I have never truly suffered from acne but I have also never been very confident about my skin. If I am lucky, I go a week or two without giving it much thought…but that is rare. Short of going on Accutane (which I’ve considered), I’ve tried everything, including minocycline (which I DO NOT recommend) and ProActiv. I have also seen half a dozen dermatologists and many more facialists. I am willing to spend money on my skin, but not for things that don’t work. For the past year or so, my friend Stella Schnabel repeatedly advised me to see her “lady.” I was tired of being disappointed in my skin and afraid to hit another (expensive) dead end. After seeing Stella’s own complexion dramatically improve (actually, she had me at “My facialist, Isabelle, did Jacqueline Onassis”)—and with an eye towards my impending wedding—I decided the time had come to head uptown to Advanced Skin Care and really get a handle on things.
I knew I was in good hands after my first consultation. Anna, Isabelle’s colleague and a co-owner, recognized several problems with my skin—linked to medical conditions that I hadn’t even told her about. My liver function is sluggish for someone my age (due to a pretty bad eating disorder suffered during my teen years). I also have wacky hormone levels due to an ovarian cyst (I had it removed late last year). These issues, combined with over-active oil glands and moderate stress levels, were causing my pores to clog and become inflamed. This happens very easily, and it has been, and will continue to be, a slightly uphill battle. One Anna and I are willing to fight.
Now, after five facials over six months, my skin is an entirely different story. By the date of my wedding, over Easter weekend, I looked good and felt like I’d finally gotten a handle on things.
More than anything, Anna helped me understand my skin: why it acts out, how to prevent problems, and what to do when they do occur (without being aggressive). For example, because of my liver issue, Accutane would do way more harm than good for me. Anna and I have a long-term plan, a big part of which is consistently taking probiotics. I take Natren Healthy Trinity capsules, available at Whole Foods. What else?
Day and night, I clean my face with Bioderma Crealine H2o Ultra-mild Non-rinse Face and Eyes Cleanser—the only thing I kept from my previous regime. At night, I follow with the Epicuren Clarify Cleanser. I also take CosMedix Clarity pills, morning and evening.
I moisturize, day and night, with a combination of Epicuren creams; I mix a few together based on how my skin is feeling. If my skin is dry, I use the Colostrum Cream. I always use lots of the Brazilian Propolis Lotion because it is not only moisturizing but anti-inflammatory, too. In the past, if my skin was oily, I would refrain from using any cream at all, which apparently is a huge mistake because the oil is a sign that the skin is trying to correct itself.
In the morning, I use Epicuren’s Zinc Oxide Sunscreen, which actually works as a moisturizer on its own. And throughout the day, I spray myself with Osmosis Clear Facial Conditioner; I keep it in my handbag.
Twice a week, I use the Knutek Omega Peel to exfoliate. This product is magic: you put it on as a gel and, in 30 seconds, it turns to liquid. Then you scrub it off with your fingers in circular motions and watch as all the dead skin comes off.
As needed, I use the Epicuren Bulgaricum Probiotic Mask Powder, which is a topical probiotic mask—you mix the powder with Epicuren Aloe Vera Calming Gel and it becomes a paste. It dries on your skin after about ten minutes and then you wash it off. Easy. If I do get a blemish, I use Epicurean’s Drying Lotion.
It may look like a lot of work on paper, but there is a lot of freedom within my regime. And when I travel, I simplify. None of these products—save the Colostrum Cream, which I don’t use every day—are too terribly expensive and they never seem to run out at the same time, which is helpful.
I recently had my makeup done by Aaron de Mey (lucky me) and he immediately noticed the improvement. Turns out he is also a client at Advanced Skin Care. Aaron was sent there by his friend, the model Trish Goff. Edita Vilkeviciute, Karolina Kurkova, Maryna Linchuk, and Emma Watson also frequent the quiet midtown offices. The so-called "spa" looks more like a doctor’s office, which I find reassuring—I don’t need to be pampered, just fix me! That said, manicures, waxing, laser hair-removal, body wraps, and massage are all on offer. And I will say Isabelle does a mean eyebrow wax.
Floored with my own results, I sat down with Advance Skin Care founders Anna Antal and Isabelle Anton for a chat about how their practice came to be.
