When Meghan Markle jetted into London just over a week ago, it came as no shock that the first person she saw was a certain ginger-haired Prince. But the person Meghan called on next was rather more surprising.
She’d barely had time to unpack her winter woollies before she was visiting Sarah Chapman, facialist to the stars, at her Chelsea clinic Skinesis.
Sarah, a striking blonde, is the go-to woman for celebrities who want their complexions to be glowing for a red-carpet event . . . or maybe an engagement announcement.
Victoria Beckham readily admits seeing Sarah once a month and describes her facials as ‘the best in London’.
And when she’s not reclining on Sarah’s treatment bed, Victoria is slathering herself in products from Sarah’s range.
Facialist to the stars Sarah Chapman (pictured left) was one of the first people Meghan Markle (pictured right) visited on her trip to London
She takes off her make-up with her £44 Ultimate Cleanse and confesses ‘covering herself’ in the £149 Stem Cell Collagen Activator Duo. When she’s ‘hanging around the house with the kids’, she keeps it casual with Sarah’s Skin Insurance SPF 30 cream (£49) and occasionally treats herself to a 3D Moisture Infusion Mask (£43 for four). I think that’s what you call a ringing endorsement.
Other famous names who flock to Skinesis, which opened its doors two years ago, include actresses Naomi Watts and Uma Thurman and supermodels Gigi Hadid and Jourdan Dunn.
Disappointingly, as you might expect, Sarah is the soul of discretion — after all, what celebrity wants a facialist blabbing about their spotty skin and oily T-zone? At our shoot, the day after seeing Meghan, Sarah apologises, but says she’s ‘not allowed’ to talk about the potential princess-to-be.
She does, however, admit to being mortified at seeing her own photo splashed around the world: ‘Look at my hair!’
When we meet, her hair, along with the rest of her, looks immaculate. She’s wearing just the lightest make-up, and I can confirm her skin positively glows.
Unusually for a clinic that attracts such an A-list following, Skinesis has a very public shop front entrance.
Customers must walk through a retail floor, before heading upstairs to the main reception area, where staff offer herbal teas while clients wait to be beckoned in for their procedure. A real-flame fire, set into the wall like a fish tank, is a particularly luxurious touch.
Sarah Chapman (pictured) studied beauty and aromatherapy after noticing the number of people searching for fixes for problem skin
Sitting in one of Sarah’s large treatment rooms, surrounded by the latest high-tech skin gizmos, I can’t help but think how facials have come a long way from the days when a bored therapist would slap half-a-dozen creams on your face before wiping them off over the course of an hour.
‘Facials used to be a rare treat, didn’t they?’ says Sarah. ‘Years ago, you’d have one as a gift, once a year maybe. But it’s not the same now. All our clients come every month, or more often. It is part of their maintenance.
‘Women in America have always had dermatologists and facialists, but it’s taken longer to catch on here.’
Very few say they want to look younger. It’s about wanting to look well, fresh and sculpted
Last year, on her now-defunct lifestyle site The Tig, Meghan, now 36, revealed that her mother, Doria, drummed into her from an early age how important it was to look after her skin.
‘When I was 13 years old, my mom had me start getting facials in my hometown of Los Angeles,’ she wrote. ‘It seemed so silly at the time, trekking in my school uniform to see a woman named Anika who slathered my skin with Yon-Ka products and chatted away about the importance of eye cream.’
Now, she treks in her skinny jeans to Sarah, who claims to deliver results that are both ‘dramatic’ and ‘instant’.
‘Some people come in to see if they can improve their skin before resorting to Botox,’ says Sarah, who has a six-month waiting list. ‘They’re so impressed with the results that they rarely go on to injectables.’
Should any Skinesis clients still feel the need for a little muscle-freezing, the clinic does have a nurse available to administer the injections, although Sarah insists: ‘People want Botox that’s barely noticeable. Nobody wants that waxy, frozen-forehead look.’
From right to left Joanne Evans, Sarah Chapman, Inge Theron, Teresa Tarme and Debbie Thomas are apart of Britain’s generation of facialists attracting devotees
When it comes to the ladies who walk through her doors, she says they are firmly split: ‘Some are looking for intensive performance products, others want natural and organic, and then there are the “just give me the results” ones.’
I know which group I’d fall into, but I can’t help wondering what Meghan does to get her youthful glow (other than fall in love with a prince).
