Joanna Vargas $40
How the celebrity “skin whisperer” gained an incredibly devoted clientele.
Written By JAYME CYK
In a new series, VIOLET GREY profiles female beauty entrepreneurs who are considered industry game changers for their individual approach to business. Each one entered the conversation in her own manner and maintained a steady, if not unparalleled, trajectory with her indomitable spirit.
“I believe skincare products should provide nutrition for the complexion,” says famed aesthetician Joanna Vargas. “Once we have that, we will have glowing skin all the time.” She’s the facialist whose hands have worked on some of the most famous faces in Hollywood (Rachel Weisz was her first celebrity client), but Vargas wasn’t always focused on skincare.
After graduating from the University of Chicago, she relocated to New York City to pursue a career in photography. But when she realized it wasn’t the right path, she regrouped and decided to try her hand at makeup artistry. “I went to aesthetics school to [learn about] makeup, but while I was there, I fell in love with doing facials,” she recalls. “I love taking care of people, figuring out their skin, and knowing that my clients turn to me for the most important events in their lives.”
After a slew of jobs in skin care—including a stint as an aesthetician at the Ula Day Spa in Tribeca and working with dermatologist Dr. Brad Katchen—Vargas opened her own practice in 2006. Very quickly she became the go-to skin guru to the stars—Julianne Moore, Jessica Alba, and Naomi Watts are among the flawless-faced beauties on her client roster. “I am known for vetting the latest technology on the market and then curating a customized protocol for each client,” she explains. “But the most rewarding part of the job, by far, is developing a trusting relationship with a client.”
In 2011, Vargas unveiled her eponymous skin care collection. She launched with four products, and today there are 15, including a Daily Serum, Vitamin C Face Wash, and an Exfoliating Mask. “Each of my formulas has result-oriented ingredients that penetrate the skin and deliver an instant glow,” she says. “My focus has been and will always be restoring confidence. I preach to people every day that there is no magic solution-—anyone can achieve the skin they want by doing the right steps every day.”
After years of trekking to Los Angeles from the East Coast to see her devoted clientele, Vargas finally opened her own space in West Hollywood last year. “I have built my business largely by word of mouth,” she adds. “The more I make someone feel good, the more she goes home and tells her best friends!”
What is the atmosphere of your bedroom?
My bedroom is meant to be a calming sanctuary. We really shut off at night; I don’t have a TV in the room. It’s very minimal and the colors are soothing.
Please describe your bed and your favorite thing about it.
Our bed is our chill-out space. Instead of a headboard I covered padded panels with fabric that run along the whole wall behind the bed. My favorite thing about my bed is my mattress. My husband and I are bed people—we like to be super comfortable, and this mattress is the best thing we’ve ever bought.
What time do you wake up?
5 a.m. I usually try and start my day before my house wakes up. I usually read for an hour and then exercise. It’s chaotic once the kids are up, so 5 a.m. is my only time alone.
How many hours of sleep do you require?
Seven hours is a must! I’m just too busy for any less.
Any bedside beauty essentials?
I always have some sort of lip balm. Right now I’m loving the Hourglass No. 28 Lip Treatment Oil. It’s natural and packed with lots of essential oils for rejuvenating the lipid layer. I’ll have a hand/body cream nearby—my favorite is Rodin Crema. And I have a little stash of my sheet masks. I use one every night.
Do you drink coffee or tea, eat breakfast?
I love Dr. Frank Lipman for many reasons, but I think his Recharge shake is brilliant. It’s all greens with whey protein. My daughter and I split that. I never feel hungry and the greens gives me a great kick of energy in the morning.
Do you work out in the a.m.?
I recently purchased a Peloton bike for my home. I am completely in love with how easy it is to work out. Robin is my favorite.
What is your morning skincare regimen?
I apply Neova Maximum Body Repair Lotion all over because it repairs the skin completely. For face, I apply my own Daily Serum first, followed by my Rejuvenating Serum. I love an oil on my skin, and I feel like I’m glowing once I put this one on. I finish with my own Daily Hydrating Cream and sunscreen. If I have an important day ahead of me, I’ll sit with my Exfoliating Mask on my face while I read the paper, which is usually about 20 minutes. It’s great because it really resurfaces the skin and makes it a perfect clean palette for makeup.
What makeup and products do you use on a daily basis?
Kevyn Aucoin’s tinted moisturizer goes great over my Daily Hydrating Cream (I wear that under my makeup every day), and it gives me a finished look without covering up my skin. I also love Bite Beauty High Pigment Matte Lip Pencil in Poppy and Bite Beauty Lip Primer. The color is amazing because it’s saturated, which is uncommon for a natural beauty product. It contains the same amount of resveratrol as five glasses of wine, so it’s a super-antioxidant and doesn’t have any parabens. I love to pair it with the primer, which is perfect for eliminating feathering around the mouth when you wear a bright lip color.
What’s your hair situation in the a.m.?
I am obsessed with OUAI products. I have never used anything better for my hair. I wear my hair up a lot for work, so I actually bought some of Jen Atkin’s pretty hair accessories so I look done.
What’s the first thing you read each morning?
I like reading Huffington Post, The New York Times, and some of my beauty news resources. It’s nice to kind of catch up on what’s happening before I start moving.
What business do you conduct before 10:00 a.m.?
Being a little strict about my personal time makes me more efficient and also lets me relax when I’m off. My first appointment is at 9, so by 10 o’clock I am done taking care of my first face of the day.
What time do you head to your office?
I’m usually out the door by 7:30 a.m.