A few weeks ago, we kicked off a new blog series, #Skinterviews, with our very own CEO & Founder Alicia Yoon.
In this series we’ll talk to women who inspire us about the role skin care plays in their lives, how they became interested in taking care of their skin, what motivates them to do so, and more. Products might come up here and there, but the journey is at the heart of this series. After all, we believe in skin care as a practice of self-care, a ritual—an almost meditative one at that.
This series is intended to remind us that our skin care rituals should, and can be something we look forward to, and our skin situations, just that—situations, ones that we feel empowered, and capable of changing, maintaining, overhauling, or simply controlling to keep our skin at its healthiest!
Today, we’re delighted to introduce you to another one of our favorite beauty entrepreneurs, Joanna Vargas, who, as far as we’re concerned, gives one of the best facials in New York City, an opinion many of her A-list celebrity clients would agree with!
On Beauty—In Life and In Work
“I have always been a product junkie. Even when I was a little girl. When I was five, six years old, there was a product line called Tinkerbell, and it was all bath products, and I had every single one. I had all these different bath salts, and powders, and lotions, and bubble baths, stuff like that. I had every kind of lip gloss you could imagine, like every flavor, because there was Coke and Dr. Pepper and all that stuff, so I’ve always been into products. I was the first girl in my class at school to start wearing makeup and talk about makeup, I taught everyone at school how to do their makeup. So I’m a beauty person. It’s in my DNA.
I think, as far as getting into skincare as a career, I graduated from school intending to be a photographer, and that’s what I came to New York to do, but I didn’t feel like I had the stomach for a freelance career, or a career that was so highly intense. I was really shy when I was young and just to be on set, and yelled at—no, I couldn’t do that. So I went to beauty school with the idea of, “well maybe I’ll do makeup,” because it was my other interest and my other passion. My thesis in college was about a woman’s image and feminism, and how, really, beauty is about what it gives you on the inside, not what you’re doing for the opposite sex, or your partner, or whatever—it’s for you, and that was really my argument. And even though that’s like a 90s feminist concept, it’s still true today. A confident woman is a woman who’s doing things for herself, and that for me, is what I do for women.
If you look back on everything, it sort of is so obvious that I should have done this and that I actually ended up doing this. It makes me happy that I finally found the right mix for me.
On The True Meaning of Beauty
I joke around a lot, I have a client who’s a famous actress, who was shooting a movie, and the entire time she was shooting the movie, her makeup artist was telling her “you’re so pretty but if you would only get botox in your neck, it would be so much better.” So she came home and she asked, “do you think I should get botox in my neck? what’s the deal with that?” And I talk about that a lot, with clients, as an example.
You need to fire people who don’t raise you up. This woman, if you guys knew who it was, you would say, “well, we might as well all just kill ourselves, because there’s no fucking hope.” What I try to tell women is that the point of doing anything in beauty is, to make you feel better, not worse. If someone’s making you feel worse, you just fire them and move on.
On the Beauty Industry
Lots of things make me roll my eyes. My employees have a joke that they’re gonna send out a GIF of me giving side-eye. I’m the queen of the side-eye. So—what gets my heart racing is sort of thinking outside of the box. A lot of categories in Korean beauty are very innovative: like, the fact that there’s a big category of sleeping beauty products. I’ve been doing masks to sleep in since I was in beauty school, but nobody, I’d never heard of that before. That’s not something that I got from somebody, I was just like fuck it, I’m going to put it on all over my face and sleep in it, it’s got to be good! And there was a mask in beauty school that I really liked and I would sleep in it before and I had a date with this guy I really liked. I think that kind of thing, when something resonates as a truth for me, to discover there’s a whole category—which here, nobody’s ever heard of, that makes me excited. Innovative massage technique for the face—there is, I totally can’t pronounce it, there’s a Korean massage, that’s like, you basically can lose weight if you do it everyday, and it’s really painful, there are videos of it on YouTube—we have a Korean facialist here, Jessica, who teaches me about some of those techniques—that’s something really special, specific, that I feel is really innovative, that excites me. Things that make me roll my eyes, are treatments that just have a lot of buzzwords. Beautyeditors need to look for things that are different, and I get that, I know that they guys need it—the other day—Jennifer Fisher is a client of mine. She texted me a photograph of somebody’s Instagram getting a facial, I don’t wanna say exactly what it was, but she was like “what the fuck is this!?” the thing is, with the LED lights, if they’re too far away from the surface of the skin—if they don’t have enough penetration, you’re just having a red light on your face. You might as well just pop in a red light bulb. It looks really cool…it’s a great photograph, but it’s not really doing anything. Same with, there was another thing the girl was doing in the picture, and again, it’s such a load of shit, but it sounds really awesome. What I think that clients have come to understand is that I am going to vet all of the technologies out there and decide what is worthy of being here and what is going to show a big difference in the skin. So, I give major side-eye to that.