Hard as it is to imagine that the sort of women who frequent Skinesis are ever on their knees with exhaustion, Sarah says ‘please make me look less tired’ is the request she hears most often.
‘Very few say they want to look younger. It’s about wanting to look well, fresh and sculpted,’ she adds. She cites her Stem Cell Collagen Therapy treatment, the most popular at her clinic, as a particularly effective procedure.
If it’s £100 on a dress, I’ll ask how many times they think they’ll wear it. I know I would rather spend that on my face
‘It’s a souped-up version of our bespoke facial,’ she explains. ‘We do a massage, peel and extraction — all you need to get the skin healthy. Then we use an electronic needling device to push the stem cells and peptides into the skin.
‘You get everything you want from a facial, but taken up a notch. Afterwards, the skin looks instantly tight, plump and dewy.’ Could this be the treatment Meghan had when she visited?
Sarah is famed for her magic fingers that dance over skin to stimulate blood supply and circulation. So precious are those digits that they’re currently insured for a staggering £1 million.
‘Massage is really powerful,’ she says. ‘It helps with drainage, stimulation, circulation and feeding the cells with nutrients.
‘We also work on the muscles and open those up to get a lifted face. OK, it’s temporary, but doing that on a regular basis makes a difference.’
Founder of Skin Matters, Joanne Evans (pictured) started out as a nurse and now has a three-month waiting list for beauty treatments
When it comes to those tiresome middle-aged jowls, Sarah says: ‘The best thing is radio frequency, where a device is used to heat the collagen fibres in the dermis beneath the skin.
‘They shrink and tighten and it gives a lift. One session will work, but will only last a short time — you need a series to get a permanent effect. But the important thing is to realise that it is never too late to change your skin.
‘As we get older, and the cells’ behaviour is slower, changes will take longer, but you can wake those cells up and see improvements.’
It sounds wonderful, but the downside is that Sarah’s treatments come with a hefty price tag. The stem cell facial costs up to £260. Luckily, there are cheaper options, such as a 30-minute £75 complexion-enhancing treatment. To those who baulk at such expenditure, Sarah says: ‘The face is out there on show every day. I will often say to clients: “When did you last buy a piece of clothing and what did you spend?”
Neveruse cleansing wipes long-term. It’s like cleaning your face with Mr Sheen!- Joanne Evans
‘If it’s £100 on a dress, I’ll ask how many times they think they’ll wear it. I know I would rather spend that on my face — it makes you feel so much better if your skin is good.’
Unlike some of her counterparts, Sarah didn’t take the traditional route into beauty. She started off doing special effects make-up for film and TV — ‘all blood, guts and gore’, she says — which took her to Australia for work.
It was while doing this that she saw the many skin problems people have and became obsessed with seeking ways to fix them. She did full beauty training and studied aromatherapy.
Back in London, she studied cosmetic science, focusing on the formulations that work best for skin regeneration.
Nine years ago, she launched her Skinesis skincare range — now sold in John Lewis, QVC and on Amazon — with her biggest seller being her Overnight Facial (£49). As Meghan left with a little goodie bag, it’s a safe bet one of those was inside.
Inge Theron (pictured) opened her flagship studio FaceGym after a disastrous experience with cosmetic surgery
Sarah was generous enough to give me a tube. Hailed as an overnight miracle, the serum plumps and smooths, as well as boosting collagen production. It smells delicious and leaves my skin soft and hydrated. I don’t look ten years younger, but that was clearly a miracle too far.
Speaking of age, Sarah’s is a closely guarded secret. ‘It’s the most Googled question about me,’ she laughs.
Given how much she has achieved, she must be mid to late-40s, but could easily pass for mid-30s. Thankfully, she’s less cagey about what she does to her own face: ‘I cleanse, use serums, moisturise and use sun protection every day. I’ll have facials when one of the girls can fit me in, and I do radio frequency for skin tightening.’
With our time up, Sarah walks me out into the sleek main reception area. As I exit, the model Suki Waterhouse brushes past me — no doubt the next lucky person on the receiving end of Sarah’s dancing fingers.
Sarah Chapman is just one of a new generation of British facialists who have become huge players in the anti-ageing industry, attracting devotees from all over the globe with business empires that span continents.
Joanne Evans, 49, is the woman behind the hugely successful beauty company Skin Matters, based in West London. She plans to open a further two clinics in 2018. Joanne started out as a nurse and has a degree in anatomy and physiology. Now, she boasts a three-month-long waiting list with clients including Elle Macpherson and Jemima Khan.
