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beauty, simplified

Hi and welcome back to Skinlexicon...

I write this from my bedroom as our family are self-quarantining in the midst of a COVID-19 pandemic. These are crazy times but it's also a chance for us all to reflect, reset, and take stock of what's truly important. I'm using this time to reconnect with myself and my loved ones because I have definitely felt a lot of anxiety around the news, just as I'm sure all of you have, too. I've been taking respite in poetry, mindfulness practice, art, writing, reading, and warm baths.

It's also a great time for self-care and for me, that means extra skincare activities such as using my ZIIP, doing some gua sha, applying a mask (I have a Knesko I want to try out), and testing new products including the new Renée Rouleau line (loving her Skin Drink serum so far). I've also been researching new skincare treatments such as threading (I'm seeing Vanessa Lee of The Things We Do next month for a consultation), and new at-home micro current devices such as the 7E Myolift Mini (if any of you have tried this please let me know). 

But in much lighter news, this week our skin spotlight features the one and only, Shani Darden. Major celebrities have Darden on speed dial including Rosie Huntington-Whitely, January Jones, and Jessica Alba but A-listers aside, her passion is in healthy, radiant skin for all. Darden's Instagram is a resource in the saturated skincare space with informative videos on ingredients and treatments to debunk the myths and cut through the noise. Scroll down to read our interview where she sheds light on her less-is-more skincare philosophy, why you should wear sunscreen every day (even indoors!), and her top five skincare products. (And if you haven't seen it already, take the tour of Darden's studio designed by one of my favorites, Jake Arnold who we featured in an earlier edition of our Stylexicon newsletter.) 

As always, thank you for your support of this small but mighty side hustle. Please let me know of any brands or treatments you want me to review, along with any topics or questions you'd like me to cover. You can email me directly at

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  • With the worldwide spread of Coronavirus, try-before-you-buy companies who rely on interaction with customers—from make-up tutorials to perfume testing—are being forced to rethink their business model and make drastic pivots. “Coronavirus will not change the way people choose brands and products but could change the way they shop,” said Odile Roujol, an industry veteran and founder of the FaB Fashion and Beauty Tech community. Read more in BOF. 
  • Who What Wear Beauty editor, Erin Jahn often features articles around the beauty routine of her 71-year-old mom. Why? Because her skin is incredible. This story about her favorite anti-aging serums is really great, too because it also includes great advice around sugar and how it essentially equals wrinkles!
  • If you want to learn why sugar is so taxing on our skin, then read this hilarious yet informative article Do You Have Sugar Face? in The Cut. "In a nutshell, sugar breaks down collagen, the springy substance that makes your skin look plump, youthful, and lifted. Also, sugar can weaken the immune system, and a suppressed immune system is bad at fighting off bacteria. Bacteria clogged in pores creates pimples."
  • She's known for her A-list clientele, but Joanna Vargas is also lauded for her cutting-edge beauty treatments and skincare line. If you're yet to experience one of her facials—this video is from my visit to her L.A. studio—then I highly recommend her Bright Eye Firming Masks. Or you can now buy all of her skincare secrets (including DIY facials) in her latest book, Glow From Within. She explains all the science, ingredients, and treatments, plus helps you to understand what your skin type is so you can buy the products that will work for you. Great resource to have in your skincare arsenal. The more informed we are, the better choices we can make that actually work for our skin and keep it at optimal health. 
  • Since we are all washing our hands multiple times a day for a minimum of 20 seconds, we should at least enjoy it. Byrdie did a piece on hand soaps and my favorite indulgence is Aesop or Byredo who also makes the dreamiest hand cream in Rose
  • My friends at Gloss Angeles pod have been hitting it out of the park with their episodes lately. I want to pay special attention to the two episodes they did with Dr Samolitis, in particular the one on melanoma and hyperpigmentation. But also the episode with Dr. Jason Emer who spoke at length about threads and other cosmetic treatments women are getting right now—it's jam-packed with info! I highly recommend. 

    Beauty Biz BFFs is another great podcast especially if you're an esthetician and are looking for business advice. It's hosted by two licensed estheticians —Kasey Boone and Lorena Ashmore. I actually had a facial with Kasey at her Glow Skincare salon in Taluca Lake, Los Angeles—as evidenced HERE—and she is a wealth of knowledge. She also uses Cosmedix and you know how much I love that brand! 


Shani Darden, Celebrity Esthetician and 
Founder, Shani Darden Skin Care

On her definition of beauty...
Beauty to me is being confident in your own skin. 

On what motivates her to keep going...
My two daughters, Lennon and Phoenix, are my biggest motivation. Everything I do is for them.

On why she became an esthetician...
I’ve been obsessed with skincare for as long as I can remember. I used to make face masks when I was little and begged my mom to take me to a dermatologist at a young age. When I finally became an esthetician, I was fortunate enough to work for a dermatologist, Dr. Erma Benitez where I saw a lot of young people with acne and it motivated me to help people with their skin. This is when my love for retinol really came into play too, because it can really make a big difference with acne as well as boosting collagen, smoothing fine lines and wrinkles, and decreasing pigmentation. 

