The Facialists

The beauty industry traditionally has fewer famous faces than hairdressing, but there’s a select pack of facial specialists who have made it to the top. Georgia Seago meets three of the best, to find out how they got there

THE HOLISTIC HEALER

Anastasia Achilleos has been global ambassador for Olay for ten years and is committed to helping her clients change not just their skin, but also their lives, through her passion for wellbeing and education.

For someone who only initially studied beauty therapy to keep her parents happy, it’s safe to say Achilleos has done well. She found she really enjoyed the course and discovered a passion for treating the face. “When you come out of college you think you’re qualified but you’re not, you’re “text book” qualified but you’re dealing with human beings,” she says, highlighting the fact that she wasn’t taught any holistic or wellness skills.

She was headhunted to perform facials at the first Spa NK in Notting Hill, London, and she already knew she didn’t like doing other treatments. This is also when her signature approach started to take shape. “We were trained in all these niche product houses and I started to feel that I couldn’t stick to one product house. I knew this person needed certain products from different brands,” she says. Today, her kit contains products from multiple brands from around the world.

After a treatment at Space NK she would fill a basket with a selection of handpicked products for the client from the retail area. “It’s all about customer service, making somebody feel really, truly cared for. They don’t know what to use so I found a way of working and giving to people, and I think that’s also what makes me a good therapist – what are you willing to do to go above and beyond what your job tells you to do?”

Achilleos says she can read a person’s craniosacral rhythm and this, coupled with deep pressure work such as stomach massage, is what she incorporates into every treatment: “I’m not only working on the surface, which everyone can do,” she says. “I’m creating a lift by taking away the stiffness and firmness that’s been there, realigning the surface; everybody should have a treatment like that. Our industry has grown so much that if you are not excellent, you’ll now be left behind.”

Her work with Olay is where her passion for education is given a global outlet, and the level of knowledge she is able to share, not just with private clients but with beauty consumers, is what she believes makes people gravitate towards her.

For two years she ran The Anastasia Achilleos Method Spa at private member’s club Home House in London, a period she calls “a beautiful part of my life”. For various reasons, Achilleos eventually decided it wasn’t for her: “It was on my list as one of the things I wanted to do in my career, but it’s a hard ship to sail. You need to have a very strong management team, and I don’t enjoy that part of it, that’s not why I got into this,” she says.

She now treats her personal clients in hotels or other businesses that have discreet back door entrances “which is the way they like it,” she says. “I go to people’s homes if I need to. I’m a service girl, I’ll do whatever it takes to see you, and I’ll move my whole diary to get you in with me.”

THE LONG-TIME FAVOURITE

With a slick new clinic bearing her name and a long client waiting list, Sarah Chapman is certainly in demand. Her eponymous clinic and retail boutique is split across two floors in London’s Sloane Square. It opened in June and is Chapman’s latest project, offering an interactive retail space as well as seven treatment rooms. “It makes it more accessible for people, more educational and more fun, because there should be an element of fun to it all as well,” says Chapman. She and her team needed more space to accommodate her waiting list of 270 clients. “We were already maxing out seven days a week to 9 o’clock at night; we couldn’t fit any more people in,” she says.

Chapman initially trained as an aromatherapist and make-up artist before gradually becoming more interested in skin and products. She worked for different skincare companies in areas including sales, marketing and training, but found her way back to treatments (she also has advanced training in cosmetic science). “A good friend of mine moved to Australia and asked me if I would take care of her clients for her because she had been treating them for 20 years and didn’t trust anyone else to do it, so that’s how I got back into treatments. It just grew with word of mouth from that,” she says.

Chapman’s clients are, “people who genuinely want to look after their skin and look the best they can, who are not necessarily looking to be 20 years younger but rather to look good and be healthy.” She describes them as women who don’t tend to wear a lot of make-up, but rather want to have good skin and be radiant and glowing. Regular customers range in age from late 30s to late 50s and often have specific issues like adult acne. “Otherwise it’ll generally be maintenance and healthy, radiant skin that people are looking for,” she says.

Chapman believes in a very personalised approach to treating the skin. “I don’t think skin type is the right way to classify skin because most people have got various things going on,” she says. “You might see me today and I’ll do something totally different to what I’ll do in six months because your skin is completely different.” Rather, it’s about being intuitive and knowledgeable. “I always say it’s a place for thinking therapists. We don’t do any one-two-three movements. It’s about thinking and tailoring it and that’s why it’s really enjoyable because you’re able to use your own knowledge and develop the treatment.”

Facials use Chapman’s own line of products, Skinesis, which she developed after finding that she had to use too many different products to get the results she wanted on a client. The line fuses the efficacy of cosmeceutical formulations with the scents and skin-conditioning properties of botanicals. New products are added every few months. “Every time there’s something that inspires me about somebody’s skin and I haven’t got something to deal with that, I’ll start researching a new product,” she says.

These days, she generally only sees her regular, longstanding clients: “Sometimes if I can’t fit them in, they’ll see one of the girls in between and then I’ll see them the next month,” she says.

THE SKIN FIXER

Antonia Burrell has paid her dues in the beauty industry. 25 years after starting out in a junior role at the now closed Sanctuary Spa, where she tells me she was paid £20 a day before tax, she now charges premium prices for facials using products from her own plant-based skincare line, Antonia Burrell Holistic Skincare.

Utilising her obsession with ingredients, together with skills and knowledge picked up from her various roles, Burrell now treats clients part-time from her treatment room at Urban Bliss, a complementary health clinic on London’s Portobello Road.

Clients initially come for a 90-minute appointment, which Burrell says gives her time to really do what’s needed. “I don’t need to have a massive discussion, I can see exactly what I need to do sitting on the couch. I’m hands on sorting their skin out and then I tell them what is going on, why it’s happening, and how to correct it. I then give them a programme, which they receive every two weeks for the next three months, and then we meet again after three months. When people come to see me it’s a skin changer,” she says.

When describing her client base Burrell lists “directors of companies, bankers, lawyers, beauty editors, celebrities, royalty, presenters and actors” as typical. So what does she think has earned her this A-list of clients who could presumably go to any facialist of their choosing? “I am a specialist in skin fixing, I am a solution provider for problematic skin as well as ageing and that is my point of difference. People come to me with serious problems. I will treat those as well as de-age them and make the skin look super glowing at the same time,” she says.

Her skincare line was born out of a need to treat a particularly difficult client with aggressive, dehydrated acne. “As I got to know her, I realised it had affected her whole life. She didn’t look in the mirror anymore, she felt ugly, didn’t like her husband touching her face. She was just an angry lady because of her skin,” says Burrell. While lecturing in chemistry and aromatherapy at the University of the Arts London, she decided to take that knowledge and do some research, and came up with a concoction.

After two weeks the client’s skin was smoother and the inflammation had been reduced. “It hadn’t got rid of anything, but because it had started to take down some of the inflammation she began to feel like something was working effectively. I decided to bottle it up and then she bought it,” Burrell says. There are now six products in the line, from a cleansing oil to a polishing powder, skin conditioner and the hero, Mask Supreme.

“People say to me ‘why are you still doing facials, you should be running your skincare brand’,” she says. “But the essence of who I am is a facialist. What keeps my feet on the ground is that I love helping people and getting their skin corrected.”