Shani Darden moved to Los Angeles in her early 20s with ambitions of becoming a model and ended up as one of Hollywood's most sought-after estheticians instead. Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Shay Mitchell, Chrissy Teigen, Kelly Rowland, and Jessica Alba all swear by the pro's customized treatments and clinical, no-B.S. approach to skin care.
Darden launched her first product, the cult-favorite Retinol Reform, in 2013, then followed it up with the Beauty Innovator Award-winning Texture Reform Gentle Resurfacing Serum earlier this year. Now, she's releasing her first comprehensive everyday routine: the Daily Cleansing Serum, Daily Toning Essence, and Daily Oil-Free Moisturizer, a simple yet effective regimen for all skin types.
Here, Darden talks about the new lineup (available now on her website), the product everyone should be using, and how Huntington-Whiteley had a hand in one of the best skin-care launches of 2018. The following interview was told to Rachel Krause and edited for length and clarity.
From Dancing To Dermatology
When I first got to L.A. [trying to make it as a model], I kept getting put in music videos. I didn't actually know how to dance, so one day I just thought, I’m not supposed to be in music videos. I knew I wanted to work in a spa, so I went to school for massage first, then to be an esthetician. From there, I got a job working with a dermatologist, Dr. Erma Benitez, and that changed everything for me. Because I come from that background, my approach is a little more clinical. That's why I launched Retinol Reform: I was seeing so many people who used stronger retinols, and their skin looked amazing, but it can take you months to get your skin to where it's not peeling and sensitive and flaky. I thought, I have to make a better retinol.
How Texture Reform Was Born
Texture Reform, on the other hand, was a complete accident. Using a pure retinol is really hard to keep stable, so I thought I'd try to use retinyl palmitate, which is the gentlest form of it — you get the same results, but it takes a little longer. I played around with the formula forever with the lab, and then I actually gave it to Rosie [Huntington-Whiteley] to try. She fell in love with it — I kept having to get it from the lab to make sure she always had it. She said, "You can't not put this product out."
The Light Touch
My in-office treatments are customized, but all of my clients get LED light. Red light boosts collagen in the skin on a different level, and it makes such a difference. There’s also blue light, if you have acne. Obviously the [in-office] Déesse Pro mask is super easy to use, but it’s also a lot of money. The handheld versions really work. I love LightStim the most — you see the results and it’s been FDA-cleared, but you have to put the time in and use it every day.
The One Thing You Must Use
As for my new launches, I wanted a really gentle cleanser that could remove makeup without stripping the skin, and had a good lather that feels really clean. The toner is the love of my life: It has sake water in it, which brightens the skin, and another ingredient called sebocytine, which reduces oil production. Every skin type can use it; it really makes your skin feel great and you still feel hydrated while also [controlling] oil.
I wanted to keep them affordable. I’m not a person who could put out a $500 moisturizer — it just gets to be silly. They’re still not affordable for everyone, but it’s a good price point for the ingredients that are in them. I always say that if you have nothing else, you’d just have to have a really good retinol, and then everything else could be simple.
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