Esther Gauthier, Founder, Aqua Studio


"I opened Aqua Studio three months ago. I moved to New York from Paris seven years ago to work in photo production, but on a recent trip to Paris I tried an aqua cycling class and I really loved it, so that’s when I decided to change everything in my life and open my own studio in Manhattan. We're looking to open a few more studios here in the city, and hopefully in other states.

Aqual cycling is really similar to an indoor cycling class, except that it happens in a pool, so you also get the benefits of working out in the water. The water is up to your waist, and you pedal toward the water resistance, and all the while the water gives your legs a natural massage. This little massage helps to drain your entire lymphatic system, breaking up your body’s fat and eliminating cellulite. It takes a little time—it’s not overnight—but I’ve almost completely gotten rid of my cellulite. Getting sexy legs is a very good plus to the class, but it’s a full-body workout. You have to stay balanced on your bike, so you engage your core intensely and we incorporate a lot of arm exercises throughout the class, too.

I think the pool is very therapeutic, both mentally and physically. You leave the classes feeling really rejuvenated, and you’ll sleep like you have never slept before. Imagine how you feel after a day at the beach, or after you go swimming—that relaxation of being close to the water and feeling like you really, really used a lot of energy. It's blissful. There’s also no impact on your joints, which really protects your body, and you improve your breathing capacity, your endurance, and your blood flow. There are so many positive health benefits to working out in the water.

I also drink a lot of water—you should drink at least 1.5 liters a day. I believe beauty comes from the inside. Drinking a glass of water first thing in the morning with a squeeze of lemon flushes out toxins. And I try to eat healthy, too. Recently I’ve been transitioning to vegetarianism, incorporating a lot of fruit and vegetables into my diet. I feel better, and I can even see an improvement in my skin. For example, carrot juice is amazing for your color and skin tone. But these things taste good! Like, kale is a leafy green with a lot of nutrients that makes the best summer salad. Or, you can use coconut oil as a moisturizer, or eat it. [Laughs]

I actually buy a lot of my skincare from Whole Foods, because everything I use is pretty natural. And Origins is a brand that I like a lot, especially their VitaZing SPF 15 moisturizer because it gives you a natural, subtle glow; it’s a wonderful cream. And when I’m in Paris, I pick up products by Avène and Nuxe, like Avène’s Cicalfate Restorative Skin Cream, which contains zinc, so it’s very good for cuts, scars and burns—it’s great to keep in your bag. And from Nuxe, Crème Prodigieuse on your eyes is very comforting and smells so good. If I have imperfections or inflammations, Sonya Dakar’s Blemish Buster is a life saver—Gwyneth Paltrow recommends using it before the red carpet, I think.

On my body, Dr. Bronner’s soap is just the most amazing thing because it moisturizes the skin while it cleanses, and it’s not even expensive; we have it in Aqua’s changing rooms. I like the Peppermint—it tingles—but the Eucalyptus is really nice, too. You can dilute them with water because they’re so concentrated. It’s still pretty efficient, and then you lose the tingling feeling. And Whole Foods sells this magic non-aluminum deodorant, Pure Pitz, that’s made with organic oils. Unfortunately, that one’s a little pricy.

I don’t wear much makeup, but I always carry a few things with me. The first is Origins' Quick, Hide Long-Wearing Concealer in #03. It’s great for the eyes because it’s moisturizing and the skin around my eyes tends to dry up pretty easily. I also like to wear MAC Copperplate Matte Shadow and Make Up Forever's Aqua Eyes liner in Taupe Brown. I don’t really like mascara—it’s a little uncomfortable for me—but I might put it on as an evening thing. I do usually put on a little blush: Guerlain's Terracotta in #03. And that’s what’s in my makeup bag. But the last thing I’ll do is brush my eyebrows, because, if there’s one thing I like about myself, it’s definitely my brows. I don’t have to work with them that much and they’re a little thick—I like that.

I'm pretty lucky when it comes to my hair, I guess. Right now, there is nothing in it. I used to get highlights, but I haven’t in forever, because I can spend an hour in the sun and get natural highlights that cost nothing. I like to use chamomile to preserve the blond, so I use Klorane’s Chamomile Shampoo and conditioner."

—as told to ITG

Esther Gauthier photographed by Emily Weiss at Aqua in New York on July 17, 2013.

Let’s Talk About It! JOIN IN
  • Haley Bott

    She's absolutely right about sleeping after being in the water. There's just something about it that is wonderfully exhausting but also, as she says, rejuvenating. Very curious about aqua cycling and how it differs from both swimming and cycling (love both).

  • Aubrey Green

    I love that she one day just decided to change everything.

  • yanksgurl613

    what an interesting idea for a workout. sounds like something I would love to do. thanks for sharing this! xx. gigi.

  • Emma Hager

    Esther seems like such an amazing woman! And I was just reading about Aqua-cycling earlier this week over on Leandra's blog. Esther seems to be really, really natural, which is always a breath of fresh air. It is amazing what some Whole Foods products can do -- and I think it shows just how much so many of our raw, natural materials of this earth can be the best beauty products!
    And I love what she was saying about the water - it couldn't be truer. Given that running is my main sport, there is so much impact. It is always so relaxing when we get a day off to go swimming. There is definitely something soothing about gliding through the water, so many thoughts seem to come and go. It's a cleanse in and of itself.

