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Seasonal Beauty

Infinite Beauty and Nicole Burke Skincare

Shorter days and darker nights -- despite our sometimes sporadic Indian summers, the onset of autumn can sometimes augur some not-so-hot changes in our epidermal upkeep. But not to fear, here are two skincare spas that’ll help you get past seasonal grievances. Your pores will thank you.

Infinite Beauty
Natalia Poliakova’s cozy downtown boutique is less of a studio than a magic atelier where skincare miracles happen, sometimes slowly but always surely. Poliakova’s love for skincare ensued directly from her childhood in her native Russia. “Ever since I was a little girl, I was fascinated with beauty. I guess it started from watching my mom apply her makeup in the mornings.”

After years of working in the corporate world (while still exploring skincare and makeup), Poliakova developed adult acne, which would eventually guide her in the direction of her current vocation. But although she received regular facials, she saw little improvement in her condition. Later, in 2001, she decided to attend beauty school. The cherry on top of this decision? “I was able to help myself solve my acne problem and determine what other aestheticians were doing wrong or what they weren't doing.”

Poliakova ultimately opened Infinite Beauty in 2003. In taking advanced courses and educating herself about persistent skin conditions that beset her clients, she developed an approach to skincare that’s equal parts luxury and clinical meticulousness. While all facials are customized for clients’ skin, a thorough deep cleansing and extractions galore are always part of the package. Poliakova remembers getting facials in the past “that lasted 50 minutes, and not many extractions were done even though I’d specifically ask for that. I felt as though it was a waste of my money and time.”

Poliakova’s facials last about 90 minutes, and she’s careful to warn clients beforehand of the possibility of a post-treatment flare-up. “In most acne treatments, skin gets worse before it gets better,” she explains.

Poliakova customizes treatments by determining a client’s skin problems and goals, and finding an appropriate treatment. A self-described fan of chemical peels, she typically finds that they are “one of the most effective ways of solving many skin problems.” Aside from clinical-grade lines like Skinceuticals, Image Skincare, and MD Formulations, Poliakova uses private-label lines in her treatments. And on top of her exquisite facials, gaggles of clients come to her for her fastidious eyebrow shaping and permanent makeup. “It seems that I get to do a little bit of everything and sometimes it depends on the time of the year. I do a bit more waxing and permanent makeup in summer and more facials or aggressive chemical peels in winter to assure minimal sun exposure,” she explains.

With approximately 200 clients, Poliakova finds that amid her impacted schedule, success is all about “giving quality service and building a relationship with a client. All that seems so easy to achieve when you love your work.”

Aside from teaching clients about the importance and proper application of proper sun protection and frequent exfoliation, Poliakova always remembers to gently remind them “to be healthy and good to yourself. To have beautiful, flawless, young-looking skin, it's important to have a good diet, get enough sleep, and be stress-free.”

Nicole Burke Skincare
Much like Poliakova, Nicole Burke Stephenson found her calling in skincare back in her teenage years, when she was dealing with cystic acne. While she officially opened her business in 2005, she thinks of skincare as combining her primary interests: “people, art and creativity, health and science.”

Stephenson’s cozy Potrero Hill loft is the epitome of relaxation -- the kind of place where you can settle down to a cup of tea and listen to soothing music before nearly falling asleep on the plush facial bed. Utilizing high-quality, effective aromatherapy products (such as the San Francisco-based organic skincare line, In Fiore), as well as an effective blend of massage and clinical skincare, Stephenson pointedly works to “relax the whole body and mind, and renew the skin.” This means, aside from a customized facial and chemical peel treatments, a solid at-home routine and improved lifestyle habits.

“I like to work with clients on an ongoing basis to create lasting improvements over time,” she explains. “Facials are a great metaphor -- cleansing dead cells and opening up pores and circulation for new breath and energy can also signify a time to let go of both physical and psychological stresses and create a tabula rasa. After a facial, new things are possible!”

Stephenson’s healthy glow facial, which includes facial massage and a plethora of nutritive serums, tends to rank among the most popular of her treatments, but brow shaping and Brazilian waxing are also right up there. Stephenson uses three product lines: In Fiore (which is made with biodynamic and wild-crafted ingredients, and “works and smells heavenly for both men and women”), CosMedix (a chirally correct line that is effective but with less irritation, and results in improved skin texture and tone), and 302 Skincare (a primarily organic line that utilizes a chemically isolated avocado protein to stimulate cell metabolism). “My criteria for products is that they look good, feel good, smell good, don’t have pointless or harmful ingredients in them, and that they actually work!”

While her facials are results-oriented, Stephenson stresses that “most of us were brainwashed to ‘dry it out and scrub it off’ by ads growing up. Actually, skin wants to be treated nicely!” She also emphasizes that very few people moisturize enough and recommends In Fiore facial oil, alone or mixed and layered with other skincare products, for deeper hydration, protection, and suppleness. Also, Stephenson encourages peels around this time of year, as darker, shorter days are perfect for counteracting the sun exposure of summer.

One of Stephenson’s trademark beauty mottos is that “your uniqueness is your beauty. Making the most of who you are, even if just by keeping your brows neatly tailored to your features, creates your own personal glamour.”

While my facial definitely left me glowing at the end of 90-minutes, Stephenson encourages clients to be patient with themselves when attempting to correct persistent skin problems. “Problems weren't created in a day and they perhaps shouldn't be fixed in willing to participate in an evolving skincare routine that involves both treatments and home products, and your skin will thank you!”