging the faces of socialites in his two-room apartment in the ‘60s.
The place was reassuringly medical, and comfortably gender-neutral. A lot of white. Some orchids. A soundtrack that was part classical, part mystical—I think I heard some wooden flutes and tiny gongs.
When I arrived, I was instructed to take off my shirt and put on a robe, then lie down on a long table. In walked Irina, tall and blonde, with gentle hands. “You’re my fourth male client today,” she said as she deftly applied lotion all over my face. “But as my husband says, ‘Men have skin too.’”
A European-style facial goes like this: prep, steam, extract, then some kind of finishing mask or treatment. In layman’s terms, they cleanse your face, soften it, pull all your blackheads out, and then spiff you up so you look less haggard than when you walked in. In between the active parts, you get the most soothing rest of your life.
Irina placed a strip of paper towel over my eyes and aimed a steam wand at my schnozz. I asked if the steam was supposed to open my pores.
“That is a misconception,” she said. “The skin is layers, and each is porous so the steam softens them. But there are no doors to be opened or closed.”
Great, but without “open” pores, how was this “extracting” going to work? Like this: Irina used her fingertips to press on either side of each blackhead, starting at the tip of my nose. In tricky places like the side of my left nostril, she pinched. As each blackhead emerged, she brushed it away with a Kleenex, like she was shooing away a fly.
"How does it feel?” she said. “Any pain? I like to hear feedback."
I said it was firm but not unpleasant. And honestly, the whole thing took probably 90 seconds. I’d been expecting sharp metal tools—maybe tweezers. Irina said she didn’t believe in them. Too aggressive.
The rest of the hour was a dream. Literally. Because Irina turned the lights out. I apologize in advance for how loopy the rest of this is going to sound. It’s hard to report when you’re asleep.
The things I remember: Irina applying a refreshing mask. Irina putting cream on my hands and inserting them into heated astronaut mittens. (“Some men think these gloves are weird. For others, the facial isn’t complete unless they get them.”) Irina wiping off the mask with tiny pads, like she was detailing an automobile. Irina spreading a new mask on me with a popsicle stick—this one a thick, cool, Vitamin C gel that hardened as I dozed.
I woke to a spray of rose water, then Irina was peeling off the mask in sections and picking a few bits out of my hairline. She gave me final instructions in the royal we: “We are not going to the gym today—nothing dirty, nothing aggressive. We are going to drink more water.”
I inspected myself in the mirror. I’d never seen my face without blackheads—at least, not since age 11. I was slightly rosy. My pores were tiny. My skin… shone? Is that possible? Bottom line, I looked refreshed—and while I’m sure the nap helped, so did someone paying more attention to my face than I’ve ever paid in my life.
We have since resumed the gym. We are drinking more water.