Melanie Simon, Electrical Aesthetician

“I am an electrical aesthetician. I didn’t start out down this path, though. I’d always worked—basically full-time from the time I was 16. But in college, I was studying Communicative Disorders with a minor in Deaf Studies to be a speech pathologist. And by the time I was 19, I’d already bought my first house. Granted, it was a starter home, but still. It all just felt so heavy and so serious. I needed to take some time. So when I turned 21, I decided to take a break from school, move to Mammoth, California, and teach snowboarding. It was a total change and I didn’t end up coming back.

I was always super into skincare. My mother always made me use lotion from a young age. Nothing serious—just Lubriderm. And I remember my sister did a science project one year on the skin of nectarines. She moisturized each one with a different moisturizer and watched, and I’m not kidding you, six of them from the same batch looked completely horrendous after a month, and the one with Lubriderm on it was perfect. I will never forget that—I just thought, ‘Oh, there really is something to taking care of skin that makes sense.’ That stuck with me, and when I was in Mammoth, I found this aesthetician program in Reno—which was a 3-hour commute—and thought that I would go and learn the most amazing things. But really all you do is get your license. You just learn how to make sure things are clean, sanitary, and safe. It’s up to you to further your education. Luckily, I quickly stumbled upon someone who recommended Biologique Recherche to me. It’s not just the products that make it so special. Part of their technique involves a machine that combines three electrical wave forms—galvanic, a medium frequency, and a high frequency. It really is super effective at lymphatic drainage, muscle sculpting, and is the most effective thing I’ve seen at driving product in. From there on, I was just really immersed in electricity—I really went down the wormhole.

Different wavelengths do different things. When the frequency is very high, it’s really good at bringing blood to something. If I slow it down and make it more about the depth of the wave, then it gives you a deeper penetration, and it’s more about sculpting the muscle. That’s where the lift comes from. My flagship is in the Santa Barbara, Montecito area, and I see my clients regularly. Most can afford to come every two-ish weeks, and they’d say, ‘I love this, but I feel like I look amazing right away afterward and then it really drops. I can’t wait to get back in here because I need it to look that good again.’ I really wanted to find something that I could build upon, that felt more cumulative. I started trying to find any research I could on electricity—my specialty is on the lower end of the electrical spectrum. I found this group of studies that explained that when you actually use those smaller wave forms, like nanocurrent or the really low end of microcurrent, you see much more regeneration than you do in the higher realm. Then I was on this quest to find that and put it in the client's hands.

ZIIP took two years to create. I wanted to give people who couldn’t come into my salon complete control over their faces. I’d been trying to do it for a while, but everything I came up with felt so old-school and kind of Atari. You know, I was constantly banging my head against the wall around how I could make this into a modern tool. Obviously, people are so connected to their phones, and I could see the potential there. And then it just snowballed. I found a business partner who could help me from a technological angle while I built the wave-form. We ended up with a beautiful device and completely personalized programs you select through the app on your phone that treat what you need when you need it. I’m not going to say that it was all smooth-sailing, because I truly feel it’s the outcome of our hard work and everything we poured into it. Even the Golden Gel that comes with the ZIIP took a solid year and a half to create. But, as an entrepreneur, you don’t want to believe that when you start. You don’t want to know what you’re going to go through before you go through it. You have to be young, dumb, and stupid. If you knew, you’d never start.

I’m not a minimalist. I ZIIP-ed for 40 minutes before this. [Laughs] Except I do take days off when I’ll just let my skincare ride. If I get a two-day stretch where I don’t have to do much but lay around, I won’t wash at all and just let the product go. I’m not a day-and-night skincare person. I think that’s overkill for your skin, anyway. And my routine changes so much. The steps don’t change, unless I’m adding in something unique like a mask or if I need to really exfoliate, which I don’t do too much of anyway. But the products I’m using are constantly changing, even if the routine stays the same. You really need to think in terms of common sense. If the molecule size is really small and you know it’s going to soak in, you wouldn’t want to put that on top of something thick and heavy. That would mean you’re skipping out on the whole point of that product. Certain things need to go in a certain place, or you really just shouldn’t have spent money on that thing to begin with.

