How did you first become interested in skincare, and what led you to become an esthetician?
For my BA thesis project at UofC, I was examining the way a woman's image was used/commodified in media and society in general. I took hundreds of pictures of all my girlfriends and women who I admired and asked them to define what made them feel beautiful. It was an incredible project because here were these incredible, diverse women and they all showed up for their photo shoots wearing their favorite outfits and almost no makeup. Think about that! That whole idea of what makes a woman feel beautiful is present today in the way I do facials and the way I educate clients in taking care of themselves.
Anyway, I came to New York with a lot of passion for photography, 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 considered doing makeup and ended up going for an esthetics license. I took to it immediately -- I love the one-on-one time, I love the trust I develop with my clients and I love helping them achieve their goals and making them feel beautiful.
When did you open Joanna Vargas Skin Care, and how did it grow from an idea to reality?
I opened the salon two years ago. I guess it was always in the long-term plan. I am a strong woman with very definite ideas about the way things should be done. Even when I worked for other people, I took a lot of pride in my work and the way a client was treated. I strongly feel that every woman needs her private time and my salon is her space to have that moment. I don't want clients to be assailed with TVs and tabloid magazines about which celebrity client I see. I want them to feel like it's all about them.
I suppose that what really drove me was becoming a mom. A working mom always has some inner conflicts about the time you spend away from your child. I knew that I wanted my work life to be as fulfilling as my home life. I had heard about so many amazing new treatments and products from other countries and everyone here was just doing the same old stuff. I was so inspired by the wonderful richness of the new technologies coming out of Europe, especially in the beauty industry. And, as always, I really wanted to bring the best to my clients, so my salon was born.
What are some of the highlights in your career?
1) Having a client tearfully thank me for helping her finally get rid of the acne she had since she was a teen.
2) Being forced to open my doors early to my new salon because a client had flown in from Europe just to have my facial.
3) Having an absolute fashion icon tell me he loved the way I styled my salon and the way I dressed.
I know those are more just special moments for me, but that's what my career is made out of!
What is your daily beauty and skincare regimen?
1) I wash my face every day with Ila Cleanser and use their Face Oil. I am an absolute addict. Best products I have ever used by far.
2) I can't live without Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer -- it has a great finished look without making you look too covered and it has SPF.
3) Giorgio Armani makeup -- the best ever and I never feel like I look too "done."
4) Eminence Mineral Sunscreen Powder -- it keeps my makeup in place all day and I am a freak about using a lot of SPF.
5) I wash my face at night with the Ila Cleanser again and the Clarisonic -- I love how clean I feel!
6) I'm sure my hairdresser, Kattia Solano from Butterfly Studio, would wish for more hair care, but I just put it in a bun and run out the door!
What are your top 3 skincare tips?
Okay, so when I have a new client in the salon, I beg them to do three things as a minimum:
1) Always wash your face before bed, no matter how tired you are. It is beyond essential. All that grime from your day is just sitting there along with your makeup and your skin can't breathe! It needs to be cleaned so it can repair and renew itself for tomorrow.
2) Exfoliate! It's a step people always skip, but it really is like doing a mini-facial twice a week. It makes your products penetrate better to have all the dead cells removed from the surface and it's great for getting rid of fine lines and pigment.
3) Wear SPF every day! The sun is the biggest culprit for all the things clients complain about -- lines, pigment, elasticity issues. Everyone, no matter the skin tone, needs SPF.
What is your favorite treatment at Joanna Vargas Skin Care and why?
My new fave is a facial I call the MultiVitalight Facial. It's a combo of microdermabrasion, LED Light Therapy, oxygen and an amazing custom blend of a three-layer vitamin mask that literally erases all the lines on the face. It even gets rid of hyperpigmentation! I love it because you are feeding the skin all of these extra vitamins it needs while hydrating it and stimulating collagen. It's the most complex treatment I offer and the most complete. It's sort of a signature of mine to really push the boundaries of what can be done and think outside the box in terms of skincare, and I think this treatment really embodies that.
What is the most rewarding part of what you do?
Easily it's really being able to help someone improve something about themselves that was always a source of insecurity. I get so close to people and I feel like it's such a privilege to know them as well as I do. I get to have friends in all sorts of industries from all over the world. I meet people I would never have the opportunity to know and that is truly the most fun.
Working as a facialist must be fun -- but what do you do for fun in your spare time?
I still love taking pictures -- I always have a camera on me. I also love to paint -- I try and paint at least once a week either alone or with my son painting next to me. Now my favorite thing to do is be with my son and share new experiences with him -- I remember one Sunday we spent an entire afternoon looking for spiders in the woods behind our house. I can't tell you how fun that was!
Thanks so much to the fabulous Joanna Vargas for this wonderful interview. Be sure to check out her website for more information on her treatments -- and next time you're in NYC, stop by the salon for an absolutely amazing experience!