Shani Darden is the aesthetician behind much of Hollywood's amazing skin. From Jessica Alba to Shay Mitchell and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, countless celebrities flock to her Instagram-worthy LA studio when their skin is in need of some serious TLC and judging by their ever-glowing complexions, she really does have the magic touch.
Ahead, we caught up with the beauty expert over Zoom, where she shared her ultimate skincare secrets – and they aren't as complicated as you might think.
The one skincare product everyone should be using
For Shani, a daily dose of sunscreen is non-negotiable, even when it's cloudy outside. It's her most invaluable piece of skincare advice and she makes sure all clients follow it to a tee. "Always wear sunscreen in a factor 30 or above, every day," says Shani, who suggests staying out of the sun as much as possible. With summer in full force, skincare gripes like fine lines, hyperpigmentation, dark spots and sunburn are common, and wearing (and regularly reapplying) sunscreen in the daytime is your best bet at preventing them. Shani recommends one brand in particular. "Supergoop SPF is my favourite," she says. "I use the Play Everyday Lotion SPF 50 every day, as it's a sunscreen and moisturiser in one." It's great for all skin tones and textures, too.
Combine these two ingredients for clear, radiant skin
Skincare experts love lactic acid for gently exfoliating skin and retinol for smoothing wrinkles and improving skin texture. Combined in low concentrations, Shani says they have even better skin benefits. "I love both ingredients and lactic acid is one of my favourites, because it gives you an immediate glow," says Shani, who suggests her Retinol Reform, £80, which has five-star reviews across the board. "Lactic acid is easy to use for all skin types – even sensitive skin – and I do a lot of lactic acid peels in my studio," says Shani. The trick is to use the serum at night and Shani suggests doing so only once a week at first, with scope to use it a little more frequently as time goes on.
If you're wary of using them in one product, try a lactic acid cleanser such as Avène Mattifying Cleansing Foam Sensitive Skin, £13.49, and follow with a gentle retinol serum at night, like The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% In Emulsion, £8. Of course, it depends how your skin tolerates them. If you're using any of the above, always listen to your skin. If it is becoming sensitive or irritated, swap the products out in favour of a gentle, soothing moisturiser. Both lactic acid and retinol can make skin reactive to sunlight, so it's important to wear SPF during the daytime.
The best skincare routine is actually the most simple
"Always start with a cleanse," says Shani, who suggests washing your face in the morning and in the evening to get rid of the day's grime, oil and remnants of evening skincare. The rest is pretty simple, too. "In the morning, follow with a vitamin C serum and a sunscreen," says Shani. "In the evening, simply cleanse, apply your retinol serum (if your skin can tolerate it) or exfoliate once a week. Then apply your eye cream and moisturiser," such as the Weightless Oil-Free Moisturiser, £36.
Don't sleep on this smart skincare ingredient
The star ingredients in Shani's Intensive Eye Renewal Cream, £62, are peptides, essentially proteins, which repair, smooth and firm up skin. That's why they're so great around the eye area, as they minimise the appearance of fine lines. "Peptides are amazing," says Shani. "They are really great in terms of anti-ageing and hydration and we know they make a big difference in skincare."
Also try Evolve Beauty's Multi Peptide 360 Moisture Cream, £32, e.l.f. Holy Hydration! Face Cream, £14, and The Ordinary "Buffet" Multi-Technology Peptide Serum, £11.85, which can be used around the eyes, too.
The unusual skincare hack Hollywood stars swear by
You might have seen celebrities on Instagram sharing selfies while wearing LED masks or using targeted LED tools on their skin. According to Shani, they aren't a fad. "I try to get everyone to use LED light and vibration therapy or microcurrent at home," she says, talking about her celebrity clients. Luckily, there are plenty of at-home versions. "They are not only treating the skin (like wrinkles) but are a preventative measure. It’s worth investing in these tools if they’re good."
Here's how to minimise pores for good
Sorry to break it to you but you can’t make your pores smaller, says Shani. "They’ll never get smaller but you can make them look better and the secret would be retinol," explains Shani, who suggests using a retinol serum gradually and always at night. "Also, using a chemical exfoliant like lactic acid can help," says Shani. "This will resurface the skin but not make pores smaller." Unfortunately, it’s a myth that pores open and close, too.
You might want to avoid this one skincare product
If you'd like to get a skin treatment into your routine, try her Sake Toning Essence, £44, which is a daily facial toner. "I don’t think that everyone needs an essence, but it depends on your skin type. This essence is perfect for someone with a 'normal' to oily skin type. It helps reduce oil production and I'd recommend starting at night a couple nights a week. See how your skin responds and then build it up." Shani suggests limiting your active ingredients, though. "If you’re using a vitamin C serum in the morning, use one or the other," as you can go overboard.
Here's why Jessica Alba's skin is so good
Celebrities come to Shani with all manner of skin gripes, with hyperpigmentation being a common one, but breakouts are also frequent. "For actors and models, they’re always in makeup on set and we have to deal with the effects," says Shani. "They always want clean, clear skin." Taking off heavy makeup immediately at the end of the day is a start. "A lot of times, if your makeup is breaking you out, you have to find the makeup that works for your skin type." Try makeup which is labelled 'non-comedogenic', as it's less likely to clog your pores.
Out of all of Shani's celebrity clients, she says that Jessica Alba has the best skin. Her secret? "She has her own skincare line [Honest Skincare] and that’s what she uses but her skin is just amazing," says Shani. Regular facials (here's how to DIY at home) help keep her skin in tip-top condition, too.
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How to try TikTok's homemade skincare trend safely
On Instagram, Shani's 'Weekly Mask' posts rack up hundreds of likes. While she says she isn't necessarily a DIY person when it comes to face masks, there are ingredients you can use that definitely help. "Egg white is great for congestion and brightening the skin so mixing that with Greek yoghurt, which can be calming, and honey, which is antibacterial, is not a bad thing."
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