“Whenever I meet someone, the first thing I do is look at the texture of their skin. It’s how I’ve always been—obsessed with skin, even as a young girl. I grew up in Poland, and because it’s always so cold there, protecting your skin is a big priority. For example, my family used Nivea cream for everything—I remember watching my mom mix Nivea with fresh cucumber juice to make masks. When my older sister started suffering from acne, I would extract the pimples on her back to help. She was definitely my first client—I was six. [Laughs]
After high school I went to beauty school. In Polish beauty schools, you study alongside dermatologists and nurses—beauticians are more like [American] hygienists. We can remove skin tags and treat other basic skin conditions. So I did that, and when I was 25 I moved to New York. My sister lived here already, so the move was pretty easy, but I still needed to find work. My sister told me I had two options—either clean houses or work in a restaurant, so I went to work for a little diner on Avenue B. My English was poor, so every day I would study on the train ride between Queens and the city. Once my English got better I went to beauty school again, the Institute Atelier in New York.
Around that same time a friend introduced me to Biologique Recherche. She had been vacationing in the south of France, and she was like, ‘Look, you need to find this product.’ So I did. Not many people know about this, but Biologique Recherche had a little atelier on 64th and Madison. That’s how I met Aida [Bicaj]—I had a facial with her, and when I walked out my skin was glowing! I was maybe 28 at that time, and I decided I would only use [Biologique Recherche] products. I started going to their offices, I met the original founders, and I became an apprentice. I went to Paris many times, and spent hours in the offices just to learn. The experience made me respect Biologique Recherche even more, and I looked for spas that carried it. That’s how I got into Paul Labrecque. I worked there for a few years, and then I decided to move on.
For a moment I thought I would open a spa with Aida—we even looked at a doctor’s office on Park Avenue. But I was like, ‘I don’t know, we’re friends, I don’t want to break the friendship.’ Another friend told me about a space in Philadelphia that I should look into. It was 4,000 square feet and it was on the second floor. I took that risk because the equation was so good—the rent was low and the landlord trusted me. And that’s how Rescue Spa was born. I started with three employees, and now I have 127 altogether. We moved to a bigger space in Philadelphia six years ago, and opened the New York location in 2017.
I don’t think I’ve ever gone to bed without taking off my makeup—consistent cleansing is my religion. My mom used to say, ‘If you don’t cleanse your skin one night you’ll age by seven days.’ After cleansing, the next most important thing is anything that increases skin regeneration—a mask, P50...things like that. P50 is really such a game changer. I call it a facial in a bottle because not only does it multitask, it also balances the skin’s pH. If your skin is oily, it’s more acidic. If it’s dry, it’s more alkaline. You need to balance it out, and P50 does both—that’s why it works magically for acne, anti-aging, everything. And the most important thing to do when you apply products is to figure out how you can penetrate the deeper layers of your skin. If you only tap gently or spritz, [the product] will never get to your deeper layers. If you massage it in—using gentle movements without pulling—it’s amazing.
Our skin changes all the time—every season, every day, every hour. But no matter what, it’s important to do [skincare] in moderation. Especially when there are breakouts, I always say calm down and go on a skincare diet—minimize it to two or three products. Your skin regenerates itself—it’s an organ. When you are a baby, it regenerates every two weeks or so, and when you are someone like me in their 50s, it’s every 12 weeks or so. At around 28 years old, it hits that plateau and starts slowing down. That’s when women start experiencing hormonal breakouts and things like that, because they start getting a little bit more buildup, and they’re not used to that. So you have to exfoliate, and by exfoliating you’re really triggering that skin to regenerate faster. All this anti-aging—the lasering, retinols, acids, microneedling—it’s to stimulate your skin to re-build. But if you overdo it, then it’s not good either. It’s about finding that happy medium.
In the morning I alternate between a little cardio with weightlifting, and yoga. It could be 45 minutes, or an hour and a half, or only 15 minutes—depends on the day and the mood. As soon as I come back, I cleanse with Lait VIP O2. Then I do P50 1970 and I mask before the shower. It could be Vivant, VIP, Biofixine, or Renewing Pack. Even if it’s just five minutes, I like to throw on a mask. I might drink my juice, have my breakfast, brush my teeth, and then I’ll jump in the shower to take it off.
