What It Takes To Get "Rich-Girl Skin"

Photo: Matt Baron/BEImages.
Karlie Kloss, Gigi Hadid, and Kendall Jenner seem to wake up flawless. As do Jennifer Lopez, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Olivia Palermo. Then, of course, there's Beyoncé, the original queen of #WokeUpLikeThis. Yeah, she definitely rises and shines pretty damn perfect, too. Me, on the other hand, not so much. So, what’s the difference (besides a few million Instagram followers) between me and any of these ladies? They’ve got rich-girl skin. 

I first started thinking about the concept last September, when François Nars sent completely barefaced models down the runway at Marc Jacobs, taking the whole “no-makeup makeup" trend to another level. It was the statement heard 'round the beauty world: These girls look so good that they don’t need cosmetics.     

Same goes for Hollywood. In the past few months, everyone from Uma Thurman to Natalie Portman has been seen fresh-faced, both on and off the red carpet. Instead of donning a smoky eye or statement lip, they’re letting their glowy skin take center-stage. And, it’s a refreshing change.

All In A Day's Work
These perfectly proportioned faces and million-dollar smiles have much to do with good genes, for sure. But, let’s be real: There’s some serious behind-the-scenes work — and a whole lot of money — going into getting and maintaining those pristine complexions. Hence, the term "rich-girl skin." For celebrities and models, looking good is a job requirement. So, this means regular hairstyling, plucking, waxing, manicures, and pedicures. But, it also means facials, lasers, Botox, fillers, cellulite treatments, and a whole arsenal of products.    

It starts with cosmetic treatments, and not just for the older set. “I see girls in their early twenties regularly,” says Lauren Abramowitz, the founder of Park Avenue Skin Solutions in NYC. “They’re coming in a few times a year for light chemical peels, maybe four times a year for [Intense Pulsed Light] treatments, once a year for preventative Botox, and they also come to me for a full product regimen.”        

Those treatments add up. For Botox or the similar Dysport, it’s about $500 per area (so if you need something around the eyes for crow’s feet and the forehead, that’s $1,000!). As for fillers like Restylane or the celeb-loved Belotero, it’s about $750 to $1,500 per syringe, depending on the brand. “A lot of patients end up needing more than one syringe to achieve their desired results,” confides Abramowitz. A light chemical peel runs about $250, while a deeper one can be $1,500. Laser treatments, used for everything from removing discoloration to shrinking pore size to increasing elasticity, can cost anywhere from $600 to $4,500 per treatment. Meanwhile, a cellulite or fat-melting treatment can be $600 to $1,500 per area, per treatment. Adding it all up, it wouldn’t be uncommon for a regular patient of Abramowitz’s to be paying between $15,000 and $50,000 a year on non-invasive cosmetic procedures alone.

As Abramowitz sees it, these procedures are investments in your future. “These days, it’s all about prevention,” she says. “If you avoid major damage now, you’ll look better today and down the road.” She also cautions that without a healthy lifestyle, none of these treatments will be enough. “If you remove things like sun exposure, smoking, bad diet (dairy and sugar), drink lots of water, and sleep more, your skin will improve,” she says. “That’s the cheapest way to look great.” As for products, she says retinol is her number-one ingredient recommendation. “All my patients are on a prescription retinoid, like Tazorac or Retin-A.” Other important investments: a zinc sunscreen and products with hyaluronic acid. 

Face Time
Meanwhile, a few blocks south of Abramowitz’s office, celebrity facialist Joanna Vargas is treating clients to her signature Triple Crown facial, which uses microcurrent technology to sculpt and smooth the face, followed by an oxygen treatment to heal and regenerate the skin. “It gives you glowy skin, higher cheekbones, and it’s anti-aging because it tightens the muscles of the face,” says Vargas. “All without any trauma to the skin.”

