Few skin experts are as highly regarded as Joanna Vargas. The bicoastal aesthetician and brand founder spends her time between New York City and Los Angeles, spreading skin wisdom and tending to her A-List clientele (Naomi Watts, Vanessa Hudgens and Glenn Close among them). With 20 years experience to her name, she’s revered when it comes to skin, valued not only for her bespoke in-salon treatments but for her holistic, non-invasive philosophy.
I had the pleasure of visiting Vargas’ Fifth Avenue treatment space on a recent trip to New York to experience the magic myself, and unsurprisingly, the hype is warranted. Vargas has a knack for marrying science (LED, microcurrent) with pleasure (massage, dreamy white interiors, layers of hydrating product), resulting in a treatment that reveals brighter skin and a calmer disposition. As one who is well-versed in the realm of facials, I left her space speechless. My face was brighter and tighter (even post 24-hour flight and a punishing fashion week schedule… and lot of wine). Plus, my frazzled nervous system was soothed, if only for a New York minute, but still.
Fortunately, I also had the opportunity to ask Vargas some questions on skin health and its intricacies. Her ethos is simple and well rounded: good skin takes time and work, but it’s achievable. Here, she explains professional treatment options, ingredient know-how and the tricks to creating that celebrity red carpet glow. Keep reading for the interview.
GRAZIA: How did you get into skincare?
JOANNA: I’ve been obsessed with beauty products since I was a child. I also really paid attention to photography, magazine ads and commercials. As I grew up, I started out wanting to be a photographer, then a makeup artist. I went to esthetics school for makeup, but really fell in love with skincare and taking care of people one-on-one, and that was that. I gave myself a year once I got licensed to see how it would be and I never looked back.
GRAZIA: What’s your skincare philosophy?
JOANNA: When I opened my own salon in 2006 with my husband, I knew that I wanted to focus on teaching women to be the best version of themselves by doing things in a non-invasive way. I wanted the facials to be so special that my clients would leave incredibly happy and tell all their friends about it. My focus has always been about using beauty technology and results-driven treatments.
I am known for vetting the latest technologies and putting together a customised protocol for each individual client. Its that quality that made my salon successful and makes me excited about my work every single day. The reason I use non-invasive treatments in my salon is that I truly believe it’s the right path to real beauty and every woman I know will tell you that real beauty comes from how we feel about ourselves, not from what people tell us. My focus has been and will always remain on restoring confidence! I preach to people every day that there is no magic solution – anyone can achieve the skin they want by doing the steps every day.
It’s also always been a goal of mine as a skincare professional that you have to take care of your whole body, not just the skin on your face. That’s why I focus on providing treatments that will really give a glow from head-to-toe. As I created my skincare line, I wanted my products to be luxurious in experience and for clients to feel like they were getting a piece of my services with every use. Results, of course were my goal with every formula. All the products in my line do a variety of things and are made for everyone – they truly are the foundation for healthy skin!
GRAZIA: What ingredients do you wholeheartedly believe in?
JOANNA: Jojoba is awesome for everyone, even for acne. Jojoba tells the body to stop overproducing sebum so controls oily skin. I have it in my Rejuvenating Serum. Vitamin C is another key ingredient that everyone needs (found in my Rescue Serum). And retinol is amazing in a night time regimen.
My Daily Serum is made with so many incredible ingredients! It’s inspired by my love of green juicing. It contains my favourite ingredient, galactoarabinan, derived from the larch tree. It causes more cell turnover than a glycolic acid but it’s anti-inflammatory, so it doesn’t cause irritation (even in sensitive skin). It also contains oat grass juice for the lymphatic system, chlorophyll for oxygenation, vitamins A, C, E, F and hyaluronic acid.
GRAZIA: What about ingredients that are over-hyped?
JOANNA: I would avoid over stripping the skin with glycolic acid. This just signals to the skin to produce more oil.
GRAZIA: Acne-prone skin is one of the hardest conditions to treat. What are your recommendations in terms of professional grade options?
JOANNA: LED Light Therapy is incredible. It grows collagen in quantifiable percentages. In my salon we do several different treatments that involve LED light, but by far the most popular uses my patented RevitaLight Bed, which gives a client a full body treatment of healing LED. Studies have shown that LED light speeds healing of body by 300 per cent, corrects fine lines, wrinkles, sun damage and acne scars. It’s sort of like having a magic wand.
GRAZIA: And what about skin that feels dull and dry?
JOANNA: My Super Nova Facial exfoliates gently, hydrates and contours the skin while calming any inflammation.
GRAZIA: What does your own routine look like?
In the morning when I wake up, I wash my face with my Cloud Bar. I dry brush my body before I get in the shower. After my shower, I’ll apply my Daily Serum, Rejuvenating Serum, Daily Hydrating Cream and some sunscreen. For makeup, I’ll usually use Laura Mercier tinted moisturiser, Kevyn Aucoin eyebrow pencil, some blush and highlighter. I don’t wear a lot of makeup every day. I want clients to be able to see my skin, but I like a little something to make me look more done.
At night, I wash my face with my Vitamin C Face Wash. I exfoliate twice a week with my Exfoliating Mask and I do a sheet mask every night. Lately, I’ve been using my Twilight Face Mask with Epidermal Growth Factor. I follow that with my Super Nova Serum, which is my retinol serum.
GRAZIA: What is one skincare myth you would love to put to bed?
JOANNA: Lately I’ve seen a lot of discourse on sunscreen and whether it is helpful or harmful. Sunscreen is absolutely necessary, no matter your age or skin tone.
GRAZIA: What are your thoughts on diet and skin health?
JOANNA: Eating healthy is obviously good for many things, but if you want glowing skin, having a good diet is paramount. I find that the best skin diet is one that involves eating veggies of different colours and a green juice every day. I would also strongly suggest avoiding sugar, dairy and wheat. All of those things are hard to digest and can potentially lead to breakouts, even in adult skin. Most people don’t realise that skin directly correlates to our digestive system. If we eat something we can’t digest or have trouble digesting, there are consequences!
GRAZIA: What’s your go-to prep for celebrity clients ahead of red carpet events?
JOANNA: The Triple Crown Facial is my signature facial and still my number one request for a red carpet. I use a mild electric current to drain puffiness, tone muscle, tighten skin and reshape the face. By the end of the first treatment, the jawline will be more defined, cheekbones more pronounced and eyes will look refreshed. There is no downtime, the results are instant and the effects are cumulative!
I also always recommend LED light therapy to help keep the skin calm and restore strength and health to the skin. It uses red and infrared light to reduce inflammation, build collagen and speed the healing of the body. It’s great for instant glow, but the long-term benefits are also excellent: lessening of lines on the face, thickening of the skin and a glowing complexion.
GRAZIA: What was the process like writing your new book, Glow From Within?
JOANNA: I loved the process! I’ve been doing facials for almost 20 years and I have a tendency to hear about the same concerns from women all over the world. Every client has their own personal story with their skin, but most people think your skin is about your DNA. Part of what I do is educate my clients and explain that your skin is telling a story about what’s happening inside your body or happening in your life. I get lots of DMs from people all over asking questions, so I wanted to create a guide for people so that even if I never meet them or if they’re not based in LA or NYC. The book is about my advice, key ingredients, finding a key routine and what you can do to change the appearance of your skin.
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Joanna Vargas VITAMIN C Rescue Serum, $238. SHOP NOW
Joanna Vargas Rejuvenating serum, $158. SHOP NOW
Joanna Vargas daily serum, $135. SHOP NOW