How Shani Darden Became Every Celebrity's Favorite Facialist
Welcome to Beauty Boss, a reoccurring series in which we spotlight the power players driving the beauty world forward. Consider this your chance to steal their get-ahead secrets, and grow from the real-life lessons they’ve learned on the job.
Whenever you see a celebrity whose skin has that elusive dewy glow, they probably recently saw Shani Darden. The Los Angeles-based facialist counts Jessica Alba, Chrissy Teigen, and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley among her A-list clients.
Along with treatments, Darden has an eponymous line of skincare products including texture and retinol serums that have been celebrity and beauty editor cult-favorites for years. In 2018 she expanded her line with a trio of everyday skincare essentials including a moisturizer, toner, and cleanser. And this year is shaping up to be major for Darden, too. She opened her flagship studio in Beverly Hills this month.
Here, we caught up Darden to talk how she became the facialist on every celebrity's speed dial, how to make products that stand out, her own skincare routine, and more.
Tell me how you first got started in the beauty industry.
I started making face masks when I was little — probably nine or 10 years old. When I finally became an esthetician, I was fortunate enough to work for dermatologist, Dr. Erma Benitez, and I saw a lot of young people with acne and many other skin conditions. It motivated me to want 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.
What is the biggest challenge getting your start as a facialist?
Developing a client base can be difficult when you’re starting out. However, I have been very lucky to have had great clients and great referrals from them.
How did you get your start working with celebrities?
After working for the dermatologist, I ended up working in a few different spas, which is where I first met Jessica Alba. She was actually the one who encouraged me to do my own thing. I started doing facials out of my guesthouse at home. Jessica was one of the first clients I had of my own, and she’s now one of my closest friends! I’ve had a lot of amazing clients who have given me amazing referrals, so I feel like I’ve been very lucky in that respect.
What made you decide to launch a product line before opening your own salon?
It's just how it naturally happened!
What sets your eponymous line of products apart in the crowded skincare space?
My motto is less is more. Skincare does not have to be complicated to be effective. I think that my no-nonsense, honest approach to skincare has helped set my line apart from others.
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Walk me through your own skincare routine.
In the morning, I cleanse with the Daily Cleansing Serum, which is my gentle gel cleanser that doesn't strip your skin. It actually helps to add moisture back into your skin with glycerin, jojoba, and sodium hyaluronate. After cleansing I use my Deesse Mask for 20 minutes for glowing skin. LED light boosts collagen in the skin, minimizes fine lines and wrinkles, and improves circulation to give you a nice glow. Next up, I will apply a Vitamin C serum for antioxidant protection, and an oil-free sunscreen. I love Supergoop!'s Everyday Sunscreen. It’s lightly hydrating, yet it won’t cause congestion. I wear sunscreen every single day, no matter what.
At night, I cleanse with the Daily Cleansing Serum again. After gently drying my skin, I apply Texture Reform, which is my gentle retinol palmitate serum. For an added boost of moisture, I like to use a hyaluronic acid serum. Hyaluronic Acid helps to attract moisture and plump up your skin. Next up is eye cream. My favorite is iS Clinical's Youth Eye Complex. It has peptides and hyaluronic acid to hydrate and brighten. I finish my routine with my Daily Oil-Free Moisturizer, which provides lightweight hydration with natural extracts and light humectants.
What's next for your brand?
I am opening up my first flagship studio in Beverly Hills this month! This has been a long time in the works, and I couldn’t be more thrilled that it’s almost finished! I have developed such a love for interior design, so it just made sense to design a space in my aesthetic. I am always developing new products, and have a few releases slated for this year.