I'm going to let you in on Hollywood's biggest skin secret. No, I'm not talking about a specific product (though I will break down a few of them later in this story). I'm referring to celebrity esthetician and Garnier ambassador Shani Darden, whose magical fingers and skin care prowess is behind some of the most beautiful, glowy faces in the industry. I'm talking Chrissy Teigen, Jessica Alba, and Rosie Huntington-Whitely — the big leagues.
Although I've only recently been acquainted with Darden, I've long heard about her expertise. Ask any editor or publicist in the beauty industry, and they'll be quick to tell you that they swear by Shani Darden's facials. I have heard so much about her over the years that in my mind, Darden was basically a legend. What exactly could she be doing that was different from all of the other facialists and estheticians in Los Angeles, I wondered. Was she using some illegal serum that gave you that otherworldly, supermodel radiance? Botox, maybe? I was determined to find out.
First of all, you should know that strings had to be pulled for me to get an appointment. The woman's schedule is already booked for the first half of 2018. So when I was able to snag a facial with Darden, thanks to Garnier, you know I wasn't going to be late for it. When I pulled up to the address off Melrose Ave., I was surprised to find a house, not a clinic. Even more shocking was when I knocked on the door, there was Darden herself.
Another thing you should know: Shani Darden's skin is on another level. You know that filter on Snapchat with the crown that makes you look like you dipped yourself in gold? That's actually what Shani Darden's skin looks like, without any makeup. Celebrity clients aside, I was already sold, just based on her complexion itself.
Skin aside, Darden is welcoming and sweet, with a relaxed vibe surrounding her. She escorts me to the room where she does her skin care sorcery. It's very zen — there are orchids, cream-colored walls, and Frank Ocean playing in the background. But as Chrissy Teigen once told me, this isn't a relaxing spa facial.
"She's fantastic, but she's a little bit brutal. She's very hard on the skin and she goes in on you... it's really amazing," Teigen warned me during an interview I had earlier this year.
And boy, was Chrissy right.
"I'm sorry that I'm killing you," Darden apologizes, as she attempts to extract every single blackhead from my congested nose. "I have the same thing, so this is all I care about — not having blackheads."
After Darden is satisfied with the extraction process (which definitely lasted longer than it does at a typical facial — the woman is determined), she continues the treatment using a number of masks, serums, and gadgets, from a lactic acid peel to get rid of dead skin cells to an ultrasound device (yes, the same one gynecologists use) to help tighten skin texture. While she mostly uses the same products, each facial is customized for each of her clients to ensure you're getting exactly what you need.
The last step of the facial is laying underneath an LED lamp that radiates red light. Studies have proven that LED light helps boost collagen production, heal acne, and make your skin appear smoother and softer. To say that Darden is obsessed with LED light therapy is an understatement — in addition to the LightStim LED lamp she uses during facials, Darden also owns an LED bed in her clinic and swears by an LED face mask from Korean-based skin care company Deesse (that looks straight out of Friday The 13th).
After the treatment, Darden can't wait for me to see my skin. "You're going to love how your skin looks, and you might love me too," Darden jokes.
I walk over to the mirror and find that my face is glowing, my cheeks (typically irritated from mild rosacea) are calm, and my nose (usually scattered with blackheads) is the cleanest and clearest I've ever seen it.
Here's what my skin typically looks like.
Here's my skin after the facial, without a filter or an ounce of makeup.
I finally understand why so many celebrities entrust their skin to Darden.
If you don't live in the Los Angeles area or frankly, just can't get an appointment with Darden, fret not. She shared the skin care products she swears by and recommends to all of her A-list clients.
1. Garnier Sheet Masks
Darden usually dislikes sheet masks, but loves Garnier's because they're all super hydrating and non-comedogenic. Her favorite of the bunch? Garnier's new Super Purifying Charcoal Face Mask, which she used on me during my facial. Darden uses the same one on herself once a week.
2. LED Light Therapy
While you may not be able to afford an LED bed or the $2,300 LED face mask Darden loves, there are plenty of other, more affordable options on the market that you can use at home, like this FDA-approved red light therapy lamp from RejuvaliteMD.
Darden is definitely known for her facials, but her name is practically synonymous with her retinol product, Resurface. It's a gentle enough formula for people who have sensitive skin, but is effective enough to help smooth skin texture and make your overall face look healthier. Jessica Alba, Rosie Huntington Whitely, and even Kim Kardashian have all raved about it
4. Vitamin C Serum
Darden is a huge fan of skin care brand IS Clinical and uses many of their products both on her clients and herself. Recently, she's been obsessed with their Genexc Serum, which has 20 percent Vitamin C in it. Incorporating a Vitamin C serum into your routine can help your skin look brighter, healthier, and have a more even complexion.
5. An Exfoliator
When it comes to exfoliation, Darden prefers peels over scrubs and as far as she's concerned, Dr. Dennis Gross' peel pads are the best. The two-step treatment is made with Glycolic and lactic acids to help remove dead skin cells and smooth out your skin, as well as vitamins A, C, and E and green tea extract to protect against environmental damage.
For more skin care tips, check out this story to learn how to bring your beauty routine to the next level.