If you’re cleansing, first you need to take your makeup off. A true makeup remover will break down the heavy stuff. Then I move on to micellar water. Bioderma I love because no one reacts to it. It’s tried-and-true. And I always, always use gauze—gauze is my number one, cannot-live-without staple. The reason I love gauze is because it pushes the product into your skin instead of stealing it, and I also like it because I can see things coming off. People will come in for their treatments all the time, and they’ll tell me, ‘My skin’s totally clean.’ Of course I go through it, and show them the gauze, and show them how dirty it is. I’m always thinking about breakouts, especially around your jawline and areas you tend to skip. People tend to not even hit those zones when they’re cleansing. So then, I would typically move on to my creamy cleanser. Think of when you wash your hands with soap, and your hands are so dry and parched when you get done. Typically, a creamy cleaner is going to be the soap that leaves your skin a bit more moisturized than a foaming soap. When you let your skin dry out, it’s harder to come back from that. It’s honestly like aging—it’s so much easier to prevent something in the first place than trying to deal with it after it’s happened.

After that, tone. With toning, you have to think about what your face needs. Is it in need of an exfoliation? When you touch it, do you feel skin on there that needs to come off? The thing is, to optimally prep your skin in terms of aging, you do want to slightly acidify the surface. In aging studies, 5.5 is the optimal pH—neutral is 7. My toner, Biologique Recherche P50 1970, is somewhere in the 3 range, so it’s pretty acidic. Sometimes I leave my skin a little wet or I wet my gauze first to throttle the acidity and bring it towards neutral. Depends on how badly I need it.

So then after you’ve toned, that’s when you want a serum that’s water-weight. It’ll soak right into your skin. I like to see something that has a protein or an amino acid in this step. It feeds your skin topically. Today I put on Elastine Pure which is one of my favorite serums from Biologique Recherche. After that, I’ll add another serum that’s a little heavier. Right now I’m doing my Serum C—I had never believed in vitamin C until this. I just thought that they would become destabilized and that it was just kind of a throwaway product. But I got turned on to it by a formulator who used this specific combination of vitamin C that is more sensitive to water than it is to light. I tested it on myself first, Dermarolling, and I noticed my skin looked amazing. Little imperfections would flick off after about 48 hours if I Dermarolled it in. I said to him, ‘Let’s formulate this in a way that I can use it,’ because it was a form of vitamin C that was only being provided to doctors who were microneedling professionally. There’s only five ingredients—it’s really clean, really stable, and the other four ingredients are all about making a base for the C. I’ve been microneedling with it for a solid three years, and when you do that, you see the result immediately. But because it’s destabilized by water instead of light or air, you have to wait for the other products to soak in before adding this on top. And then you have to wait for this to soak in before moving on to other products.

When I give my face time to set up with my Serum C on it, I’ll do something around my eyes. I only do a really thin serum—maybe something like hyaluronic. If you’re doing a straightforward eye cream, I definitely wouldn’t recommend patting in because that can leave you puffy in this area and with little white bumps. Big, heavy butters are not meant to be around the eye area like that. I definitely prefer using lightweight gels or milks, or a really thin serum with a gel on over it—that’s my favorite. I lightly swipe, let it soak in, and then go back and wipe off the excess so it doesn’t puff or get bumpy.

Depending on if it’s night or day, I would use whatever cream I was gonna put on. This is the Biologique Crème Dermopurifiante. This is a go-to which almost everyone can use. It is brown, and it has a very odd scent that I have grown to love. It’s just really good for keeping your skin balanced, and for people that are oily, it doesn’t make them overly shiny. When you need moisture, it really is great. It’s got a lot of arnica in it, it’s really calming.

