It’s such a surprise. Each year, without fail, spring rolls around not long after we recover from the shock of holiday weight gain, shrug off the failed promise of New Year’s resolutions and survive the assault to our circadian rhythms that is Daylight Saving Time. Happy just to be here, we begin to plan for summer and all that it brings: warm weather, travel, sunshine, swimming and sunning. Hallelujah, we think. Shorts and bathing suit season, we think.
Male or female, old or young, there’s likely not a one of us who hasn’t thought that thought, paused, looked askance at the person in the mirror and muttered, “Hold on, maybe I should do something about that.” Now the "that" in this story will vary from person to person, and so will the thing done (or not done).
We’ve got a few ideas to get the ball rolling, though, and some of them are even gender-neutral. Furthermore, there’s nothing compulsory about this – we’re not encouraging anyone to take aesthetic action based on gender norms or societal pressures. You do you. We do, however, consider it a universal truth that everyone likes a little pampering, and everyone likes to look nice. So in that spirit, away we go, smoother and more hairless than ever before, ready to take on summer like a chicken on a June bug.
The Skinny on Skin
At Aura Spa+Beauty Studio in Norman, owner Merlyn Zientkowski is adamant about taking the long view when it comes to skin care. While she does offer treatments designed to yield instant results, her passion is helping clients embrace a holistic approach to caring for their skin.
“Education is a big part of what we do at Aura,” Zientkowski says. “We place a lot of emphasis on the importance of daily home care of the skin, and we help our clients understand that nutrition, hydration, sleep and sun exposure have a big effect on how healthy our skin is.”
For spring self-care, Zientkowski is a fan of exfoliating. Whether it’s a blueberry sugar scrub for the body or dermaplaning the face with a 10-gauge surgical scalpel, a thorough removal of the skin’s dead, dull outer layer is de rigeur. “Dermaplaning is the removal of the top layer of the skin with a surgical blade,” she explains. “We do it before a peel, during a facial, to remove all of the dead cells and hairs so that the pores will be open and absorb treatments better. The skin will absolutely glow. It doesn’t hurt, it feels like scraping. I tell my clients to relax, but do not move when I begin.”
Combined with a peel, and administered deftly by Zientkowski, the sensation is very soothing, and there’s a tiny element of danger. (But seriously: You’re in good hands.) It feels different on different parts of the face. On the cheeks, the scraping feels very faint and soft, like the bristles of a small, soft toothbrush. On the upper lip, the scraping is more pronounced and there is an acute awareness of potential mishaps … best not to let the mind wander at that point.
The softness of the skin post-dermaplaning cannot be overstated. It’s due partly to the total absence of peach fuzz, but mostly to the total absence of a single dead skin cell. When the breeze caresses your skin on the way to your car, it’s a startling sensation. You may surprise yourself by inviting people to touch your face. You may touch your own face much, much, much more than usual.
Aura Spa+Beauty Studio is a gorgeous space. It’s been open for less than a year and occupies a large chunk of Norman’s coveted Carriage Plaza. Its sleek, feminine, white-on-white interior smells like mint and essential oils, and stepping across the threshold instantly washes the rest of the world away.
Like Oxygen, Baby?
One face treatment with beautifully noticeable short-term results is an oxygen facial.
Haley Horn, aesthetician at Flutters Lash Studio in north OKC, swears by them – specifically the Image O2 Lift Facial. “This is a facial that fights aging and damaged cells,” Horn says.
“The short-term results, the luminous glow and fullness of the skin, last three to five days. The longer-term benefits are the collagen boost and the anti-aging properties.”
It’s a five-step facial, administered in Horn’s serene private room at Flutters. Once her client is happily ensconced on Horn’s heated, cushy memory foam bed, swaddled under cozy blankets, she gets to work. After a good cleansing, Horn begins the exfoliation process with a gentle enzyme peel – effective, but not so aggressive that recovery time is needed. It does sting a little more than a little. Extractions follow, if needed, and then comes the main event: oxygenation.
“This step provides a moisture surge and antioxidants, which plump and brighten the skin,” Horn says. It feels fizzy on the face, in a pleasant way. You can definitely tell something is happening. This is great to do before a vacation. The skin is plumped, dewy and radiant when we’re done.”
