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Oil and Water Skincare

On a Quest for the Perfect Facial

The perfect facial is one of the most elusive beauty treatments I can think of. Aside from negotiating a multitude of products, treatment techniques, and aestheticians giving you all sorts of conflicting skin tips (to SPF or not to SPF? Gel exfoliant or scrub exfoliant?) -- it's sometimes difficult to really gauge the effectiveness of a facial. Case in point: I can't count the number of times I've discovered a new skincare line that adds a certain glow to my visage, only to wake up to an unsightly allergic reaction the next morning.

Oil & Water Skincare is a one-woman operation that's perfect for those on a quest for the perfect facial. Run by aesthetician Lisa Tabbush, a petite brunette with a slew of informative tips on skin upkeep (with perfect skin herself, to boot), Oil & Water is a cozy one-room salon in the industrial wasteland between the South of Market area and Mission district. As you walk into the salon (appointments only!), you're greeted by a wash of downtempo music and a friendly welcome from Tabbush. While Tabbush mainly has a cluster of loyal repeat customers, she exudes the kind of warmth and skincare know-how that make her an apt resource for both people who get regular facials and those who only pamper themselves once in a while.

After working solo as an artist in the solitary environs of her studio, Tabbush decided on a change of profession in 1998. As an aesthetician, she found she was able to work in a nurturing environment where she could put her fine arts skills to use (with eyebrows, no less) and help clients develop a skincare regimen perfect for them. She worked for two and a half years at a Castro day spa and built up a loyal following before going solo five years ago.

"Because I am a one-person business, I can fully devote my attention to each client that comes through my doors," says Tabbush. "This allows clients to have consistent experiences…whereas a larger spa or skincare studio might have several technicians doing things slightly differently." Of course, this makes sense -- from experience, I know that skin can change from day to day, depending on a plethora of factors; how can an aesthetician truly get to know a client's skin unless they build up a relationship over time? "My treatments are extremely customized, so I can tailor them to fit the needs of my clients…and can constantly adjust their homecare regimens to work for them."

I am given the Oil & Water Signature facial, a leisurely 85-minutes long, administered with both gentleness and care. Tabbush uses Yon Ka, a product line from Paris, on my skin. The line combines the power of essential oils from flower, plant and fruit sources. "Because Yon Ka is harvested from pure sources and is so rejuvenative, I have an extremely high success rate helping my clients tackle their skin problems," says Tabbush.

This particular facial is a customized deep cleansing treatment beginning with a milky cleanser that lets Tabbush study my naked pores more closely. She follows up with a mild gel for further cleansing ("It's a good idea to cleanse the skin twice, just for thoroughness," she explains), and a fruit gel exfoliation that removes dead skin while keeping my pores hydrated. Tabbush also incorporates the Dr. Lucas machine into the treatment; its whirring sound resembles that of an espresso machine, but it contributes to micro-circulation of the capillaries and hydration. "Our skin fights inflammation best when it's balanced and hydrated, and inflammation is the cause of aging and negative skin conditions," explains Tabbush.

A second exfoliation with a combination of lactic and salicylic acids (good stuff for congested pores) makes my skin tingle ever so slightly, but a wash of light steam and a gentle malt-based fruit ampule soften the effect. "Steam facilitates easier extractions of blackheads," says Tabbush, who follows up with my least favorite part of any facial -- the extractions. She then massages purifying cream and repair serum into my skin, topping this off with a triple clay oxygenating and purifying mask and a light sunscreen. When I take a look at my skin after she's finished, I'm completely taken by its smooth radiance, which, as luck will have it, will last for nearly a week.

Tabbush also uses the Jan Marini Skin Research line, which focuses on anti-aging, acne, and pigmentation; and Eminence Organics, a well-known Hungarian line. "I like to use organic products when I can to support the organic lifestyle of some of my clients and my own love of organic food," says Tabbush.

Tabbush's friendliness and willingness to get to know a client's skin rather than rushing them out of the facial bed with a bunch of generic suggestions are what make her an unsung gem in the local beauty community. "I benefit directly by seeing how satisfied they are," says Tabbush, who also recently received a nod from for top-notch waxing services.

Aside from offering some of the best facials in town, Tabbush is full of practical tips on how to keep your skin looking beautiful. "Eat well, exercise, rest, and drink plenty of water. Once you find the right cleanser for your skin, make sure you use it correctly. Most clients don't realize that most cleansers work best when worked onto the skin for about two minutes, making sure to remove makeup, dirt and excess oil," she says.

Also, according to Tabbush, in addition to cleansing well, exfoliation is integral to cell regeneration. "Whether it's an alpha hydroxy acid, gommage, or finely textured scrub, exfoliants help encourage plump, youthful cells to the surface, where they reflect light, thereby giving you that healthy glow."

But most important of all: "Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen! You can avoid lots of extrinsic aging by keeping yourself protected, every day, rain or shine."