Anna: I am from Transylvania, where skincare was an excellent profession. I studied at the Anna Aslan Institute in Bucharest and I came to the US as a political refugee in 1981.
Isabelle: I am Georgian. My grandmother had a pharmacy where she made all kinds of products: creams, lipsticks, rose oil, everything. During the Bolshevik Revolution, they became poor and she could no longer have her beauty products sent from France. When I went to University, I studied chemistry. But when I came to the US, my degree didn’t count—this was in 1977—so I decided to go into skincare. I got my license and started working at Georgette Klinger. I worked there for 9 years, and that is where I met Anna. My clients in the '80s included Jacqueline Onassis. She always came with her big scarf…so elegant and quiet. She always brought books for my kids.
Anna: Georgette only hired Eastern European aestheticians. She was from Czechoslovakia and she really brought the Eastern European skin care approach to the US. I think our aesthetic and approach came from our time with Klinger…but skincare has changed a lot since then. In the past five years even…came, for example, 'skinceuticals.' There has been so much research and development in the industry to create products that actually change the physiology of the skin. In the Klinger days, everything was topical. Now, they are going beyond skin deep. We can regulate skin aging from the inside. Like the Clarity pills I gave you.
Everything you see here in this case is a 'skinceutical.' They create a visible difference in your skin—not just moisturization but transformation. And all anyone talks about now is anti-aging. Now, we have two kinds—the internal aging on a cellular level and then environmental causes. Here, we emphasize tackling both. The first step is always to clean the skin regularly. We remove the toxins, so that all of the active ingredients we use can penetrate much better. Anyway, things are so different than they were when Isabelle and I started. But this is why I called our company Advanced Skin Care. I am always reading, going to conferences, staying on top of the new technologies. When we got together, the day spa industry was just rising up. We were really one of the first... Despite our age, we know that you cannot exist in this industry if you don’t keep up.
Isabelle: But we are always adding, not replacing. Keeping what we already know from all these years about the skin.
Anna: Our priority is to find the root of the problem. We are changing the physiology of the skin…cell function. And this is how you tackle aging, intrinsically and extrinsically.
Isabelle: I have very dry skin myself. But even in my age, I am producing my own oils because I take a lot of supplements to aid this.
Anna: Diet is also very important. There is a test, the Alcat test, which can tell you which foods are causing irritation/inflamation. We know that aging is inflammation in the mitochondria. So now I know, having taken the test, that gluten is not good for me. Rosacea, for example, is generally a dietary issue. People with this problem, I advise to avoid irritants such as caffeine and spicy foods.
Isabelle: Irish people often have this problem. We also advise them to keep everything at room temperature, even their showers. Nothing acidic. Nothing too hot or too cold.
Anna: A lot of the skincare brands we use here are focused on carriers. For example, we carry Osmosis which uses Zinc Finger Technology. Using this technology, they can actually penetrate very deeply into the second layer of the skin. If people start using products like this early on, and they have the financial capability to keep using them, they will produce more collagen on their own and age more slowly.
Me: But I must say that even within my budget, you have changed my skin drastically in three sessions over 12 weeks. I have spent about $200 each time.
Anna: In your case, we are tackling oily skin and that is less expensive to treat. Because you have oily skin, you will actually have a better time with aging. But we have skin lines here for any condition.
Isabelle: We have always used Epicuren, which is based on enzymes. We've been using it since 1992.
Me: What do you think of Accutane?
Isabelle: Well, it is being widely recalled. Now they are really only giving it to males. It has very serious side effects. And we see people who use it and then, a few years later, the problem returns. We try to avoid this approach.
Anna: Our approach is also deeply customized.
Isabelle: I could never tell you what kind of facial you will need over the phone. And each time you come back, your facial will be slightly different.
—Rachel Chandler Guinness
 Tom Guinness and Rachel Chandler Guinness;  Rachel Chandler Guinness and Haider Ackermann; [3, 4] Advanced Skin Care photographed by Rachel Chandler Guinness. Advanced Skin Care is located at 140 West 57th Street, Suite 3C, New York, NY 10019, (212) 758-8867.