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Put Your Best Face Forward

Inspired Skincare and Primrose Natural Skincare

As summer gives way to days that are alternately balmy and windblown, you can certainly combat the unpredictability of the season by taking just a wee bit more care with what you choose to slather on your face or put in your body -- not to mention with whom you decide to entrust all your beauty needs. Don’t know? Well, whether your métier is gentle organics or thorough medical facials, here are two skincare specialists who deliver on their promise to bring distressed visages back to pH balance and dewy impeccability.

Inspired Skincare
Kristin Spector is just as likely to let you pick her brain on the importance of Retinols and Vitamin C serums as she is to let you lie back and allow the background din of your busy life to fade into nothingness while she plies you with a top-notch facial. It’s your pick. Seriously.

Whatever the case, Kristin’s non-judgmental, easygoing approach to clients is paired with an almost daunting knowledge of skincare, from the inside out. My visit to her relaxed, cozy sanctuary, Inspired Skincare, included not only a couple leisurely hours of radiance-inducing treatments but also a barrage of knowledge on everything from the difference between physical and chemical sunscreen to the collagen-production life cycle of the skin. Certainly, some of her clients are there primarily for the hospitality (Kristin, who overflows with warmth, attests to a passion for helping people “look and feel good”), but just as many are there for the handy skincare tips.

Kristin, whose passion for skincare training and education stems from her former career as a financial trainer and business analyst in the IT industry, peddles clinical skincare services with a down-to-earth approach that’s inspiring. “When I started learning about products years ago, it became important for me to share that knowledge with others… The chemicals and drugstore products people use on their skin is similar to eating McDonald’s every day, whereas the products I use are effective and not just about the advertising.”

Kristin’s no-fluff, results-based skincare (which is refreshingly free of any pushy maneuvers to get you to buy her products, thank the gods) is only matched by the intimacy of her environment. A cozy waiting room (intentionally devoid of any trashy magazines) is separated from the treatment area, where photographs appended to her favorite inspiring quotes adorn the walls. It’s a place that appeals to all sorts; Kristin’s clients range from age 17 to 94. “The relationship building that takes place in my job is my favorite part,” she says.

While Kristin’s easygoing demeanor might have you spilling details about your personal life before your head hits the facial bed, she still finds the time to be positively thorough with her services. “I only have two kinds of facials: one for the face/neck, the other for face/neck/décolleté. But the ingredients in each recipe vary from person to person.”

If I had to describe my facial in one word, it would be “all-out.” An intensive skin analysis, fruit enzyme exfoliation, heedful extractions, and custom masks and serums had me noticing a visible transformation in my skin’s texture. That might have something to do with Kristin’s products, Cosmedix and Covalence, lines that only licensed aestheticians and physicians carry. They’re high-quality natural lines without any fillers or parabens (a group of chemicals used as synthetic preservatives that are also connected to the incidence of cancer)--instead, they utilize preservatives like Vitamin E oil and jasmine. “They’re great for a variety of skin conditions, and they’re concentrated enough so that you don’t need to use too much of any one thing at a time,” Kristin explains.

Another important aspect of the two product lines is that all the ingredients are chirally correct. What this means in laymen’s terms is that every molecule in nature contains two different forms, kind of like a right hand and left hand. Sometimes, the mirror image molecules have different properties that can be harmful to the body; Cosmedix and Covalence use chirally corrected molecules that work to isolate the negative effects and only use the positive ones in each ingredient, which means the possibility of an allergic reaction is diminished.

Kristin is willing to get more aggressive with her treatments when she gets to know her clients better, and each visit is documented so she can monitor their progress accordingly. Aside from her propensity for pore-refining, she also does one hell of a brow wax (which she incorporates into all facials as well, natch); rather than spending five minutes waxing and plucking, she pays special attention to how the right shape can frame a person’s face. Not to mention that the European wax she uses doesn’t stick to the skin and cause needless irritation, and she follows up all waxing with high-frequency treatment, which works to close pores and kill bacteria that might cause a breakout.

