"I was born in a town called Olecko, in Poland. If anybody says they're from there, we say ‘We’re sorry.’ [Laughs] My parents had a restaurant, and that was important, because I grew up under Russian supervision and restaurants, like a lot of other things, only had certain liberties. So the fact that they had access to bread or flour, before the stores got it—we were sort of cool and important. I remember getting oranges and bananas as Christmas gifts, which were very special. I wanted to be a singer, and so I would study song lyrics to understand English. 'Yellow Submarine,' 'Let It Be'... The Beatles made me study.
Sports were also important to me—I was a competitive runner—and that [sparked] an interest in the body for me, especially that idea of taking care of people. So I applied for medical school, but didn’t pass Physics. I passed Chemistry, passed Biology beautifully, and I had just nine points missing. I started tutoring in Physics and then got in. After three months, I knew I just wanted to work on skin, so I went to aesthetics school and I loved it. That was it. I worked in Poland for a little bit, but left to come to the United States. I came for a six week trip. 27 years later, I'm still here!
In school, I was learning more about particular rituals–the importance of toners, for example, in balancing the pH of the skin. I like being analytical, so that was a fit. And I've passed that on to my clients—they are so informed and educated that all department store salespeople must hate them. [Laughs] But that's good. When I first moved to Dallas, which is where I'm based now, the spas were really simple, clay masks and sugar scrubs, medispas where people would get Botox or fillers. Nobody was really going to support their skin. I wanted to treat skin. In my work, I focus on that lipidic layer of skin, which is the top. It's like a roof—if it's not strong, the rest of the house, the dermis, will suffer.
Skincare, for me, starts at the nipples and ends at the hairline. I don't use a lot of anti-aging stuff. I keep using the same supportive things, and I make sure I have proper vitamins in my skin and I'm balancing my skin's pH. My skin is reactive and dehydrated, which comes from flying a lot. In the spring and fall, I'll use a lot of active vitamin A and C. It's easier to heal the skin and body when the temperatures are mild, when you're not fighting the cold or heat. I use the South African line Environ, their CBoost and AVST. What's great about Environ's A is that the vitamin A is encapsulated in lipids, which is the first cement of your epidermis. It's a very gentle approach to vitamin A. The other thing that I use twice a year is actually the La Mer essence, which is expensive. It's a 21-day boost for your cells—I do it on its own for three weeks, in the spring and fall.
Usually, for the day, I'll mix Crème de la Mer with the Biologique Fluide Vip 02. And SPF, no more than 15. The one I use daily is Clarins, but on the beach I'll go for Environ's 25 or La Mer's 30. I've been paying attention to certain studies—I was at a lecture several years ago from a Chemistry professor at UCLA and she talked about how some SPF 50s involve so many more chemicals, and can cause more bad than good. That's why I try to stick to 15. I do chemical sunscreen, not mineral. I do believe in a certain level of chemical [in my sunscreen].
The night routine is very important. Skin is about 60 percent more potent to absorb everything during the night... It's skin rejuvenation time. I almost don’t worry about what my clients do in the morning! I have different cleansers for depending on how my skin feels. Could be Cleansing Facial Oil by La Mer, which is one of my favorites. Could be Lait VIP 02 by Biologique, or their micellar water, which I often mix with another cleanser. I look for gentleness, and I prefer oil. After that, I use my pH controlling toner by Biologique, P50 W, the mildest one. It's a microexfoliator, but it also balances your skin's pH. People don’t think about toning, but I do it every night.
After that I use a bunch of serums, depending on the night and how I'm feeling. I play around, but I'm addicted to La Mer The Concentrate. That’s one of the most healing because of the scent, touch, feel, packaging, all of it together. Sometimes I’ll do a mask–either a lifting mask by La Mer, or the cream mask by Biologique, which is one of my very favorites. I love the Pumpkin Peel by Protective Nourishment, too.
No makeup growing up, I did not have that interest. Considering I’m in my 50s, I think I’m doing OK naturally, you know? What I do is mix Babor Foundation with my moisturizer–I combine them together and that’s my makeup. Diorshow Mascara—not the waterproof kind—makes me look like less of a raccoon than other mascaras. It's light and creamy, and it makes me feel comfortable. On my eyelids I use Bobbi Brown and Laura Mercier, all of the nude shadows. I love lip balm, like Tatcha's and La Mer's, but as a lip color I love Tom Ford Nude Vanille. I like the pale lip, even though they say old people shouldn't be wearing it.
My adventures with LED therapy started with Sex and The City when I was on Samantha’s team, which was fun—we met a girl from LA who had great skin and she told us about it. LED therapy stimulates ATP energy production—the red light penetrates your dermis, and depending on what we want to work on, we choose a gel to infuse the treatment with. Your skin just absorbs it. I invite my clients to do it for about every three weeks, and they look amazing. Now I have these huge body and face machines!
Maybe 20 years ago, all of a sudden, people were getting plastic surgery and lasers. All of that quick fix stuff. Now, at least in New York, people are getting back to nature, and I appreciate that. Plastic surgery has nothing to do with the quality of your skin—it still needs to have balance, sleep, circulation, so on. It's your look, your image, changing the shape of your nose or eyes, but it has nothing to do with the skin. As long as it's not burned by a laser, I can still help it. And myself, I want to age gracefully. I never recommend Botox, but I’ve done it three times. It wasn't a significant change—only psychologically. I'm OK with some lines. I'd rather look healthy! For my 52nd birthday, I got another line on my neck. I told my husband, 'It's not that bad!' And know you what he said? 'It's even sexier.' You know, I'd rather be in shape and have great skin. I think that's more attractive—besides beauty, just opening your mouth and having something to say!"
—as told to ITG
Joanna Czech photographed by Tom Newton in New York on May 23, 2016.