When it comes to keeping our skin in tip top shape, New York-based aesthetician Joanna Vargas is the first person we call – and we’re not alone. Vargas’s roster of clients includes everyone from Rachel Weisz and Julianne Moor to Naomi Watts and Emily Mortimer. She’s been in the business for over two decades, has a skincare line of her own under her belt and is without doubt the reigning queen of the kind of non-invasive treatments that truly deliver. What makes what she does so special isn’t simply down to her talent. After all, there are countless aestheticians in New York who know what they’re doing – what separates Vargas has nothing to do with skin. She understands people.
In a world where we’re constantly bombarded with messages about what’s wrong with our skin, her approach is the opposite. She’s warm and welcoming and has makes it her mission to make clients feel safe in sharing their deepest insecurities about their skin in order to work together on solutions in a healthy way. As she pointed out when we caught up with her in her Fifth Avenue office, there is no quick fix to healthy skin – rather it takes time, work and solid routine to make a true difference. We quizzed her about her career journey, in-flight beauty and why prevention is better than cure. Because if her face is any indication, it works.
WHEN SHE KNEW SHE WANTED TO WORK IN SKINCARE: My path was a winding road for sure. I graduated from college and decided to move to New York to be a photographer, but I never found a way of pursuing that and keeping it as personal and private as when I was just shooting someone on my own, so I looked for a change in career. I realized quickly that I didn’t really have the personality for it – I was too shy. I thought makeup might be a way of being there in a different way, so I went for my esthetics license. Once I tried facials, I knew I had found my passion. I had always loved products and I love taking care of people. It was meant to be.
HER LOVE FOR SKINCARE RUNS DEEP: I was the girl that always had like four different body lotions and bubble baths. I loved lip gloss too – it was the eighties after all. And perfume. Opium, Paloma Picasso and Shalimar were my go-to scents. In high school, I had a whole regimen for my skin – just drug store stuff – but I was very aware of how good it made me feel to take care of myself.
ON WHY HER CLIENT LIST EXPLODED AFTER SHE QUALIFIED: My approach is simple: anyone can have great skin with the right routine. I am known for vetting technologies out there and designing a customized protocol for people. Natural products and non-invasive technologies are my signature. I do everything from the heart and with a lot of honesty. I am very real with people. I think ultimately I make people feel safe to tell me their deepest insecurity, while always being the one to give them a boost of confidence and the sense that we can address any concern in a healthy way. I always said that I wanted my own business, even in high school. I was entrepreneurial at heart so it was only a matter of time. I was inspired to create my own space after I felt I had developed my own view of the industry. I tried out so many ways of addressing people’s skin that was all over the spectrum – some ways very invasive and some ways not, until I figured out what my way was. It resonated with people and I am very proud of that.
HOW HER BEAUTY LINE CAME INTO BEING: When I started my salon, there were very few natural lines that focused on results, so that’s when I realized I needed to create the missing elements. My years as an esthetician gave me so much information about products on the market today and what works and what doesn’t. I know which actives are effective, which are hard to use and most importantly, how people feel about the products and ingredients. It’s fun to put things that I have heard my clients say over the years into action. I wanted products that provide good nutrition for the skin and multi-task when I use them. All the products in my line do a variety of things and are made for everyone – I always say that they’re the foundation for healthy skin. I have one revolutionary ingredient in all my formulas called galactoarabinan, which is naturally derived from the larch tree. It causes more cell turnover than a lactic or salicylic acid but is also an anti-inflammatory – it’s amazing!
HER STARRY FOLLOWING: My first celebrity client was Rachel Weisz—she’s been coming for eight years. She came because I knew someone she was close to. I met a few celeb makeup artists and hair people who started to trust me with their clients and things just took off. I adore Julianne Moore, she’s great. Helena Christensen is cool and very sweet. I’m very lucky because I love all of my clients for different reasons. If you sat outside my door and listened to me working you would know my facials are the loudest ever because we’re hysterically laughing. Emily Mortimer is a client; we just make each other laugh. It’s fun to hang out with a girlfriend and make her feel good about herself. Working with high profile women was not planned at all. Who could plan something like that?! I think they all are drawn by the fact that I offer non-invasive solutions with real results.