Teresa Tarmey (pictured) offers beauty treatments out of her home in Kensington. She was inspired to join the beauty industry after her own struggles with acne
Signature facial: Includes Intense Pulse Light (IPL) treatment, laser, LED and micro currents (a device that delivers a light electrical pulse to the skin to tighten and firm). Cost: £400. For those with really deep pockets, Joanne even has a £1,000 treatment. The Recharge was created for her jet-set customers and features a rubber mask that sends electrical currents into the skin.
Inge Theron, 41, opened her flagship studio FaceGym on the Kings Road three years ago, investing half-a-million pounds in state-of-the-art equipment. It wasn’t so much bad skin that drew Inge to opening her own facial spa, rather a disastrous experience with cosmetic surgery. Botox left her with a drooping eye, while a ‘thread lift’ became swollen and infected.
‘I looked like an alien and had to hide away for three months,’ she tells me. It is Inge’s view that the muscles in our face need to be worked out in the same way as the ones in our body do. ‘Like other women, I exercised my body, but all I did to my face was slap on creams.
Debbie Thomas (pictured) recently opened her beauty clinic nearby Harrods. Her clients include Sophie Dahl and Billie Piper
When that didn’t work, I turned to Botox, fillers and threads,’ she says. ‘I knew there had to be a way of creating a bootcamp for the face to get that same toned, tight, lifted look.’ Unusually, clients at FaceGym aren’t treated in private rooms, but on chairs next to one another, as if at a hairdressers.
‘Our clients like the social side, chatting to one another about what they’re having done.’ The reception desk at FaceGym doubles as a ‘bar’ or ‘Open Beauty Lab’, as Inge calls it. Alas, the only cocktails mixed are bespoke oil tinctures, which are used in the treatments or for clients to take home. Cost: Treatments range from £40 for a 30-minute facial workout to £885 for a month-long ‘Facecamp’ to rejuvenate winter skin.
Sheffield-born Teresa Tarmey, 41, who counts the Delevingne sisters and Sienna Miller among her clients, works from her five-storey home in Kensington. She also guests at the exclusive Huvafen Fushi resort in the Maldives, the world’s first spa built below water.
Her struggles with acne led her into training as a beauty therapist. In line with the other super-facialists, Teresa’s treatments are tweaked according the needs of her clients. She sees many women experiencing mid-life acne, often triggered by the menopause. This can be effectively treated with a laser that deeply penetrates, destroys bacteria and zaps the overactive sebaceous (oilreleasing) glands. And all without damaging the skin.
Signature facial: A light peel, extractions, massage and LED, UV light treatment that accelerates skin rejuvenation. Cost: £280.
Newly opened last month, Debbie Thomas’s clinic is a stone’s throw from Harrods in London. Clients include Sophie Dahl and Billie Piper. Debbie, 38, also suffered with acne, and says it was her desperation to find a permanent solution that led to her love of skincare.
Signature facial: The so-called ‘DNA Laser Complete’ treatment. Using lasers, this is ideal for acne and pigmentation, as well as providing a powerful anti-ageing effect. Cost: £450, although it’s cheaper if you use one of the other therapists at Debbie’s clinic.
THE EXPERTS’ GUIDE TO GETTING AN A-LIST GLOW AT HOME
THROW OUT THE FACE WIPES
‘Neveruse cleansing wipes long-term. It’s like cleaning your face with Mr Sheen! Use a cleansing oil, even if you already have oily skin. Macadamia, coconut and olive oil are all good. But don’t overload skin with too many products — just use regular moisturiser.’ Joanne Evans
BE GENTLE AS YOU AGE
‘Skin thins and gets drier post-menopause. Omega supplements will help skin glow. Balm-based cleansers are good, too, as they’re not too stripping.’ Sarah Chapman
SAY GOODBYE TO SUGAR
‘Sugar is so ageing. Cut down, and you’ll reap the rewards. That old adage about choosing your face or your figure after 40 is true. Eat well and never crash diet.’ Inge Theron
YOUR SKIN’S HOLY TRINITY
‘Sleep, water and sun protection are the three most important things for your skin. I’m not a fan of moisturisers with an inbuilt SPF — go for an SPF cream and put your moisturiser on top.’ Teresa Tarmey
‘Retinol is the number one age management ingredient, and it’s great for acne and rosacea. Look out for 0.5 concentration levels. Give it time to work — your skin cells take 28 days to renew.’ Debbie Thomas