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Meet San Francisco’s Holistic Facialist Kristina Holey

As you know, I’m quite particular about what I put in and on my body. For me, high-quality ingredients are of utmost importance when it comes to both food and beauty formulas. My close friend Shiva Rose recently introduced me to Paris-trained facialist Kristina Holey, who is based in San Francisco but makes occasional visits to LA to see clients. We connected instantly. 

Kristina gives incredible facials, but more than that, she has a uniquely holistic approach to skin health that I believe in completely. Instead of focusing only on the external, her process begins internally, at the root of the issue. With this inside-out approach, diet (stay tuned for two of her recipes this week!) and supplements are as much a part of her treatment plan as topical products. I enjoyed talking with Kristina about her specialty, and I hope you find her wisdom as fascinating as I do. XXJKE 

Rip&Tan: What was it that first drew you to a career in beauty, and specifically skincare? 

Kristina Holey: I have long been fascinated by beauty, health and balance. As a teen I battled with a lot of hormonal imbalances and the associated skin issues. I hated the way it affected my confidence but it made me very interested in the concept of what makes women feel the most beautiful. It also made me realize the importance of skincare and how if you feel insecure about your face and skin your whole body feels insecure. 

During this time I became really interested in female health, endocrinology and alternative methods to treating hormone imbalances other than birth control. I played around with a lot of lifestyle changes, focusing on nutrition and stress management, and saw how much that affected my hormones. I have always been someone who wants to know exactly how the body works and how to support this internal harmony within ourselves. 

I never thought I would be doing what I do! It all happened so naturally and made sense. Working in skincare is my way to work with a diverse group of people, gather information on lifestyle and beauty, and figure out how to create an efficient system. I think of my work as a big research product. I can’t imagine any other way I would be learning so much and having so much fun at the same time. 

Rip&Tan: How do you define beauty? 

KH: When people are being their true selves, when their bodies are working as they should, that’s when they look the most beautiful. I really believe that beauty comes from health, first and foremost. It is an animalistic instinct to be attracted to vibrant, healthy people, so by supporting the skin to be as healthy and strong as possible we can access that sense of true beauty. 

Rip&Tan: You’ve worked and studied in Paris and New York. How do you find women’s approach to their skin different between there and California?

KH: There is quite a bit of difference between all three places, and it is so fascinating. The biggest difference is in regards to their definition of beauty. Whether it means having no wrinkles or having healthy skin, people have their own vision of what beauty is, and that really does vary from place to place. Based on my experience, in New York people have less time to worry about their skin. They need someone to tell them exactly what to do, a routine that is feasible and sustainable. 

In Paris I felt so much that my clients had already figured out what makes them feel beautiful. They aren’t as focused on trends and trying to be something they aren’t. It’s more like, “I know what makes me look beautiful so just help me obtain that.” I love it. For some reason my clients in California are much more modest and don’t talk about beauty in the same way. I hear more often that their mothers didn’t teach them about self care, whereas in Paris they were raised with practices ingrained in them. 

Rip&Tan: What sets your space apart from other skin spas?  

Kristina Holey: I honestly don’t visit spas too often. My space is a genuine representation of me. It ended up being pretty dark and warm, with soothing colors and textures. All the lighting was thoughtfully chosen with warm, golden hues. I have powerful lights I can use when I need to really see skin, but I wanted people to come in and feel instantly comfortable and beautiful within the space. It is really feminine, in a non-obvious way. I have these beautiful Loup Charmant slips of all different colors and styles, and robes I designed myself for clients to wear; big full-length mirrors, a glowing pink bathroom—I wanted it to feel more like a living room than a clinic. 

Rip&Tan: How did you come up with the technique and methods you use in your treatments? 

KH: Through a combination of years of personal experience and education and training. I learned so much with [Parisian skin expert] Joelle Ciocco and am very grateful for that time, so I use a lot of what she taught me, which was a very unique French perspective on health and the skin. I use my training in cosmetic chemistry and formulation when choosing and working with products—even my background in engineering shows up on occasion. I also have so much personal experience in trying to balance my own skin and body and growing up with a crazy doctor as a father. I use it all in my work. 

Rip&Tan: What are a few of your favorite ingredients to use on the complexion? 

KH: I love minerals—they work so well at treating and balancing the skin, especially manganese, solver, sulfur and zinc. I also love hyaluronic acid. It binds to water molecules helping to hydrate the skin tissue. Nettles are great, too, infused in oils or as a tea or toner. Their antihistamine strength is really well received on the skin, and they are so nutrient dense it really can bring energy to the top layers of the skin. 

Rip&Tan: What products are always in your bag or on your vanity? 

KH: I always have a solid perfume with me—I love scents and smelling something unique when you hug someone and I like conveying something to the world silently. I also always have some sort of lip and eye balm, hydrosol and facial oil. It is the fastest way to freshen up, by spritzing and applying something nourishing to the eyes, lips and a light layer of oil all over. These products make you feel more awake, ready and beautiful.

Rip&Tan: Your approach focuses on getting the skin into balance. What are the various elements or areas involved in that?  

KH: First I look at the skin and feel it, try to see how much sensitivity there is, if it feels greasy versus oily, if it’s warmer or colder in certain areas. Most people haven’t respected their barrier layer and the skin is too stripped so I work with them to resolve that. We discuss all aspects of their lifestyle and I look for what I have made my “red flags.” I have a pretty good idea as to what leads to imbalances in the skin, but I never diagnose anyone or tell them what they’re doing is wrong. I try to ask the right questions and relate them to science so they can understand their bodies better. It can be simple, like explaining how the digestive system works or what the layers of the skin look like. I also answer questions about preservatives or ingredients. I want my clients to be smarter consumers, to help them make wiser choices in an industry that has been made extremely confusing! 

Rip&Tan: What is your personal skincare regimen? 

KH: I am pretty relaxed about it, and it’s always evolving throughout the month or week even based on where my hormones are at, the season, my location. I fill in the blanks of what I need at that time. What stays consistent is that I never wash my face in the morning, to preserve the work my skin has done overnight. I love hydrosols and toners and keep a few in the fridge that I spray and then slather on a super-stabilized vitamin C serum, a mineral blend that I make each day, then I massage on some oils. I make sure it is all absorbed before I stop massaging. I’m a bit weird and I visualize all the little muscles in my face, and try to hit all the spots thoughtfully. 

Then I try to always put on a sunscreen. It’s my weak point because I basically hate them all, honestly. I truly understand the importance, so I do it, but I am never that happy about it. At night I cleanse thoroughly and thoughtfully, massaging each section of my face and doing several rinses. I spray a few tonics and massage a very gentle retinol into my skin until I can no longer feel it. My skin is really balanced and I never really feel too dry or oily, so I keep it light and simple when I go to bed. 

Rip&Tan: What motivates or inspires you to continue learning about your field? 

KH: Goodness, so much! I genuinely want to understand everything about the skin. There have been huge advancements over the past years in understanding the gut and its relation to skin and I am excited for what is to come. Right now there are large generalizations made when diagnosing skin disorders (acne, psoriasis, eczema, rosacea), and I am really interested in making those a little more specific. It is impossible to create a handbook for healthy skin that would work for everyone (also for healthy and well-made products!), but if I can offer my clients more of a lead point than “you have hormonal acne” then I am really happy. 

Rip&Tan: What is your most important skin tip? 

KH: Not to strip and overclean the skin. Instead of thinking we have to purify and sterilize and kill everything should think it is this beautiful organ that needs to be cared for, nourished, touched and massaged, and deeply supported so it can be strong and healthy! 


Photos: Chloe Aftel