On what she loves about taking care of people's skin...
Growing up and dealing with my own skin issues, I love being in the position to help others with their skin. Whether they’re my direct client or someone reaching out to me on Instagram, I love these moments. I know how hard it can be to deal with issues like acne or melasma and how much it can affect your confidence. So,  being able to share my knowledge and help others with their skin is really important to me.

On the biggest skin misconceptions...
Not every product works for everyone. You have to take the time to find out what works best for your skin, and not just select products because someone else talks about it.

On the biggest skin mistake, most people make...
The biggest skin mistake I see people making is not wearing sunscreen every single day. The sun will age you. Protect yourself!

"It's not about having a complicated routine. It's about using the right products for your skin type."

On the 3 skin product essentials, everyone should have...
1. A gentle yet effective cleanser that doesn’t strip your skin. A clean foundation is essential for healthy skin, but you never want it to strip your skin of its natural oils.

2. A treatment product like retinol. Retinol is my favorite ingredient to address multiple concerns. I created my Retinol Reform to have all of the benefits of a prescription retinol without any dryness or irritation. It boosts collagen in the skin, minimizes fine lines and wrinkles, reduces pigmentation, and can also help with acne. 

3. Sunscreen is the single most important thing you can do for your skin. All of the fine lines and pigmentation people complain about is from the sun. You have to stay out of the sun and keep your skin protected with sunscreen every single day of the year, even cloudy, or rainy days.

On buzzy beauty trends...
Unfortunately, there isn’t really a way to know. If you’re using effective products like a serum which has a higher concentration of active ingredients and you’re seeing the results, you should keep at it. You don’t need to keep changing your products if they’re working. I would advise people to really do their research about lasers and other treatments. There are so many out there and it’s hard to know what is best.

On her go-to product and treatment for an instant glow...
I love a light chemical peel to instantly brighten the skin. It removes the dead skin on the surface to reveal brighter, glowing skin.

LED light therapy is an amazing treatment as well. It will boost collagen in the skin which helps to minimize fine lines and wrinkles. It also boosts your circulation to give you an amazing glow. I use my Deesse Pro Next Generation LED Mask every single day to get all of the benefits.

On finding effective products in a saturated market...
I think that there are a lot of high expectations for skin care products to literally change your skin overnight. Amazing products don’t necessarily change your skin after one use and people can become discouraged with that. Look for products with active ingredients high up on the ingredients list. The closer ingredients are to the bottom, the smaller the percentage of that ingredient.

"Sunscreen is the single most important thing you can do for your skin... you have to stay out of the sun and keep your skin protected with sunscreen every single day of the year, even cloudy or rainy days."

On her skincare philosophy...
It’s not about having a complicated routine, it’s about using the right products for your skin type. Putting in the effort and taking the time to find out what really works for your skin and what doesn’t is truly beneficial.

On the skincare IG account she follows that's also educational...
@VanessaLee_RN talks about amazing, effective medical treatments. She knows all about these more advanced treatments, and I really trust her.

On his advice for people new to skincare...
Everyone’s skin type is different, but the very basics are a great cleanser, moisturizer, sunscreen, antioxidant serum, and a treatment serum at night. From here, you can add in more specific products that suit your skin type best.

On how to reverse sun damage...

It can be extremely difficult to reverse sun damage, but using a vitamin C serum can help. Exposure to the sun can deplete the collagen in your skin, and vitamin C provides antioxidant protection to help offset the effects of that and gently brighten your skin. Retinol can also help.

On the sunscreen she recommends...
Supergoop Everyday Sunscreen is one of my favorites because it’s lightly hydrating yet  doesn’t cause congestion.

On how to get rid of "tech neck"...
Micro-current is an incredible treatment to help tighten sagging skin as well as prevent it. It uses low level electrical current to tone, tighten, and lift the skin. If you use it regularly, it can really help with prevention.

On her top five skincare products...

Daily Cleansing Serum—a gentle cleanser that removes makeup and impurities but never strips the skin. Features Oat Bran Extract to repair the skin’s barrier and Sodium Hyaluronate and Glycerin to draw moisture into the skin. 

Retinol Reform—Retinol is hands down my favorite skin care ingredient. I created Retinol Reform to provide all of the benefits of a prescription retinol without any of the drawbacks. It features Lactic Acid to provide immediate brightening benefits and retinol for more long term results.

DR Nigma No 1 Serum—Dr. Nigma’s Serum No 1 is a hyaluronic acid serum that deeply hydrates and plumps up the skin.

iS Clinical Pro-Heal Serum Advance+—This is one of my favorite vitamin C serums to provide daily antioxidant protection and help reverse signs of uv exposure. It’s a powerful formula yet amazing at calming inflammation too.

Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Peel Pads—I prefer chemical exfoliants over physical ones because they’re often more effective and less harsh on the skin. The Dr. Dennis Gross Peel Pads combine AHAs and BHAs to remove dead skin cells on the surface and clear up any congestion—watch Darden explain the difference between chemical and physical exfoliants HERE.

Follow Shani on Instagram @shanidarden (and be sure to watch her video on niacinamide, one of my favorite ingredients!)

Photos: Michael Clifford
Thank you for reading this all the way to the end! If you have any industry news, brand updates, new product launches, or stories you'd like to share or see featured, please email me:

Image 1: Tasya Van Ree
Image 2: Jenna Peffley
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