A facialist recommendation from a well-informed friend is worth its weight in gold-infused night serum. If you’ve been lucky enough to be on the receiving end of one of these private email exchanges or speed-dial calls, then you’re well aware of the crystal-clear complexion nirvana that typically follows. If not, read on below for our favorite bicoastal beauty gurus, whose names have been amassed through covert coffee shop conversation, whispered backstage exchanges, and the occasional emoji-filled text.
New York City
The Hungarian-born Pekar studied chemistry in Budapest, where she honed her skin care and formulating skills before coming to the States sixteen years ago. “I also learned how important it is to take care of your internal beauty,” she says. That’s why Pekar—who has become a favorite of models like Miranda Kerr and Irina Shayk—asks clients to arrive one hour in advance of their appointments so she has time to talk about their skin and their lifestyle. Then she customizes a cocktail of treatments that include natural and organic solutions, as well as stronger peels with a big focus on antiaging. “I really believe in electricity,” Pekar says, referencing her arsenal of European-sourced microcurrent, radio frequency, and electric muscle stimulator (EMS) machines. “They’re little personal trainers,” she explains of using them to plump, tone and even slim facial contours. “We make sure we work your skin out.”
315 Madison Avenue, Suite 2600
Shiman, who has been a regular presence backstage at the Victoria’s Secret show for years, is on the speed dial of the world’s most celestial supermodels. Her secret to making sure she provides a glowing complexion to pair with those glittering 20-foot wings? “I use the oxygen machine and then everything looks brighter and more beautiful,” she reveals. A firm believer in the basics, Shiman treats clients with steam, exfoliation, massages, hydration, and “a lot of extractions,” which she boosts with oxygen infusions for a full, plump finish. Her calling card, however, is that no one ever leaves her office red or blotchy. According to Pekar, “it’s all about technique.”
5 East Fifty-ninth Street
An actress turned yoga and Reiki practitioner who made her personal commitment to herbs and nutrition into a career after a stint at the Aveda Institute in SoHo, Niknejad is a born healer and aesthetician. “Growing up, I waxed my friends’ eyebrows and made them homemade masks,” she laughs. She’s still mixing up homespun recipes at her unassuming studio in the Flatiron District, where a cadre of the city’s holistic-minded editors, curators, and designers flock for Niknejad’s customized facials. Once a pH test determines whether a client is acidic or alkaline, Niknejad cleanses, exfoliates, and hydrates with raw, fresh seasonal ingredients that she blends on site and distills into her increasingly popular product line, Just Be. Making the case for beauty’s recent New Age movement, Niknejad also uses crystals strategically while she works to “absorb electromagnetic rays” and calm the skin. Her other secret for a healthy glow? Bells. “Sound healing breaks any negative energy fields,” she says.
As the youngest of ten siblings raised on a farm in Taiwan, Hsu learned to find beauty in the everyday at a young age. ”We discovered [skin care] secrets under our feet,” she says of a childhood spent splashing leftover green tea onto her face to soothe sunburn and using discarded watermelon skin as toner. Hsu, who is based in London but holds regular residencies at W hotels worldwide and at the Carlyle Hotel in New York City, credits her world-renowned touch to time spent studying shiatsu, which gave rise to a facial technique that has been dubbed the “Su-Man Skin Reborn Sculpting Facial” by her devoted clientele. After a bespoke analysis, Hsu cleanses, extracts, and tones the complexion with her own self-titled line of products, which launched last year, before delivering moisturizing ingredients into the skin with a signature massage protocol that is repeated 36 times—a reference to the ancient Chinese belief that the number six is lucky and helps invoke “a perfect state of health and happiness.”
A trained massage therapist who became a film set mainstay on productions like Black Swan, Nguyen eventually transferred his skills north of the neck and shoulders—winning a black book’s worth of celebrity clients along the way with his singular touch. Enlisted by Robert De Niro to design the protocols for his Greenwich Hotel Shibui Spa, he soon went on to open his own Hamptons sanctuary, La Don, in 2013. These days, he’s also available for bookings at New York City’s Agua Studio. An opponent of “old world” extractions, Nguyen prefers to boost clarity, brightness, and firmness with lymphatic drainage and detoxifying cupping, which exercises facial muscles and can even stave off the need for injections. “I essentially take the muscles through a boot camp,” he says.
La Don Spa
382 Montauk Highway
Wainscott, New York
A recovering sun worshipper who spent her formative years tanning sans SPF, Wagner started taking better care of herself—and her skin—after committing to yoga more than a decade ago. As an artist and painter who loved working with her hands, she initially pursued the study of aesthetics out of intrigue more than anything else. When she started doing facials on her painting clients, something just clicked. These days, her nine-year-old Venice Beach boutique studio has amassed a cult following, thanks to Wagner’s expertise in unclogging pores with a combination of manual exfoliation, enzyme peels, microdermabrasion, and extractions as well as microcurrent for tightening, lifting, and firming. “I love to get results that my clients are happy with,” says Wagner, who has recently become a go-to for the wedding set. “Nothing is more gratifying then transforming a bride’s complexion for the big day.”
1636 Abbot Kinney Boulevard, Second Floor
After a struggle with adult acne left Mari in a state of emotional duress in her late-twenties, she sought out an aesthetician who didn’t just change her skin, but also changed her life. “Through the process of healing my skin, she healed my emotions,” says Mari, who went on to turn the experience into the foundation for her career. Structuring her facials on individual skin issues, rather than a set menu of services, Mari is a big believer in technology and often multitasks seven different systems in one treatment, including vitamin-infused microdermabrasion; microcurrent electric therapy; LED Light therapy; hyperbaric oxygen infusions; and micro channeling (a fractional micro-needling device that effectively targets pigmentation and enlarged pores).
9350 Wilshire Boulevard, #204
A Bay Area–born beauty expert with a background in environmental engineering, Holey’s path to skin care success has included a stint studying cosmetic formulation and perfumery composition at Versailles’s Institut Supérieur International du Parfum de la Cosmétique et de L’Aromatique Alimentaire (ISIPCA) in France, as well as a formulating gig for Oakland-based organic brand By Nieves. But it was her apprenticeship with bold-faced French biochemist Joëlle Ciocco in Paris two years ago that has put Holey’s name on the lips of an impressive list of influencers. “I believe that looking at someone’s skin is incredibly powerful and telling,” says Holey, who thrives on the problem-solving aspect of her job—determining the external but, more importantly, the internal problems that cause skin issues. A typical session with Holey, who currently travels between San Francisco and New York City, consists of a dialogue about lifestyle, diet, and stress-levels before the green-leaning skin purifying, nourishing, stimulating, and protecting begins. Line-diminishing deep-tissue massage, a personalized after-care protocol, and reliably good conversation make her hour-and-a-half sessions worth every penny.
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