Wall Street Journal
by Meenal Mistry Photo Credit: Elizabeth Lippman for The Wall Street Journal
GLOW ON | Joanna Vargas in her spa THERE ARE NO white lab coats at Joanna Vargas's spa, which is tucked away in a midtown Manhattan high-rise. Instead, Ms. Vargas can usually be found in Helmut Lang T-shirts and leather leggings, platform Fendi heels and chunky Pamela Love jewelry. Little about the cozy establishment (it has only three treatment rooms) is cold or clinicalcertainly not the romantic décor of gilt-framed mirrors and chandeliers nor Ms. Vargas's immediately friendly manner. "I think my facials feel just as social as they are therapeutic," she said, recently. However, Ms. Vargas's style has substance. After opening shop in 2007, she developed her own five-product line, which straddles the divide between aesthetician-worthy effectiveness and natural ingredients. And last month, she received a patent for her Time Machine, an LED light bed, which she invented to help achieve a youthful look for the entire body. Still, one of her key methods to ensure flawless complexions for clients like actresses Michelle Williams and Rachel Weisz is decidedly low-fi: advice on healthy eating. Don't expect to get through a facial without being encouraged to drink green juice. "Good skin is all about digestion," she said. "Once you have that in your head, it's easy to look great." My morning routine is not glamorous. I wake up and feed my daughter. Then I make coffee with my Nespresso machine that I want to marry. Before I get in the shower, I do five minutes of dry skin brushing all over my body. It's good for elasticity. I use a long-handled brush from Bernard Jensen. My daily makeup is very minimal. I use a tinted moisturizer from Laura Mercier, some concealer to hide the fact that I haven't slept in a year and a drugstore mascara from Revlon. Nearly everything women complain about when they come in is related to sun damage: spots, fine lines, a loss of elasticity. When you get older, you'll wish you had addressed it earlier. Women should use an SPF 30 during the day, even if they're just going to the office. On vacation, wear a higher SPF and a hat and sunglasses. My favorite product is Éminence Organics mineral sun powder. My breakfast is a Recharge shake with whey protein from Dr. Frank Lipman. It's great: Breakfast is taken care of in two seconds. When people have break-out problems, they tend to over strip their skin, which signals it to make more oil. You're just feeding that trigger. For exercise, I do Flywheel five times a week. I'm obsessed with the fact that a class is only 45 minutes, and that you burn something like 600 calories. It's perfect for a working mom. The skin shows you symptoms of other problems. I don't diagnose anything, but I send clients to a physician or nutritionist. It's the first time many people have thought about the connection between their skin and what's going on inside of them. My favorite place to get healthy meals in New York is EN Japanese Brasserie. They have amazing sushi and sashimi. Their cooked food is also incredible; I went there a lot when I was pregnant. I could eat their miso black cod every day. When you have curly hair, any cut can be a traumatic experience. I go to Mandy Lyons, who does hair for movies but also does house calls. And I use Kérastase products, which are the only ones that work for my hair. My philosophy about beauty service is if it's not going to make me feel good, I'd rather skip it. I don't believe in someone who's fancy and is going to bark at me. They make money by preying on insecurities. If someone has really bad acne, I ask them to eat green vegetables with every meal, even breakfast. If they're resistant to any dietary changes, I make them go to Whole Foods to get liquid chlorophyll and do shots of it. My clients know they're going to come out of a facial looking pretty great. During the last Oscars, I treated Naomi Watts the same day. Everyone can benefit from seeing a nutritionist. People tend to be know-it-alls when it comes to their diet, but there's a lot of misinformation. They might not realize there's something they're doing wrong. If we could all debug that one thing, we'd be thinner and have better skin. When you're choosing a facialist, the more experience, the better. The more faces they've done, the more they know about different types of skin. You can call a place and ask. It's not secret information. Women should get a facial every month. It's good to check in and get an incredible exfoliation and do a mask. In between, you should exfoliate once a week, twice in warmer weather. What actresses do differently is to invest time in their nutrition and beauty routine. When they're working, they're not going to mess around with it. The most common bad habit I try to break clients of is extracting their own pimples. If you have to do it, use two Q-tips instead of your fingers. Another bad habit is using a crusty product you find at the bottom of a drawer. That's not going to end well. I don't understand plastic surgery as an aesthetic. My older clientele, who've never had anything done but maintained themselves with facials, have lines, but they look fresh and vibrant. I'm not a fan of filler or Botox. Some people can benefit from Fraxel if they've had a lot of sun damage, but really in moderation. I relax by going to Dr. Lipman every two weeks to get acupuncture. It's like a vacation. Celebrity facialist Joanna Vargas is also featured in the New York Times.