On the Red Carpet, No Blemishes Allowed
By BEE-SHYUAN CHANG
Published: February 20, 2013
With all the clamor about gowns and jewels, one element of Academy Awards preparation often goes unnoticed. In hotel suites, private houses and medical offices across Los Angeles, facialists and dermatologists are now wielding microcurrent wands, oxygen blasters and laser beams in a collective effort to deliver poreless, glowing complexions for the high-definition cameras on Sunday.
Jake Guevara/The New York Times
“It’s brutal,” Nichola Joss, a facialist, said about awards season close-ups for her famous clients, including Keira Knightley, Anne Hathaway, Sienna Miller and Jessica Chastain. “You can see a hair follicle. You can see a pimple before it’s even a pimple.”
So Ms. Joss, who is based in London, is flying across a continent to set up a temporary Brit Beauty Suite with the Sanctuary Spa in Covent Garden and Fiona Locke, a tanning expert for St. Tropez, at the Four Seasons Beverly Hills hotel. “I’ll do back facials, too,” Ms. Joss said. “I tend to work a lot with regards to what they’re wearing.”
She said perfect skin is more important than ever this season, pointing to the barefaced, dewy looks worn by Ms. Miller and Olivia Munn at the Golden Globes.
The scramble for complexion services before the Oscars has escalated to fever pitch, with many aestheticians shuttling between New York and Los Angeles to meet the demand.
Dr. David Colbert, a dermatologist who tends to the milky complexions of Naomi Watts and Rachel Weisz, and Tracie Martyn, the facialist to Kate Winslet, Jennifer Connelly and Rachel Zoe, fly out days in advance (both are based in the Flatiron district). They vie for celebrity clients with Los Angeles experts like Ole Henriksen, Kate Somerville and Michelle Peck, some having just returned home from New York Fashion Week.
Dr. Colbert, a six-year veteran of the Oscars circuit, said he’s renting a temporary office in Beverly Hills this year (he’ll also do home visits on request) and is in talks to set up a permanent medi-spa in Los Angeles. A month before the awards, his calendar was already booked solid with 75 appointments, he said, even though his 30-minute Triad Medical facial, which features microdermabrasion, laser toning and chemical peeling, starts at $800 a session.
“Over the years, you meet people,” he said. “The actors sort of all talk and know each other. It’s a multifaceted way to build your name.”
Ms. Martyn, who has strong fashion ties (Diane von Furstenberg and the Hollywood stylist Kate Young have both seen her), also finds the commute worthwhile. “It’s really widened my client base,” she said. Actors and actresses tend to book last minute for treatments like the Red Carpet facial (which starts at $450) but know where to find her; she has been traveling to Los Angeles for the last 10 years, 4 years of which she has been in a suite at Le Parc Suite hotel converted into a treatment room. She likes the location because it’s not one of the big hotels like the Four Seasons or Chateau Marmont, “where it’s just impossible to even drive up and get dropped off,” she said.
Like Dr. Colbert, Ms. Martyn dispenses skin care with New York efficiency. She anticipates about 30 one-hour appointments; along with her trademark facial for lymphatic drainage, she’ll perform a resculpting treatment on arms, rear ends, tummies and legs. “It’s about firming and lifting everything,” she said.
The local competition seems to go at a mellower pace. Ms. Somerville, who cares for the complexions of Amanda Seyfried, Helen Mirren and Kristen Bell, generally spends two to three hours on her famous clients because “they’re usually doing about three different treatments an appointment,” she said.
For example, many celebrities will book head-to-toe laser toning, light therapy and a White Room Facial (including extractions and exfoliation) six to eight weeks ahead, Ms. Somerville said. “We’ll come up with a game plan together,” she added, with each visit costing $300 to $1,500.
During red carpet season, she has 12 treatment rooms going at once with 13 women on staff working extended hours. She’ll put one of her top aestheticians on floating duties to cover extra bookings. V.I.P.’s have access to a phone line that goes directly to the spa manager for last-minute changes. “It’s a stressful time because no mistakes can happen,” she said.
Mr. Henriksen said that relieving anxiety is his specialty. “We do state-of-the-art treatments, but it’s also about relaxing and letting go,” he said. His spa is just off Sunset Boulevard, where, he said, his clients had included Charlize Theron, Mark Wahlberg, Kirk Douglas, Ellen DeGeneres and Ben Kingsley (for his “Gandhi” best-actor victory). He praised them for being “very disciplined” and taking care of their skin year-round. Around Oscar time, stress relief (massage, acupressure and reflexology) is more popular than his facials, he said.
But for some celebrities, according to Madonna’s longtime facialist, Ms. Peck, the most relaxing experience of all is lounging at home or in their hotel rooms. Ms. Peck, who is known for her oxygen facial, and her daughter, Tarin Graham, do not have office hours (their phone and e-mail contacts are discreetly passed around). They tote their tools and machines around. The treatments, which can also include microcurrents, hyaluronic acid and LEDs, last about two hours, Ms. Peck said, and start with the face but cover “the neck, body, whatever they need.”
And though many doctors are skeptical about what microcurrents and oxygen can really accomplish, Ms. Peck and the other facialists point out that at least there is instant gratification in an immediate glow.
“With surgery, things can go really wrong,” Ms. Martyn said of the other options. “Here, you’re actually left with your face.”