As a longtime lifestyle writer, I've had my share of both questionable and exceptional facial treatments—clay masks, caviar serums, electrodes, kinetic energy, ancient massage modalities, extractions that could double as torture techniques, you name it.
In all that time, the best facial I've ever experienced is with Lili Mineni. This unicorn of an aesthetician is not a household name. That might seem surprising for someone with her abilities, especially considering that she lives in Los Angeles (the land of shameless self-promotion) and looks like a sprite with the smile of a pageant queen. But a low profile is often the case with practitioners who are the real deal: The charming Mineni is beyond discreet with her client list and more interested in your skin's health than the spotlight.
I first met Mineni during her years at Kate Somerville long before the brand grew into a giant. Now, she has her own intimate Santa Monica digs, where she utilizes the latest innovations and science-based natural skin care. She also has a degree in integrative nutrition, so her approach is holistic in the real sense of the word. I finally got the chance to experience her personal space firsthand this past May. I arrived as a hot mess—truly, my skin was in terrible shape. And I left fixed. One session and my skin has been clear since. If I could clone Mineni and bring her to New York City, I would. Instead, I did the next best thing and called for some invaluable summer skin-care tips.
Why is summer sometimes a tricky time for the skin? What can we do to help our skin through the season?
"Some skin types thrive in summer, and others can be triggered. For one, excess heat and humidity can increase the amount that we sweat, and that means more oil, which can lead to clogged pores. Bacteria and fungus also thrive in heat and humidity and can lead to breakouts and skin irritations. I find a lot of clients panic and start using products that dry out the skin to prevent breakouts, and this only stresses the skin and causes more issues. An increased use of air conditioning can cause dryness, too. So using the right combination of products and staying hydrated is the best defense against seasonal skin issues. Summer also means more sun exposure, which can lead to hyperpigmentation. One of my favorite companies is Coolibar. They make UPF 50+ protective clothing and accessories to keep the sun off while outside.
My favorite way to approach the summer months is to keep it light during the day: I suggest using an antioxidant serum and a mineral sunscreen for daytime and a retinaldehyde serum and moisturizer at night. Retinaldehyde is a gentler form of retinol and less irritating. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals produced by UV light and even some types of air pollution. My favorite tool for keeping the skin healthy is the Clarisonic brush. The technology provides a deep cleanse that you can't get with your hands. It's a must for home use when you want to maintain your facial results or can't get in for a service."
You have saved my skin in a single session. Why do you think you're able to do that?
"I think it starts with establishing a personal relationship with my clients so they feel comfortable communicating with me. Getting a sense of who I'm working with allows me to stay focused on what their expectations are and how to accomplish our shared goal. I've learned over the years that skin is constantly changing and what works one month may not work the next, and I change my approach. I think it's definitely intuitive. I start by tweaking the skin-care regimen for at home and customizing each treatment to ensure the skin I'm working on gets what it needs. I want my clients to love their skin, and I'm dedicated to providing results."