Last, an antioxidant-rich treatment is slathered on. It’s filled with stem cells and potent botanicals that fight aging and tackle damaged cells.
Results are immediately visible, and are noticeable to others. Skin around the eyes looks thicker and firmer, wrinkles on the upper lip are magically (alas, temporarily) nearly erased and pores have shrunk. There is a fullness imparted by the process that may send you straight down memory lane, back to the days when you had collagen to spare but didn’t appreciate it.
Horn suggests a regimen of regular facials, spaced six to eight weeks apart, to gain long-term results. “The type of facials we recommend at any given time are seasonal. We look at doing brightening facials and microdermabrasion at the end of summer, to remove any sun damage and counteract summer wear and tear.”
In the cooler months, Horn says, skin dulls and we lose vitamin D. “So that’s a better time for extensive treatments that require downtime. When the skin is dormant, in the winter, you can do more to repair it.”
How ‘bout a Brazilian?
Blowout, that is. (If you’re thinking about the other kind of Brazilian, that’s later in the story.) A Brazilian Blowout keratin treatment is a specific type of straightening and texture-refining treatment for hair, and Cat Reed, stylist at Flux Salon in Bricktown, has been straightening hair with keratin for a dozen years. She even uses the treatments herself.
“The most common misconception is that it’s a reverse perm, but it isn’t. If you straighten the hair using a perm solution, it’s much more damaging to the hair and when it grows, the ends will always be straight. There will be a clear line of demarcation. With a Brazilian Blowout, there isn’t. The hair gradually reverts back to its old texture over time,” Reed says.
It does take some time, and it’s not an inexpensive process; pricing starts at $250 and increases depending on hair length and thickness. However, the treatment works beautifully on any ethnicity, and it requires no wait time before getting it wet. It also repairs split ends, and locks in color.
“It’s a simple process, but it’s a little time-consuming,” Reed says. “You paint on a very thin layer of the solution, and then you blow it dry. After that, you straighten the hair with multiple passes of a flat iron. The more you go over it, the straighter the result will be. And the number of times we iron the hair depends partly on how curly it was to start, and what its natural texture is. After we’ve ironed the hair, we shampoo it, and then we dry it again and it’s set.”
As Reed explains the process, the woman in her chair, Amy Moore, nods. She’s been getting Brazilian Blowouts about every 12 weeks for years, except while she was pregnant, and she’s excited to be back. Her hair looks thick and healthy, falls midway down her back and is slowly being painted with a thin layer of a pudding-like solution by Cat. It smells pleasant, slightly floral.
“What I love is how much it cuts down on drying and styling time. It adds so much shine and softness, too. When I don’t have it done, it takes about 40 minutes to dry and flat-iron my hair. With a Brazilian, it takes me six to eight minutes to dry it and that’s it. This is a game-changer,” Moore says.
Reed encourages clients to optimize their Brazilian Blowout results by caring properly for their newly silky strands once home. Use sulfate-free shampoos and conditioners, such as those from the Unite line of haircare products. “Also, salt water absolutely will ruin a Brazilian Blowout,” she says. “So if you’re thinking you can get one and look perfect on a beach vacation, you can … but only if you keep your hair out of the ocean.”
But… How ‘bout a Brazilian?
At Udånder, it’s all about removing stress, and also sometimes about removing hair.
From your bathing suit parts. “We offer three kinds of bikini waxing services: the traditional bikini, the Brazilian and the Shy Brazilian,” says Yvonne Trigoso, Udånder’s lead aesthetician. “With a Brazilian, we remove all of the hair from everywhere – front, back and what we refer to as the undercarriage. The Shy Brazilian is middle ground, and with that we remove the hair from the back and undercarriage but leave the front, and with a regular bikini, we just do the sides of the front, and part of the undercarriage.”
But the pain, right? Katie Goodrich, Udånder’s co-owner, assures us that the pain is over-hyped. “People tend to fear waxing because of what they’ve seen in the movies. It never fails. Women come in to get a Brazilian, and they walk out saying it wasn’t nearly as bad as they thought it would be.”