I was lucky enough to experience the treatment with Vargas, and I can safely say that almost a week later, my cheeks still have that Keira Knightley “I could cut steel with my cheekbones” sharpness and my skin looks smoother than ever before. At $400 per facial, it probably won’t be a regular in my routine, but for many of her clients — like Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams — it’s a weekly, or at least monthly, indulgence. For those who don’t have time to do it weekly, she suggests quickie LED-light therapy, microdermabrasion, and oxygen treatments in-between facials. “Of course, it’s a pretty major investment!” admits Vargas. She recommends at least six, but preferably 12, of the light treatments in fairly rapid succession. “It gives you incredible skin,” she says. “It’s like taking an eraser to the face.” All said and done, it wouldn’t be uncommon to find clients on her roster with $10,000-to-$15,000 annual bills: more if they’re ultra-dedicated.     
Of course, Vargas is also a real human who understands that not everyone can drop that kind of cash on a beauty routine, so she has some product recommendations, too. First and foremost, her Daily Serum, which she describes as “green juice for the skin.” Other than that, exfoliating weekly is a must (she suggests doing it on Friday nights, so that you’ll have fresh skin all weekend) and a face mask at least once a week (she prefers sheet masks) will do wonders. “It’s important to make time for a skin-care routine,” says Vargas. “Schedule in a night where you’ll relax, take a bath, and work on your face.” For a more affordable alternative to her in-house products, Vargas recommends the Éminence line. And, if nothing else, she says to avoid too much makeup. “Whether you’re 20 or 40, it’s just really aging,” she cautions.       

Makeup artist Edward Cruz (whose roster includes seemingly non-aging beauties like Jennifer Lopez, Cindy Crawford, and Tory Burch, in addition to other major names like Kirsten Dunst and even Anna Wintour) agrees. These days, he says he sees real advances in the way his clients treat their skin. “Whether it’s serums or lasers, across the board my clients have better, clearer, smoother skin than before,” he says. “Which makes makeup that much more fun!”

Make It Up
Cruz says the trend today is toward fresh, neutral skin and more youthful makeup. To get the look du jour, he starts with a thick cream moisturizer, like Eve Lom's, as a base. “It’s richer and gives a more luminous, healthy glow to the skin,” says Cruz. Then, he brushes on a bit of foundation (his favorite is Dior Nude or Sonia Kashuk Luminous). After applying, he takes a clean, dry brush and buffs out the foundation until it’s barely visible. “It shouldn’t be a thick coat, just an enhancer,” he says. His other pro trick is cream blush. He likes bright colors like fuchsia and peach by Chanel. “I take a very soft brush and very gently just veil the color over the apple of the cheek,” he says. “It looks so pretty and glowy.”       
Professional makeup also comes with a high price tag — anywhere from $500 to $15,000, depending on the event. Cruz says that, of course, many of his clients aren’t representative of the average woman. “Not everyone has the time or the money,” he says. “I respect the women that you see doing their makeup in five minutes on the subway in-between stops.” And, if you only have a few minutes, his top recommendations are foundation, blush, a gentle highlighter (“always apply in daylight to avoid looking scary!” he cautions), and a good lipstick. “You can go to the drugstore and find amazing stuff,” he says. “Beauty is so exciting right now, because everything from the prestige brands to the cheaper stuff is such good quality.”

The verdict? Turns out that money may not buy happiness, but it can buy you Victoria’s Secret model skin and Angelina Jolie cheekbones. But, if you want to play with the professionals, it’s a $100,000-per-year buy-in (at least!), and that’s just not in many real-life budgets. For now, I think I’ll stick to my poor woman’s version of the rich-girl glow (also known as eating my greens, getting eight hours of sleep, and indulging in the occasional at-home spa night). Hey, at least I'll save a ton of time that way. As they say, you gotta fake it 'til you make it. Or, at least, until skin care gets a little less expensive!    

Like this post? There's more. Get tons of beauty tips, tutorials, and news on the Refinery29 Beauty Facebook page!

More from Skin Care