If you’ve ever admired Jessica Alba’s radiant complexion, the glow comes courtesy of her friend and celebrity aesthetician Shani Darden, founder of Shani Darden Skin Care. She’s polished and perfected the faces of many other Hollywood A-listers, too, including Shay Mitchell, Kelly Rowland, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, January Jones, and the list goes on! She’s also a NewBeauty Brain Trust member, and we consider her a valuable resource for all of our questions about ingredients, products, facials, skin issues and more.
During this month’s Masterclass Monday (click here to become a BeautyPass member—it’s free—so you don’t miss next month’s virtual event) Darden shared her story of how she rose to where she is now, along with dozens of other enlightening sound bites on skin care, including five we’ve included below.
“I always loved skin care—I used to mix masks for my friends at like 8 years old—but I didn’t know my journey would be an aesthetician,” Darden says. After moving across the country to LA to model and then realizing that wouldn’t work out, she went to school to become an aesthetician based on a friend’s suggestion. “Then, after school, I was fortunate enough to get a job working for a dermatologist, Dr. Erma Benitez. I was doing acne facials and seeing patients who were all ages, even really young kids. I learned so much—especially how to treat acne—and that’s where my love of retinol came about. Then I kind of jumped all over the place before I went on my own. I really lucked out.”
Try Gauze Instead of a Wash Cloth
“If I have makeup on, which is rarely, I always start with Garnier Micellar Water. I use all of them, it’s my favorite micellar water—it’s just the best. And I use it on a piece of gauze to remove all of my eye makeup. Then I go in with my Cleansing Serum. This is a super gentle cleanser, and I love a gentle cleanser because with all the actives people are using nowadays, to use a cleanser with salicylic acid while using retinol at night, it’s just too much for the skin. It does remove makeup, but if you have heavy makeup or mascara, I like to use the micellar before. A little goes a long way—you barely need any—and it foams up really nicely. I remove it with gauze instead of a wash cloth—it’s my favorite thing to do. I love gauze.”
An Essence Can Help Balance Oily Skin
“It depends on how my skin is feeling, but if I’m feeling a little bit more oily—I have an oily T-zone, so I get a little congestion on my chin and nose, but the rest of my skin is normal—I use my Sake Toning Essence. This is really great because it’s more like a treatment. Sake water will brighten your skin, and it also has an ingredient called sebocytine in it, which helps to reduce oil production. I don’t use it nightly, and I always recommend starting with a couple times a week if you are somebody with oily or acne-prone skin. And then if you can use it every night without your skin getting too dry, then you can keep it in your routine nightly. I use a piece of gauze and about four pumps, and I just get it all over my face and let it absorb into my skin before my next step, which is my serum.”
I alternate each night between my Retinol Reform and my Lactic Acid, and one night a week I will exfoliate with the Dr. Dennis Gross Peel Pads. I never use them together—it’s too much for your skin—but I typically alternate between all three. It’s really, really important to exfoliate. I love a chemical exfoliant. I am not a fan of harsh scrubs, or scrubs at all, because they can cause a lot of irritation and redness, and especially as you age, you are even more prone to irritation and redness.”
Shani’s Rules on Retinol
“Retinol Reform is by far is my favorite product; it’s also the first product I ever made. It’s amazing because it uses encapsulated retinol, so it slowly releases under the skin, rather than a lot of other retinols that can be more harsh or irritating. Retinol is amazing because it can help with pigmentation, fine lines and wrinkles, acne. It’s probably the best anti-aging ingredient next to sunscreen. When you start using it, you want to start with one to two nights a week depending on your skin type, and then you can add a day each week and use it as often as your skin can tolerate it. What that means is that if you start to get dry, you may only be able to use it three times a week or every other night. I use two pumps and I make sure to get it everywhere and bring it down to my neck and chest. Also, you always want to use retinol at night because it can cause sun sensitivity, and apply a moisturizer after. I would never use a retinol during the day.
I love prescription-strength retinol, but it’s not something everyone can tolerate. If you are somebody that is very oily or acne-prone, using a prescription product for acne might be the best thing for you. But, they’re hard to tolerate, so you may want to alternate nights with Retinol Reform. I always recommend starting with an over-the-counter retinol, unless you have acne. If you have acne, you may have a lot more downtime with prescription-strength retinol, but it will treat the problem a lot quicker.
I’m not a fan of combining retinol and other active acne ingredients like benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid because it can cause so much redness and irritation. I’m not saying you can’t use them on alternating nights, but definitely don’t layer them together. You kind of have to figure out the right balance for your skin type. And I know not everyone can go to an aesthetician, but once you do understand your skin type, it makes things a lot easier. Most of my clients came to me with acne and don’t have it anymore.”
Sunscreen Is the Ultimate Anti-Aging Ingredient
“Most of my clients, when I started with them, weren’t using a sunscreen, but even though most do now, I still have to drill it into their heads. All these things we do now, all these lasers and anti-aging treatments, are largely because of people sitting out in the sun and not protecting their skin. Sunscreen is the number-one thing you should be doing to make sure you don’t get sun damage because that leads to dark spots and wrinkles.” A few sunscreens Darden loves include Supergoop! Play Everyday Lotion SPF 50, Control Corrective Oil-Free Sunscreen SPF 30 and Supergoop! CC Screen 100% Mineral SPF 50.
A Hydrating Serum Is Coming Soon
“After my Retinol Reform or Lactic Acid step, I use a hydrating serum. I’m going to be launching one soon—I don’t know exactly when it will be out—and I really wanted to have a hydrating serum that you could use before your moisturizer, for many reasons. One is that I have an Oil-Free Moisturizer, and a lot of times someone who is acne-prone will feel dry and need that extra boost of hydration. This is magic and it took me a million years to make. Sometimes if I’m feeling oily, I use it alone and don’t even add my moisturizer. It gives you all the hydration and dewy glow, and it’s super nourishing.”