    • Lana


  • Addie Cain

    Ohhh. Aqua Cycling Looks intriguing!

  • Curious

    It would have been great to hear how she built her business, rather than it sounding like an overnight success.

    • Guest

      Couldn't agree more. And even if she had family money or took out a loan, I wish these articles would say so.

      I own a business which I built from the ground up. Lots and lots of hard work and sacrifice and now lots of nail biting since the economy tanked. Like most other small business owners, I did not just wake up one morning and change my life on a whim. I have stopped reading about business people who don't want to talk about where the money for the start-up came from. It's just too ridiculous. (In my case, I worked two jobs for five years in order to get the money I needed.)

      • IntoTheGloss

        Hi Curious & Guest,

        This is a profile about Esther's approach to beauty, not her business strategy. We always like to give some context as to what women are up to in their lives as it often informs their style/routine, but where we do delve deep into a subject's career trajectory and business tips is in our The Professional series. Esther would certainly be a great candidate for that.


        • Esther Gauthier

          Building this studio has been the most challenging and stressful experience but, more importantly, the most fulfilling. These past two years have taught me that, women in the business world need to support each other. This is why I would be happy to share more about my business and strategy. I have been lucky to meet many women entrepreneurs since I started AQUA and I have learned that, sharing our experience with each other is the most valuable tool to succeed. "Stiletto Networks" are the future and I am in the process of developing one myself to gather the great women of NYC.

          • Julie

            You still didn't answer where the money came from to start your business though...

        • laparisienne

          I don't agree with you : it's all about her business and the way she sells it. Obvioulsy, she is advertising her business and sh'e right. I don't really care about her boring beauty secret ( whouah eat well and you will have a great skin yhanks so much!)
          I' m more interested in how she set up her business!

  • LO

    Each class is $40? I mean who can afford such a workout? Not the masses.

  • Genevieve

    Loved it! Great-looking woman who obviously cares about and puts time into her appearance (skin care, diet and exercise) but who has a really different look than some of the more fastidiously groomed Top Shelf ladies.

  • Beatriz

    My boyfriend buys Dr. Bonner at Fairway and has noticed that they are a lot thinner than before... Any thoughts?

    • stephanie taylor

      I was wondering why I'm flying through the huge bottles recently. CRAZY. It's annoying.

  • DoYouReally

    She must've come from an aqua class before the shoot - she looks exhausted.

  • The Fox + The Knife

    It's funny to read about aqua cycling two times in a week (here and on Leandra's blog) ant to discover that it is quite new in the US. In France, it is a quite popular workout, almost everyone has tried it once. They have it in public swimming pools and in private salons (that also do cellulite treatments) with individual booths (some more inviting than others). It's also expensive here (except in public pools), 30e for 30 minutes. Oh and we call it aqua biking :)

  • Nina

    I'd really love to try aqua spinning. I've been doing regular indoor spinning for years since it's gentle for my knee injury, but this sounds really great and refreshing. Bet it's impossible to find/way too expensive here in Copenhagen... Btw, very interested in trying the Origins VitaZing (love the name!), maybe you could do a review?

  • Nicoletta Italian blogger

    Thank, now I want to try aqual cycling



  • Vicki

    I love learning about what natural products people use and love but I agree, after awhile I almost start to feel guilty for liking makeup as much as I do and wearing it everyday! You should interview Emily from Beauty Broadcast! And maybe its just me but I actually find Dr. Bronner's soap to be drying! I have the peppermint also and I feel like it leaves my skin with that "squeaky clean" feeling that I don't like!

  • Paula

    me too!!!

  • Lana

    Totally love this girl. It's not about the fact that her routine doesn't include 50 different forms of makeup. I like the fact that she is minimalistic in her routine. The fact that she wants her body and skin to glow naturally, with natural healthy foods and SPF! I am trying to do the same. I can sure as hell say that when I eat all of those healthy, leafy greens and other veggies on a day to day basis, my body, mind, and skin feel extraordinary. THANK YOU ITG!

  • stephanie taylor

    love that dress... who makes it?

  • Lou Lou

    Gotta say as much as I LOVE reading the articles about people who are really into their make up, my favourite are actually the ones with a more natural approach.

  • ITGNick

    Nope, this wasn't advertising--just a coincidence that we wrote about the studio around the same time. Great minds...



Avene Cicalfate Restorative Skin Cream
Origins VitaZing SPF 15 Energy-Boosting Moisturizer with Mangosteen
CL Quick, Hide!Long-Wearing Concealer
MAC Eyeshadow Copperplate
MAKE UP FOR EVER Aqua Eyes Light Taupe 24L
Guerlain 'Terracotta Mineral' Loose Powder Dark 03
Klorane Golden Highlights Shampoo with Chamomile Extract
Dr. Bronner's
Dr. Bronner’s 18-in-1 Hemp Pure-Castile Soap, Peppermint
NUXE Creme Prodigieuse
NUXE Creme Prodigieuse Night – Anti-fatigue moisturizing cream
Klorane Chamomile Conditioner