Lastly, I like to use a finishing fluid. I know these are crazy—finishing fluid is the exception to my rule. It’s always going to be thinner than the cream. This is a product that’s meant to live on top of the skin and look beautiful and keep everything under it from disappearing—it’s not meant to soak in. These tend to be expensive, and you’re thinking, ‘Why are they so expensive? I’m not even gaining a ton of benefit from it.’ But you gain a load of benefit from it because it just completely solidifies your entire look and makes your skin look amazing. Many of these you can mix in to your makeup as well. My favorite is the Biologique Fluide Serum VIP O2. It has a form of liquid oxygen in it. It just kind of gives you this ‘set’ look. This one feels like a milk texture, so you have to work with it quick—you can’t just let it sit around on your face, or you’ll be able to see almost a line of demarcation.

There are a few things I’ve seen that a lot of us who are in the world of taking care of other people’s faces think, ‘What are they doing?’ Some women say, ‘I mask every single night,’ but most people don’t. What I’ve been telling people is to shoot for twice a week, and maybe you’ll hit five times a week. Most days I’ll do a mask that’s very oxygenating. It’s just gonna feel refreshing—it’s not gonna strip, it’s not gonna be overly moisturizing. And then, if it’s very obvious that my breakout marks aren’t going away, then I need something much more exfoliating and that’s got some yeast in it—that’s going to do the trick. And always watch your hands. Between the fingers you’ve got all kinds of product left over that you should be using. And don’t forget your elbows—trust me. That’ll come back to haunt you.

I love Jane Iredale. The sunscreen does not break me out, and it has kept my face as white as the driven snow—honestly. I really like the BB Cream, but I mix it with their Smooth Affair Primer, with more of the primer than the BB cream. The Oxygenating Mist from Biologique on a Beautyblender is also really good to blend that all together on my skin. I always put a setting spray over my makeup, which would be this or that Evian water, or the Avène water. Jane Iredale also makes a D2O Setting Spray that works so well to set mineral pressed powder. For bronzer, I like Nars Laguna because it’s got no sparkly stuff in it. I always do a bronzer and then a pink, pink blush. I’ll usually use the Awake shade from the Jane Iredale line, or I’ll use the pink RMS Lip to Cheek. My favorite thing to top off, once I’ve gotten my makeup on, is the RMS Living Luminizer.

David Mallett is my favorite thing right now. He’s so charming. I met him in Paris and he suggested this Hydration Shampoo and Conditioner for me—I have drier, super coarse, frizzy hair. He also said to use the Hair Serum #DM027. I said I want to have a lot of volume, and he said to use the Volumizing Powder. It’s the most amazing, workable tool I’ve ever seen for hail. These new Oribe Serene Scalp products have salicylic acid in them. I only wash my hair once a week, maybe twice, so when I really need my scalp cleaned, I use those two. And I think the Leonor Greyl Shampoo Rivivisance is so good. My favorite body products right now are the Tatcha Indigo Scrub and the Body Butter. That keeps my body skin looking the best—I notice the difference on my elbows and the creases in my arms and hands. It emulsifies so well.

There’s two other tips that I just have to go on record with. The first is Oxy Powder, this oxygen-based intestinal cleanser. So many women don’t go to the bathroom regularly, and that will break you out. This saves my life—it works unlike anything you’ve ever used before because it’s just oxidized magnesium. I would start with two, even though the bottle says four. It doesn’t cramp you at all. That’s for certain situations though—otherwise, I do the Natural Calm Magnesium Supplement in my water. And the last best tip ever is that I put hydrogen peroxide in some water—just six drops of it in one of those small bathroom cups—and I gargle with that and spit it out. I’ve been told to do this by a lead endodontist in the country and two cosmetic dentists. When you start to have a toothache and you can feel that bacteria in your gums and you gargle with that, it just completely kills it. People come back to me all the time saying that was the best tip I’ve ever given.”

—as told to ITG

Melanie Simon photographed by Tom Newton in Los Angeles on March 13, 2018.