For over two decades, Joanna Vargas has been making a name for herself by exploring some of the most innovative treatments in skincare. Specializing in everything from LED light therapy bed treatments to full-body microdermabrasion, she constantly pushes the limits of the typical spa treatment.
Along with this, Vargas has, for many years, also been behind the glowing faces of celebrities and skincare addicts alike. Earlier this month, for example, she prepped Rachel Brosnahan, Betty Gilpin, Greta Gerwig, Gwendoline Christie, and Daniel Levy for the Critics’ Choice Awards. But that’s not all; Julianne Moore, Jessica Alba, and Naomi Watts are just a few of her clients that often turn to Vargas for A-list events and regular facials.
Lucky for us, Vargas’ first book Glow from Within ($27, amazon.com) is set to be released in early February. Considered the ultimate lifestyle guide for flawless skin, the book covers everything from Vargas' top skincare tips, to in-depth advice, and how every single aspect of your lifestyle can, in turn, affect your skin.
“The whole idea for the book is based on the concept that anyone can have great skin and you just have to really honor yourself with the right program,” explained Vargas, from her New York City-based spa. “I think a lot of people look in the mirror and they criticize themselves a lot. The point of the book is just to address that feeling and really give you something to take action on that's really simple and straightforward and will yield really good results.”
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Here, in anticipation of the launch, we spoke with Vargas about her best beauty secrets, her favorite treatments, what she always travels with. and her favorite spa in the world.
Departures: You’ve mentioned that one of the main things that has inspired you is that people ask you a lot of similar questions. What would you say is your most asked question?
Joanna Vargas: "My most-asked question is, ‘where do I begin?’ You know, lots of people have the idea that they want to see better skin for themselves and they just don't know where to start with that or what the basics are."
Do you have a favorite part of the book that you worked on?
"I liked the fact that I was able to incorporate a few stories from clients that I've worked on. I liked the whole practical section about getting sleep, [and] cutting back or leaving alcohol behind if you want to have glowing skin. Those kinds of things, I think, are basic ideas that people don't think have an effect on the way that they look, but they really do."
In all of your experience, do you have a few unexpected skincare tips that you'd never think work but now you sort of live by?
"It's sort of my job and has always been to work with what I'm given and figure out the puzzle for everybody. You know, if you're breaking out and you're not sleeping enough because of your job and you're not eating great, what can I incorporate into your routine that would work for you, besides advising you to change careers? Some things are so simple, like eating vegetables with every meal. When I first went to school for aesthetics, no one would talk to me about diet. Now there's so much that has to do with your gut in terms of your overall body health, I never thought that I would need to know so much about nutrition.
When giving a facial, I 100% ask clients about this. I want to hear it all. The most common thing that people say is, ‘what can I do to increase my glow?’ And that's such a broad question, I have to take a deep dive into people's lives and figure out what's going on with them and what I can do to help them. I just finished a facial on somebody and I recommended that she get a Peleton bike. That's pretty random but she just hasn't been exercising. She's older and I think it would be like a good addition into her routine and it would make a difference in her skin."
Are there any other unexpected recommendations you find yourself making?
"I often recommend, for people who have a hard time shutting down at night, water with calcium-magnesium powder in it. It can then relax your muscles, putting you to sleep right away and it's good for your lymphatic system—which helps skin."
Are there any products or ingredients that people seem to love that you can't get behind?
"All of what’s in the beauty industry has a use and a purpose. I think people overuse retinols and glycolics, things like exfoliating and cell turnover ingredients. You can really overuse all of that and make your skin sensitive and red. The skin needs balance."
If you could only use one product or treatment, what would you recommend for people?
"If you could only use one thing, I guess I would use a nighttime retinol like my Supernova serum ($295; dermstore.com). It increases cell turnover, it helps your skin repair itself overnight, and it's the best way of getting the kind of skin you want to have.
For me, the game changer has also been my Twilight facial, which is a combination of radiofrequency with microneedling. It's as close to a facelift and total skin rejuvenation that I've ever seen in my life. And it's exciting to give to people and it's exciting to see the result. I can get my current needling done to my base monthly, just for skin tightening and pore refining and all of that good stuff. If you have acne scars, maybe you would do three of those treatments a year. It would really depend on what you're trying to fix, but you see results immediately, which is very exciting."
What are the skincare tips that you recommend for this time of year when it's very cold outside and dry inside?
"I always recommend exfoliating. Once a week is plenty. Any more than that and you really make your skin really sensitive. Use an oil based serum because of all of those good fats in the oil. It's all very repairing. It holds hydration in the skin better and is calming."
What groundbreaking treatments do you recommend for this time of year?
"Lymphatic massage, which we do at the salon, really stimulates the lymphatic system and the lymphatic system helps restore nutrients. At my salon, we have a lymphatic drainage massage therapy where you can take before and after pictures and see how different you look just in one session. We also do air compression booties, which are great for stimulating while you're getting a facial."
What trends are you seeing right now in skincare?
"I think that the trend is most people in the media industry are going towards the science of beauty, healthy skin, and beautiful skin. And what are the proven ingredients? What are the proven technologies? You know, what studies have been done with these technologies? I think that that's what appeals to clients the most. Hearing the science behind what you're doing, so it's not just everybody's opinion about something."
What products do you always travel with?
"I always travel with my Twilight Mask ($75; dermstore.com), which is an epidermal growth factor mask, on flights. It's amazing and really repairing and hydrating. I always go coast to coast with my travel, or to Europe, and on those flights your skin needs extra hydration. Midway through the trip I always bring my Rejuvenating Serum ($100; dermstore.com). No matter what climate I'm coming from or going into, the good fats—like olive oil—really help keep my skin from getting irritated from travel and also keep it more glowing and hydrated. I take my Cloud Bar, ($22; dermstore.com) which is a hydrating bar. It’s soothing, calming, but also hydrating."
What’s your favorite beauty destination in the world?
"I get spa treatments everywhere I go. Because that's what makes me feel like I hit the reset button. When I was in Stockholm this past year for the first time, I stayed at the Grand Hotel and they have a really great Nordic spa in the hotel. They have mineral pools and it is the most luxurious spa I've ever been to. They have pools that are separated, for men and women. You can soak in it before and after your treatment. And that is really luxurious."