On Getting Older & Self-Care
When you’re younger you don’t think about it. It’s kind of like the syndrome of thinking you’re not going to get old, or oh, that won’t happen to me, or whatever younger women think. I never really pictured myself as getting older. It’s not something you really spend a lot of airtime on, when you’re 25, ya know, and everything is perfect and where it needs to be. But I’m 45 years old, and I’ve gotta keep things glued together.
It takes more effort to do that, and that’s okay to admit that, and I do feel that that’s something that’s important for people to know, is, it’s alright that it takes a little bit of effort. It’s not so different from the fact that you can’t just eat Doritos everyday and expect things are gonna work out, health wise. You need to put a little effort into your diet and a little effort into exercise whereas when I was younger I was more active—I didn’t have to go to the gym every day. I was spending whole weekends dancing.
Women have this idea, a lot, especially when their skin isn’t great, that beauty is genetics, and I am here to preach to the world, that beauty doesn’t have to be all about genetics. Anybody can have beautiful skin, it’s all about what you put in, and all about what you put on. The effort that you put in will be reflected. Your skin is just a kind of window, or a diagnostic to what’s happening on your insides. And once you can kind of break the habit of thinking “oh I just wasn’t born with good skin,” anybody can do it, you just have to eat right and take good care of it.j
On Her Own Routine
I dry brush my body, before I get in the shower, every morning. Ya know, bottom to top. I love dry brushing just because it’s good for your circulation, it’s good for cellulite, and keeping your skin thick and beautiful. Then, I jump in the shower. For my face, I wash my face—somebody gifted me this soap from Japan, it’s called Collagen soap. It’s basically to hydrate the skin and it’s sort of like a jelly—it looks like a piece of jell-o. It makes my face feel so soft and amazing, so I wash my face with that. Then, when I get out of the shower, I cover myself in my Daily Serum—head-to-toe. I have a big vat of it. I do that, then I use this serum for my pigment that’s called melacream, that’s a tiny little bit of retinol mixed with a lot of natural ingredients, so that’s another serum that I use. I use a Vitamin C serum after that. Then I use my face oil, which is my Rejuvenating Serum. Then I do my Daily Hydrating Cream, and I have an eye cream that will be launching soon and I use that actually all over my face, not just my eye area, because it’s thicker and it has de-puffing qualities to it—it has sweet potato in it, so it really makes my face, I think, thinner and more sculpted. So then I do tinted moisturizer and all of my makeup and my SPF and then over my makeup, I do an SPF 30 translucent powder.
At night, I wash my face with my Vitamin C Face Wash to get all my makeup off and stuff, and then I use my collagen soap. And then I do the exact same routine at night time. But a couple nights a week I will sleep in masks. Nighttime is the body’s time to repair itself, it’s such a no-brainer, that of course, you’re assisting the repair process and you’re able to rejuvenate faster.
Mostly for hydrating—I’ll either do, some type of shea butter, fruit mask for hydrating, or I’ll do my Exfoliating Mask. Another thing I do at night for my whole body, is I cover myself head-to-toe in coconut oil, which is really, really awesome, like a sort of omega-3 fatty acid mask. It’s anti-inflammatory, it’s hydrating, it’s super-rich. But I mean, it sinks in, it’s not like you make a mess of your bed. I like the feeling of it, especially in winter time. I think it’s just really important to take care of all of your skin—not just your face.
On Being The Go-To Celebrity Facialist
It’s funny, it is something I think about, reflect upon a lot because it is very surreal when the women that you admire the most are coming to you as their trusted confidante when it comes to their face, and other things. When I got my license, I knew I liked taking care of people, and I liked giving facials, and I kind of gave myself a year to test it out. I worked at an organic spa in TriBeCa—it was all Polish girls and they were like “oh darling, you look terrible! let me fix it” and I think, what I realized a few months in, was “this can’t be all. I need more. I need more information.” And I just became a real, consumer, of beauty books, and ideas. And I started applying for jobs, in other types of fields—I worked for a dermatologist for a year. I worked at a day spa, and all these different places to try to learn different aspects of the job. I remember taking a job at one spa once because I really wanted to learn about body wraps and there’s really no way to learn about them until you can actually do them on people and see for yourself what the product is, if it’s really working, if it’s worth doing a body wrap or a mud wrap—so I just became a sponge. And eventually, I felt like I had enough knowledge to open my own place. And I became just really good at taking care of people, and I think that’s what people hear about.
I think personality has a lot to do with it. I’m good at making people feel comfortable. I’m not judgmental and I’m not pushy. I had a first-time celebrity client come last week—a model, a really famous model for a long time now. She told me gets facials once a year. She’s already pretty, ya know. She knows that! She has children, busy life, blah blah blah. She told me she went to another facialist, for last year’s facial, who, she’s kind of big in the Vogue/Harper’s Bazaar world, and I think she has a couple of celebs, but that girl tried to get this once-a-year person to do a routine, a beauty routine, nightly, that was over a half-hour long. And it’s just not realistic to take a client like that, and try to push them into something they’re not going to do. If someone tells me “once a year,” I think “okay, it’s my job to figure out what’s the best for your skin with what you’re willing to give me. It’s not to be a dictator. And I think people really respond to that quality in me.