THE TREATMENTS HER CLIENTS SWEAR BY: My Forever Facial has become the top service celebs want. It uses Radio Frequency to tighten the skin beyond anything I have ever encountered before in non-invasive technologies. It causes an almost 20% increase in collagen production in the skin, while giving the person an instant face lift the day of the treatment. Most celebs do a series of eight in a row once a week to prep for a big red carpet or shooting a new movie. A favorite anti-aging weapon my clients invest in is LED light therapy with my patented full body LED Light Bed. It is a proven technology that literally works on everyone! LED Light is proven to not only to delay wrinkles, but it can also erase existing wrinkles with repeated sessions. LED light has been shown to build collagen in quantifiable percentages, which translates into better elasticity. My own skincare line is super popular with all my celeb clients too. My Rejuvenating Serum is their top pick because it’s nourishing, hydrating and leaves a nice glow. I encourage my celebrity clients to sleep in my Exfoliating Mask the night before a red carpet event. It evens out pigment, takes down inflammation and after a good night’s sleep in it, you wake up fresh faced like you have just had a facial.
ON HER NOT-SO-AVERAGE SCHEDULE: It changes every week. I just got back from L.A. this weekend and headed right back in the salon. I do hair and makeup for at least one photo shoot a week along with working with clients every day with business lunches and events mixed in. Right now, I’m finalizing the artwork and packaging for a new product and I am starting to talk with someone about organizing a fundraiser for a great organization I’d like to help. In between that stuff are more normal things, like taking my daughter to dance class, doing homework with my son and organizing a photo shoot of my kids and their cousins for a Christmas gift for my mother in law. I am one of those hyper-organized people so even though I’m busy, I tend to make it work. Jet lag from LA is a killer though. I’m tired!
DEBUNKING SKINCARE MYTHS: I hate the idea that beauty is just defined by one type of look. I think the real beauty lies in what makes us unique and non-invasive treatments that enhances what makes you beautiful. I also hate that women look for the holy grail in product and services. There won’t be one product or service that’s magic, and I can assure you that there isn’t one celeb out there that does one thing. It’s the combination of treatments that makes us our best, glowiest selves. I think people are getting the idea that you need to be healthy on the inside to be the best version of you too. I’m so happy for that change.
SKINCARE ROUTINE: I always wash my face at night, so in the morning I simply rinse my face with tepid water. I don’t like using extreme temperatures on my skin because this tends to dry it out. I apply my Rejuvenating Serum to my face and neck and follow with Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer. I don’t wear much make-up for work – I think it’s nicer to see clean, fresh skin. I apply a bit of mascara and a lip color. I never go to bed without washing my face. I use my Vitamin C Face Wash, which is a foaming exfoliating cleanser. I take my makeup off with that as well because I hate fussing with tons of products. I follow with my Daily Serum – the skin needs greens, and my formula is packed with vital greens for the skin. I apply it all over, even to the eye area. It makes the skin hydrated and lightens and brightens my face for morning. If I have a big event the next day, I will sometimes go to sleep with my Exfoliating Mask on my face.
IN-FLIGHT SKINCARE TIPS: Travelling seriously dehydrates the skin so I encourage my clients to take my Rejuvenating Serum on board. Using it mid-flight will rehydrate the skin thanks to the olive and rosehip oil. The Jojoba Oil in it will ensure that your pores won’t be clogged once you arrive at your destination too. I also have clients pack rosewater toner in a spray bottle. Rosewater is incredibly hydrating, so if you spray it directly on your face, it gets moisture into the skin immediately. If you’re traveling overseas, I recommend doing it twice mid-flight and your skin will be refreshed when you get off the airplane.
WHY YOU NEED TO GET INTO A ROUTINE NOW: Anti-aging needs to start early. There are two types of women: women who take care of their skin from very early on and people who wait until they see things they don’t like. A good routine needs to start when you’re young so you can slow down the aging process. Your early twenties are the time to start taking skincare more seriously and realize it’s a lifestyle you will be rewarded for. I always recommend clients have facials once a month. Nothing you do at home can replace a professional exfoliation, extraction and attention!
HER TAKE ON FILLERS AND BOTOX: I never judge a woman for seeking injectables but I tend to attract women who are seeking alternatives to that. I don’t think they are for everyone and I would encourage anyone who is thinking about them to try a results-oriented facial first. You might be surprised at how much you get out of it.