Sofie Pavitt Knows How to Clear Your “Problematic” Acne

The renowned facialist shares the one celebrity skincare line she cosigns and why “preventative Botox” is a marketing scam.

by Ysenia Valdez

sofie pavitt
Photograph by Meredith Jenks
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When I meet Sofie Pavitt, the New York City–based aesthetician whose client list includes Zendaya and Lorde, she’s fresh off a plane from Mexico—but her post-travel skin still radiates through Zoom, to an almost distracting degree. What’s her secret? A bit of sunscreen, moisturizer, the Nice Ice Toner Pods from her namesake skincare line, “and the NuFace,” Pavitt tells me from her London flat, referencing the antiaging device. “It took three pounds off my face this morning.” Any more or any less—including the gimmicks of tricky in-flight skincare routines—she would categorize as “silly.”

“If you are feeling a bit puffy, just do an ice toning situation,” the England native adds. “Make sure you’re protecting your skin and you have something super hydrating.”

This no-frills approach to skincare has made Pavitt one of the most sought-after gurus in the game. In less than a decade, the former handbag designer has opened her own studio on the Lower East Side, cultivated a celeb-studded clientele, and created Sofie Pavitt Face, a line of skincare products that aims to minimize needless steps. Below, the facialist reveals the $400 eye cream she swears by, shares the one celebrity skincare line she cosigns, and delves into the joys of curing acne.

Prior to your career in skincare, you worked in fashion. What was the “aha” moment that inspired your career pivot?

I’ve always been around beauty because my parents owned hair salons growing up. And I’m a Cancer, so I like taking care of people.

I was working for Michael Kors when I decided to go to school for beauty. I would travel to Seoul every 12 weeks for my job, and that made me fall in love with beauty all over again. I thought, I want to work in this industry. I don’t know how yet. But if I’m going to do this, I want to be a master of it.

When did you decide to go the aesthetician route?

When I started practicing, I realized I loved the physical aspect: facials. I was in school with a bunch of old Eastern European ladies who were doing this for a side hustle, and a bunch of 18-, 19-year-olds who didn’t care about it—their parents were making them do it. I was the only person in the middle, an advanced student but someone who really loved skincare.

I found that I was good at skin clearing during the pandemic, actually, because I was doing online consultations with people while I couldn’t work. I figured, I’m just going to start telling people what products to use at home. And I was finding that the acne clients were getting amazing results. It was a real light bulb moment, that this is what I should be focusing on. When we started doing facials again, I really worked on the routine that I was trying to give people, figured out an acne program to work with in-studio, and now I have a team of six people working with me.

How did you break through the beauty market noise when launching your skincare brand?

Acne, as a general rule of thumb, exists in a space separate from regular skincare. You’re in an emotional space anyway when you have problematic skin—and you’ll try anything. Brands will really press on this emotional aspect of somebody’s purchasing power. And I hate that. It drives me mental. The reality is, you don’t need very much to clear up your acne. You just need help from a professional.

I want to bring that messaging home to people who maybe can’t afford to get a facial every month, or don’t have access to that kind of skincare. Rather than using a multistep process with products, I’m focusing on problematic skin in general.

What’s the first thing you do when you meet a new client?

I touch their face. You can feel so much about what’s going on with someone’s skin that way. And then I start asking questions: Where do you live? What do you do for a living? What kind of products do you like? What kind of diet do you follow? I can tell if someone’s vegan just by touching their face.

So gut health is, in fact, important.

You don’t realize how important fats and oils are in your diet, and you see it in your skin first. The oil and sebum that your skin produces becomes waxy and hard if you don’t have enough omegas, fats, and oils. I’ll usually try and convince people to take a fish oil, because that’s the best type of omega—you can’t change my mind on that one.

Which products have been in your skincare rotation the longest?

There’s an SPF I’ve used forever as a moisturizer, called iS Clinical Extreme Protect. It’s got this really thick, super-glossy finish, but it’s filled with antioxidants. It’s the only sunscreen I always come back to.

The other thing that’s been in my rotation forever, and I always keep it on my desk, is Corn Huskers Lotion, which is hilarious. It’s this super-lightweight gel-lotion that farmers use as hand cream. I use it all the time because in the winter, when I’m doing facials all day, my hands are like husks. How do I find the founder of Corn Huskers Lotion and do a collab with them? I’m obsessed.

What’s an example of a beauty splurge you think is worth it?

RéVive Skincare’s Nightly Youth Renewal eye cream. I think it’s like $400. If you were 25, I would say don’t bother. But I am 40 years old, so I need an eye cream. It really does make a difference with my fine lines and the dryness underneath my eyes.

My other splurge is fragrance. I love fancy fragrances that are so expensive and stupid to pay so much money for.

What’s the best beauty trick you’ve picked up after years in the industry?

Botox. It makes your skin texture 1,300 times better. Look at my forehead right now—I’ve still got a little movement, but the texture of my skin changes, and is better, when I have a little injectable in my face. People don’t realize the power of an artistically placed, perfect neuromodulator, where you’re not looking frozen.

On the flip side of that, preventative Botox is a total marketing scam, and it’s dumb. When I meet a 25-year-old who’s doing preventative Botox, I’m like, “Come on, babe. They’re literally taking your money from you.” The best thing you can do in your 20s for antiaging is using sunscreen and don’t smoke cigarettes. That’s it. Once you start seeing fine lines, do Botox.

Is there a celebrity skincare brand that you cosign?

Rhode. I think Hailey Bieber focusing on hydration was a smart move. Her brand is fun and it’s joyful, and the hydrators are great. The glazing fluid and the peptide lip treatment—great products.