Trigoso agrees. “If it was as bad as the movies make it out to be, nobody would do it. I’d say on a scale of one to 10, the pain factor is maybe a five. Part of it is using the right wax for the right body part; I use a hard wax for bikini and Brazilians because it leaves no stickiness behind. Another reason my waxes are less painful is that I’m fast. I work from the outside edges inward, an inch at a time.”
A hard wax is one that hardens as it cools, meant to be applied to the skin and speedily peeled off. Soft wax is applied to the skin and a strip of fabric is pressed into it and quickly ripped off, bringing with it lots of hairs you no longer have attached to your body. Either way, regular exfoliation post-wax is key. “To prevent ingrown [hairs] as hair grows back, use a mechanical exfoliant like a scrub, but not immediately after a wax,” Goodrich advises.
Forget About the Quick Fix
Skincare is a Marathon, Not a Sprint
Heather Mitchell, an aesthetician at Broadway 822 Salon, is not a believer in the quick fix. She’s all about a steady, thoughtful approach, combining great skincare, both professionally and at home, with the things your mother told you to do to look your best. Drink plenty of water, eat clean, healthy food and get lots of sleep. Oh, and there’s one thing she says will make more of a difference than anything else: “Use sunscreen. Every day. That is the biggest age fighter there is. It needs to at least be SPF 30, and it needs to block UVA and UVB rays,” she says.
Mitchell swears by a vitamin C-infused sunscreen from Pevonia, the skincare line she’s used for 22 years. “Vitamin C fights the effects of free radicals, which come from things like air pollution and smoke. The science behind free radicals is complicated, but the end result is that they create lines and crepeyness. UVA rays age the skin, and UVB rays can cause skin cancer. All of this will make the skin dull, ruddy and muddy.”
Pevonia’s tinted sunscreen is Mitchell’s perfect solution for summer. “It has coverage but isn’t a heavy foundation, which you don’t want to wear in the summer anyway. If you’ve never used Pevonia before, start with the sunscreen. It’s important and people tend to be leery of sunscreen, but this is light, non-comedogenic [meaning it doesn’t clog pores and cause breakouts], it hydrates and has nice coverage.”
Although Mitchell has spent more than two decades studying skincare, her protocol is refreshingly straightforward. “Generally, everyone should have a morning routine and an evening routine. In the morning you’ll cleanse, tone, use an eye gel or cream and a moisturizer with sunscreen. That’s it. You can add a serum between toning and moisturizing if you need it. In the evening, cleanse, tone, a heavier eye cream, a serum or oil and a moisturizer. Exfoliate two or three times a week. That’s it.”
Her treatment room is immaculately planned, and the products she uses on clients are not available to the public. “I use the spa lines, which are much more potent. I do a great treatment for rosacea, which is a problem for many people. Everything I do to treat rosacea is about soothing. I use Pevonia’s RS2, which is a highly concentrated serum, and a four-layer mask that feels warm at first, and then cool.”
She knows that establishing a skin care regimen can be overwhelming, and has perhaps the most sensible piece of advice you’ll hear: “Just do something. Start with something. Something is better than nothing.”
Ditch Your Mascara and Go for a Lift and Tint
It’s a perm and color for your eyelashes.
The curl lasts about 10 weeks, and the color about four. “You have the look of curled lashes and mascara without doing a thing. This is great if you’re in the pool or at the lake a lot in the summer,” Horn says. “We glue the lashes around a small rod, and apply the curl solution. After 10 minutes, we apply the setting lotion and then we add the tint, which gives you dark, black lashes.” The whole shebang costs $99, with a touch-up color for $20, and gives you a mascara-free summer.
Haley’s Tips for a Better Looking Summer
• First and foremost, use a moisturizer with an SPF of 20 or greater every day. Tinted moisturizers are great and provide a little bit of coverage, so you can forego foundation.
• Exfoliate at home. Find an exfoliator you like and use it. Some people can exfoliate daily, others with more sensitive skin should stick to two to three times a week.
• Schedule regular facials. Mix them up according to your skin’s needs and the seasons.
• Stay on top of your skin care regimen. “Being consistent will keep your skin at its most youthful,” Haley Horn says.