Of course, a visit to Kristin wouldn’t be complete without a few of her fave summer skincare tips, so here they are:

1) Make sure you choose a good cleanser; it’s instrumental when it comes to removing sunscreen, which can clog your pores.
2) When it comes to sunlight, don’t be a killjoy. It’s important to soak up at least a little sun: “It’s crucial for the production of Vitamin D in our bodies, not to mention our happiness,” says Kristin. Also, choose a physical sunblock (with minerals like zinc and titanium) rather than a chemical block, which breaks down over time in the presence of sunlight and can also be harmful, as the chemicals eventually get circulated in the lymph and liver. (Of course, if you’re mainly staying indoors, mineral makeup, which contains a natural SPF 17, is more than enough.) And don’t forget to wear a hat.
3) Vitamin C is a crucial ingredient when it comes to offering protection from the sun and other environmental factors. Mixed with an antioxidant serum, it’s regenerative and feeds the skin crucial nutrients.
4) Retinols, which are a pharmaceutical grade of Vitamin A, can considerably improve skin function. Aside from helping diminish fine lines and repair sun damage, it aids in collagen production and strengthen skin of all ages at the cellular level.

Primrose Natural Skincare

Maiko Dildine’s cozy studio, Primrose Natural Skincare, is the kind of place that immediately sets the skincare newbie at ease while providing an apt stopover for facial buffs in search of quality services. Although it boasts a storefront location close to Hayes Street foot traffic, it’s far enough away from the harum-scarum vibe of city life to let you forget that other people exist, at least for an hour or two. Festooned with pastel colors, verdant leafy plants and sun-kissed floors, Primrose’s lobby area offers only a taste of the serenity you’re apt to experience when entrusting yourself to Maiko’s anodyne facials.

Maiko, a soft-spoken woman who’s perfectly at home in her chic, mellow haven, has been administering her own special brand of all-natural facials (with some of the yummiest ingredients around…crushed-petal exfoliant, anyone?) for the last three and a half years. She used to do facials at Hayes Valley’s organic beauty mainstay, Gaia Tree, before branching out into her own space and eventually founding Primrose in January this year. But it was at Gaia Tree that Maiko picked up her penchant for simple, natural products that work to rejuvenate the skin without waging further damage.

As I settle down in the dimly lit facial room, with the din of 1920s lounge music providing a palliative soundtrack, I already know I’m in for a treat. All of Maiko’s facials, which include a generous amount of facial, shoulder/neck, and hand massage, as well as gentle yet scrupulous attention to extractions, are customized especially for her clients’ specific skincare concerns. Maiko carries two organic skincare lines: Aqua Dessa (“you can find it at Rainbow, it’s locally made, and it’s super-affordable,” she tells me), and In Fiore, a local botanical apothecary that deals in exquisite organic treatments for every skin type. While Aqua Dessa is fairly easy to find in San Francisco, In Fiore is still pretty under the radar in the U.S. and uses pure organic ingredients sourced from around the world, with products that boast long shelf lives.

Among other things, I’m treated to a lovely crushed-petal manual exfoliant from In Fiore, as well as an alpha-hydroxy enzyme peel from the same line. “A lot of people, surprisingly, don’t exfoliate regularly, so that’s something I find myself recommending,” she says. “A manual exfoliant is usually good for most people, but sometimes it’s necessary to follow up with something a little more rigorous.”

While getting a facial from Maiko is something sort of akin to a visit to cloud nine--lots of divine oils and potions paired with environmentally friendly antioxidants to give tired skin a little oomph--she’s the first to admit that she’ll give people with problem skin a recommendation or two if they’re looking for some more drastic measures. “Some people need a medi spa,” she says, “so I’m not a purist in the sense that I think only my skincare works for everyone. But a lot of the people who come to me do so because they are looking for products that are simple and natural.”

While her clients from Gaia Tree have become loyal followers over the years, Maiko’s ability to put self-conscious nerves at ease has also garnered her a cadre of new clients. “I find that a lot of people have misconceptions about their own skin, so I always tell my clients not to just sit and scrutinize themselves in the mirror for hours on end,” she says. “I see people with gorgeous skin who tend to hate their pores…people really are their own worst critics, so I try to get them to relax.”

As far as I’m concerned, Maiko -- mission accomplished!