What I Learned About Self-Care from Celebrity Skincare Guru Joanna Vargas

As I rode the elevator up to the Joanna Vargas Salon on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, I smoothed my top and patted my close-cropped buzz cut a few times to ensure I looked presentable

Photo: Unsplash/Tyler Nix

Photo: Unsplash/Tyler Nix

As I rode the elevator up to the Joanna Vargas Salon on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, I smoothed my top and patted my close-cropped buzz cut a few times to ensure I looked presentable. Admittedly, I was still adjusting to my new cut and desperate for some skincare 101 to feel confident in my own skin.

Joanna Vargas, an esthetician to the stars, was more than five hours away in Los Angeles helping her clients achieve a flawless glow for the upcoming Emmy Awards (including Emmy winner Rachel Brosnahan and star of “This Is Us” Mandy Moore). Despite her absence, I was sure the elevator doors would open and bring me face-to-face with a sumptuous reception area complete with a modelesque receptionist with intimidating beauty. 

When I crossed the threshold into the salon, I was pleasantly substantiated. The reception area was warm and inviting – with natural skincare products lining each wall – and the receptionist was intimidatingly beautiful with a large halo of dark kinky curls complementing a smooth glow of brown skin and a bright-eyed smile. I was welcomed warmly and immediately knew that the Supernova Facial I’d be receiving would undoubtedly be a sixty-minute self-care sanctuary from the bustling city. And maybe I would gain some much-needed confidence from taking time out to really care for my skin.

As I chatted with my esthetician for the day, Marina Montoya, I quickly realized that great skin is about so much more than an occasional facial — it’s about a complete, well-rounded lifestyle that allows you to glow from the inside out.

I’d initially cut my hair as part of a continued journey to discover my own value, practice self-love, and integrate a true self-care routine into my life. So, I was pleasantly surprised when Marina demonstrated how those principles are the keys to glowing skin and confidence. Throughout the course of my facial, we chatted about the perfect snack for glowing skin (sunflower seeds and blueberries!), the joy of having a close-knit family (she had two children only a year apart) and the value of vitamin C. Clearly those were all working for her, and she assured me they would work well for me too.

Author during facial at Joanna Vargas Day Spa

Joanna Vargas herself is an enthusiast for natural skin care products and regimens to achieve skin (and an entire lifestyle) that is full of glow. “My number one tip is absolutely my favorite skin fix:  Drink a green juice every day,” Vargas told me. “It will be a great replacement to your afternoon coffee and it will literally transform your skin in a matter of days. It helps oxygenate the skin and stimulates lymphatic drainage so it’s de-puffing too.”

Author post-facial with recommended green juice

While diet, exercise, and an overall well-rounded lifestyle have been proven facilitators of flawless skin, I also learned from Joanna the importance of maintaining a skincare routine. “Hyperpigmentation or uneven skin tone is a common issue Latinas face,” Vargas revealed. “[That’s why] I always recommend regular exfoliation twice a week to keep the skin even looking. It’s the most often skipped step in people’s home routine but it really makes a huge difference in the way your skin looks and feels. Think of exfoliation as your way of creating a perfect canvas for your products and your makeup. You could be investing in the most expensive amazing skincare products at home, but if you don’t exfoliate, those ingredients won’t ever penetrate to make any difference at all.

And for those women like me, who are always looking for a way to avoid having to wear makeup, she suggests a process called a lymphatic draining massage to create that plump, contoured look we all love.

“Lymphatic drainage massage is a lost art and certainly a tool that anyone can use to make the face look rejuvenated and glowing. For dry skin, massage the skin in circular motions upward. Start at the base of the neck on the sides where your arteries are. Massage in gentle circles upwards, towards the jaw, up the sides of the face, and around the eyes. This will help coax nutrients into the tissue. You want to do the opposite motion and start on the top of the face by the eyes if you are prone to breakouts – this will draw the waste away.”

Vargas also suggested monthly facials to manage the skincare treatments that should be left to professionals.

“Nothing you do at home can replace a professional exfoliation, extraction, and attention. I always say it starts with finding the right esthetician. If you can find someone who understands you and your skin, you will find that person will be the best in determining what treatments you should do. Having said that, I do believe that LED Light, microcurrent and RF are great for anyone.”

By the time I left her salon, I felt like a new woman — equipped with everything I need to maintain a heavenly glow about me (even if I don’t, like the receptionist, have an inviting halo of curls to draw people in).

After a week of using Vargas’ Vitamin C Face Wash and Rescue Serum (which promises to even skin tone, build resilience, and boost radiance) I felt more confident than ever that I had no reason to hide behind hair.

The most valuable lesson was the reassurance that a little self-care, mixed with skin care, goes a long way for your confidence — a concept Joanna herself has grown up with. “Growing up, self-care was always something I saw my grandma do and share with me. For me, being in touch with that is [just] as important as the physical act of taking care of myself.”

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