After I shower, I usually layer serums to address whatever’s going on with my skin at the moment. Believe it or not, I still experience breakouts here and there. If I have a breakout on my chin, I’ll do a little Iribiol. Then I’ll either use Elastine Pure around the eyes, or Amniotique. Amniotique is very hydrating, and it has growth factors, which are proteins and skin rebuilders. Your skin needs proteins—any time a product has amino acids, proteins, it is a rebuilder, and I like my skin to be rebuilt during the day, to have its best look. Biologique now has a haute couture line, so I also have a few special serums made specifically for me by Dr. Allouche. The doctor comes and does a special scan, and then they get you on a maintenance routine. And then I have Renovateur 14, Complex Royal, Serum Yall, Fluide VIP O2—those are staples for me. I mix them together, or I apply two or four, depending on the day. After, I might use the Grande Crème, it depends. And then I have my Jan Marini sunscreen.
For my evening routine, I use the MBR cleanser, and then The Best Eye and The Best Face. The Best Eye is really one of the best eye creams I’ve ever tried. It’s not too creamy, it de-puffs, and it’s anti-wrinkle… it’s really amazing. MBR as a whole is super potent in peptides and active medical ingredients. I love their enzyme cleanser—it’s a powder cleanser. Then of course Valmont is my all-time evening fave. I use their neck and décolleté cream, sort of like an old lady, but I don’t care. [Laughs] It gives me like, ‘Swiss luxury.’ I’ve traveled to the site where they collect the water [for the cream], and everything is so pure and beautiful there.
[Rescue Spa] started carrying 111Skin because I love their masks. I have the Celestial Black Diamond Lifting and Firming Treatment Mask, and the Celestial Black Diamond Eye Mask. I also have the Celestial Black Diamond Retinol Oil. Just yesterday I received Vintner’s Daughter Active Treatment Essence. The oil is OK, but I’m looking forward to the essence. I also love Susanne Kaufmann for being all natural—it’s made in Austria, in the Alps. I love the eye cream. Their anti-aging line, the A line, is great. And I love the Environ retinol. It’s suspended in colostrum and growth factors. It activates your collagen production with vitamin A and speeds up your skin’s ability to regenerate, and then you’re helping to grow healthy skin with the growth factors. It’s great for anybody who is breaking out, and also because you can put vitamin C over it, which I do twice a week on my ‘active’ days. At my age, my skin is thinner and more delicate, so I need to be careful with actives—retinol, acids, vitamin C—anything that would potentially cause a reaction.
Something I brought from Poland is a product called Octenisept. It’s an antibacterial spray. You spray it on breakouts, open skin, lesions—things like that instead of alcohol. I also have Mexican Neosporin, which I prefer over American Neosporin because it’s a little stronger. And since I’m always trying to grow my brows and eyelashes, I put castor oil on them. Maybe it’s a placebo effect, I’m not sure. But I like how it feels—it gives this nice moisture.
Magnesium is great for a woman my age—it helps with sleep, menopause, things like that. Or if you have a stressful life, magnesium is just really calming. I take it at night, and I also take vitamin D and calcium. Another thing I always take is MSM. MSM is great because it’s sulfur. Sulfur helps you stay flexible, and it’s good for your joints—and anything that’s good for your joints is good for your skin.
I alternate between two or three shampoos. I love Christophe Robin’s scrub because it’s great for the scalp. I also use the Color Fixator with Wheat Germ—it’s pH balancing. Sometimes I use Oribe, or I’ll do a scalp treatment with P50. The scalp gets buildup as well, so massaging and penetrating helps loosen up and remove that buildup. When skin is fresher and there’s no buildup, it’s better. We have to take care of our scalps the same way we take care of our skin everywhere else.
My body wash is from Susanne Kaufmann, and then I’ll use The Best Body from MBR. Sometimes, when I’m in a hurry, I just shower quickly and put on Bio Oil and Biologique’s Body Oxygenant, mixed together. And I do a massive scrub-down once a week. I love scrubs, I love loofahs, I love gloves. I alternate. I wish I could say I do baths often, but I don’t. I think it’s a thing you either do or you don’t.
For makeup, I love Chantecaille and I love Chanel. I keep it simple—the more makeup I have, the more I’m confused. This is my foundation, the Chanel powder foundation, and it has SPF 15. Then I use the Chanel eyeshadow quad in 292. The Chantecaille palettes are the Tibet and Kenya Eye Duos. I just discovered these Artis brushes, and they’re my latest obsession. For lips, I like Chantecaille lip gloss in Classic, and Lip Chic. Recently I started trying a lighter powder, a loose powder by Koh Gen Do. I also have Koh Gen Do Moisture Fit concealer. I either use that or Chantecaille Le Camouflage. I think if you have a little bit of concealer, you don’t need to put on much after that.
I usually like white musk, and unisex-leaning fragrances. Lighter, crisper. I love the Carner Barcelona fragrance, Besos. And from Memo, Kedu. But I’m really not a huge collector of perfumes. My life is skincare, as you can see.”
—as told to ITG
Danuta Mieloch photographed by Tom Newton in New York on March 29, 2019.