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Spring Deep Cleaning

Illuminata Skin Care & Mirsada Skin Care

Maybe you’re the kind of person who puts off going to the dentist every six months or getting your physical, despite those persistent little postcard reminders they send you in the mail. But taking care of your skin shouldn’t feel quite so daunting. Spring is in the air, and given our heat-driven susceptibility to clogged pores, as well as the propensity for those of us who don skin-baring clothes to dispense with the sunscreen, a little seasonal cleaning is just what the doctor ordered. Check out these two skincare studios, which specialize in getting your pores squeaky clean and all geared up to face the light of day.

Illuminata Skin Care
Cynthia Quan gives good facial, and that fact is quickly becoming the hottest piece of beauty news on the Valencia Street corridor. Quan’s airy, comfortable studio is a back-room oasis that, despite its modest signage, is quickly ensuring that the studio’s by-appointment-only time blocks are generously filled.

Quan’s current holistic, botanical-based approach to skincare and commitment to getting results without turning to harsh chemical peels and other quick fixes is complemented by her ability to commiserate with clients “who have lots of questions but not the answers.”
Quan, who began her solo practice last May, started out as an aesthetician three years ago, under the tutelage of In-Symmetry owner/aesthetician Corey Katz. Quan had been visiting In-Symmetry regularly to tend to stress-related acne and turn back the clock after nine years of sun damage from living on the beach in San Diego. Quan only found Katz after being subjected to a series of disappointing experiences with other aestheticians.

“I couldn't get a good explanation as to why I needed to buy their $300 worth of product other than them telling me that what I was using was horrible for my skin,” she remembers. “When I would ask for general tips, the response I would get was pretty much ‘buy my product.’” After Katz helped Quan get her skin back on track, Quan decided pretty quickly that becoming an aesthetician was her calling, too.

A 60-minute signature facial with Quan (a veritable skincare bargain, at $75) is always a relaxing respite, administered with the utmost gentleness and precision. Quan uses two straight-from-the-lab lines for cleansing, exfoliation with fruit enzymes, and post-extraction masking and moisturizing. All facials include nap-inducing hand, neck and shoulder massages (the extended facial even leaves 15 extra minutes for either massage or extractions), as well as hot and cold stones that work to stimulate circulation and get you looking all glowy. An extensive post-treatment consultation ensures that all services are customized to a client’s needs.

I especially loved the cleanser that she used on my skin; it contained soothing willow bark extract (a natural form of salicylic acid) and tea tree oil extracts, a blend that is particularly conducive for gently purifying without stripping the skin. Quan also sent me home with a generous sample of one of her custom-blended moisturizers -- a hydrating, non-clogging aloe vera gel-based cream packed with botanicals and vitamins -- which I found myself wanting to slather on continuously throughout the day, since the smooth formula didn’t make me apprehensive about post-application greasiness.

Quan’s skincare m.o. is all about figuring out what a client’s goals are, which means she doesn’t perpetuate the myth that a once-a-month facial is a must for everyone. “If you're looking to improve certain skin conditions, then coming in every four to six weeks is advised. If you're fine with the way your skin looks and just want to come in for regular maintenance, then every six to eight weeks is ideal.”

It’s tempting to get lazy and pay a visit to Quan every time your skin falls into a seasonal funk, but she acknowledges that while regular facials can be beneficial, it’s key to “use good products at home that work for your skin. Exfoliation at home is especially important for those with congested skin.”

Mirsada Skincare
With over 25 years of experience and expertise in advanced European-style facials (not to mention flawless extractions), Mirsada Kurtovic has been courting a bevy of beauty- and wellness-conscious clients for a good portion of her life. Kurtovic’s rigorous, experimental approach to herbal cosmetic chemistry and her own penchant for creating intoxicatingly fresh customized concoctions that she sends clients home with are only a couple of the reasons folks in search of some TLC for their pores turn to her in times of need.

Kurtovic, who’s known for her detailed approach to medical aesthetics, is particularly celebrated for her luxurious multi-step services. Facials typically take about two hours and include plenty of hand, foot, and facial massage to assuage any residual pain from her super-methodical extractions. As clinical as the process may be (Kurtovic even wears a lab coat and uses plenty of complex-looking machinery), her warm demeanor and ability to talk shop without boring you will make the time go by that much more quickly.

Kurtovic’s atelier is a modest, light-filled space, where she caters to a maximum of three people a day so that she can spend as much time and energy as possible with each of her clients, many of whom she inherited after working with famed aesthetician Georgina Acosta. Acosta, who tended to the crème de la crème of San Francisco skin for decades, passed on many of her own skincare tips to Kurtovic, who blends time-honored herbal wisdom with an extensive knowledge of cosmetic chemistry. Kurtovic also specializes in acne treatments, getting to the “seed” of the problem by doing detailed extractions and zapping the bacteria that trigger acne. For these treatments, it’s essential that clients visit her every two weeks in order to loosen the toughened outer layer of skin.

While a description of Kurtovic’s deep pore cleansing treatment (her most popular service) may appear at first glance to be overly aggressive, it’s actually highly soothing and restorative, and the perfect wake-up call for overprocessed skin. The treatment works to lift up cells and expose pores, so that hardened oil can come more easily to the surface during extractions. Using an organic mask and a bamboo tent above her client’s head to capture steam more effectively, Kurtovic ensures that the skin is prepped well before extractions. And make no mistake--while extractions may not be anyone’s favorite part of a facial, Kurtovic knows that a thorough sweep of the entire face is necessary in order to reach deeply rooted blemishes and combat any bacteria lurking in your pores.

After the extractions, I got a dose of some microdermabrasion, which works to further slough off dead skin cells. “From my experience, only microdermabrasion allows the skin to release deeper layers of dead cells and break up any clogging,” Kurtovic explains. “Most typically, clogging is the result of using chemical sunscreen or not having a facial for a long time.”

Kurtovic then went it one further with a deep double peel of citric acid, which digests any leftover dead cells) and soothing vitamin C -- a combination that is both refreshing and non-irritable. And of course, between herbal masks and healing creams, Kurtovic found plenty of time to administer some seriously beatific, circulation-restoring massage. (“Massage is, after all, one of the very best things you can get to maintain younger-looking skin,” she says.)

When Kurtovic speaks about clinical skincare, her love for the subject shines through. Unlike the majority of aestheticians who know cosmetic chemistry speak inside and out, there is a palpable poetry to the terminology she uses when talking about skincare. Kurtovic likens maintenance of the skin to the cultivation of a beautiful garden.

“Three things are essential for the skin’s well-being: nutrients, water and oxygen,” she explains. “Skincare is very much like gardening because plants require these same elements. When I give you a facial, I allow in those essential, life-giving elements of beauty in perfect proportion. By unplugging and cleansing your pores, I make space for your natural beauty to emerge.”