JojobaMaybe it’s the change of seasons, but I have been seeing a bunch of “deep cleanse” your skin stories floating around the blogosphere and in the lady mags. What the hell does “deep cleanse” mean?

One of my facial pet peeves is the “deep pore cleansing facial” offered on just about any spa menu I have read.  These are the facials that promise to banish blackheads with scrubbing, loads of steaming and (most likely) really painful extractions. Most “deep pore cleansing” facials on a spa menu are the basic facial–clients like the sound of “deep pore cleansing” mainly because they bombarded with stories about those evil blackheads. It sounds good, right? A deep pore cleanse is exactly what I need…

The DIY deep cleansing I’ve been reading about include an exfoliating scrub as well as tips to add in a salacylic or glycolic toner to help pull out the blackheads. For some skin, this is too much exfoliation. With skin already rubbed and scrubbed, the addition of acids may create irritation. In skin care, there can be too much of a good thing.

Blackheads are inevitable. Anything we put on the skin has a potential to clog the pores–regardless of the product claims. Add into the dirt and pollution our skin encounters minute to minute… You get the point. You’re gonna get blackheads.

But this idea of deep pore cleansing is a bit of a myth. You can do things to soften the skin to help release the blackheads, but a facial should not be like car detailing. In my opinion, gentle is always better.

For DIY blackhead attack, I prefer a gentle exfoliation in a steamy bathroom followed by a clay-based mask on affected areas to help pull the dirt out of the pores. I usually do not recommend a full face of clay. This is all skin type dependent, but generally I hit the nose, chin and forehead (sometimes not a full forehead either) with the clay and use a moisturizing mask in the other areas.

Look for exfoliating products that use jojoba beads or oatmeal as an exfoliant. Stay away from crushed nuts, like almonds, as well as apricot pits (yes,that means that god awful St. Ives that is inexplicably adored by so many). The edges of scrubs with crushed hard bits are razor sharp causing tiny cuts in the skin.

If you are splurging for a pro-facial, please remember that blackhead removal should not be unbearably painful. You should not have lancets poked directly into your pores (oh the stories I have heard about one celebrity facilist). If the blackheads don’t slide out easily, they are best left for another day.