Ask any in-the-know Brit: Sarah Chapman is the facialist to see in London. Granted, that means joining a 12-week waiting list to land an appointment in her Skinesis Clinic in Sloane Square. Once blissfully supine on Chapman’s treatment bed, you couldn’t be in more capable hands. So capable, in fact, that she’s had them insured for 1 million pounds.
Chapman’s signature “gymnastics facial massage technique” has garnered high-profile devotees including Victoria Beckham and Naomi Watts-but it’s her association with Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, that has her phone ringing off the hook. Not only did Chapman prep Markle’s famously glowy, fresh-faced skin for the royal wedding, the Palace has recently named her the Duchess’s official facialist-meaning that she alone will be responsible for keeping that Markle Sparkle at full wattage.
You’ve been quietly treating Megan Markle’s skin since she moved to the UK. What does it mean to be given a “confirmed facialist” designation?
It means that I'm her exclusive skin care professional-for facials and also for products. It also means that they’ll confirm it if anybody contacts the Palace, and that I can discuss it from that perspective. Honestly, I would have treated her for 40 years and if no one ever knew, I would still be happy-but we have a great relationship, and it’s nice that we can talk about it.
I’m told that you’ve probably touched hundreds of famous faces that we’ll never be able to name.
I never actively went out to get celebrities, because it wasn’t really my thing. I'm much more about product integrity and formulations-the kind of geeky side. I never talk about my clients, and I know that they appreciate that respect and confidentiality. But then with Victoria Beckham, I had been seeing her for maybe four years, and then she came out and talked about how I sorted her skin out. It was never from any asking or wanting. It just happened.
You gave the Duchess a facial the day before her wedding. How does a facial that you do the day before a wedding differ from what you would do a week or more prior?
Some people find it unusual that I would do facial the day or night before a wedding, but it’s the same with photoshoots and with TV appearances. We’ll work right up to the day before because that’s how we get that incredible glow. For a wedding, we would typically start six months ahead, working on getting the skin stronger and more balanced by doing things like gentle peels. We would see someone once every four weeks, get them on a good skincare regime, and then do a Skinesis 10-day kit, which is all about radiance recharge, lots of Vitamin C, hyaluronic acid, and lactic acid.
What we do the day before is a lot of massaging-using lots of oils and serums-to really plump up the skin and give it that juicy look. But there’s also a holistic aspect. When someone is getting married, they’re pretty stressed, so I really try center people as well as looking at the skin. A lot of people say I've got quite healing hands.
What do you do the day of a big event, so that the skin looks radiant, and makeup also goes on beautifully?
If I’m doing a shoot or something with Victoria, I’ll use a Skinesis sheet mask called the 3D Moisture Infusion, which has loads of hyaluronic acid, but it’s also really firming and plumping and smoothing. It’s a brilliant pre-makeup mask because it just gives the juice to the skin. For me it's always getting that sort of evenness and dewiness. I'm a big fan of glossy skin.
What makes your facial massage technique unique?
If you do a facial just with massage, you can make a massive difference in the skin. We also love technology, and we do radiofrequency, and fractional skin resurfacing in the clinic. But there’s nothing like a hands-on massage. The massage that I've developed is really intense and deep. We get right down into the muscle to release tension. It’s also very stimulating.
I think of it as almost like a piece of music: We start off with some softer movement, and it builds up and up and then it's really fast and vigorous, like a crescendo. And then it all comes back down again. There’s a lot of pinching and rolling and really deep manipulation. And then there's a lot of very fast tapping and rotations and a lot of sculpting and lifting on the lower part of the face. Often when we've finished, people will say, "What was that machine that you were using?"
I use the Skinesis Overnight Facial, which was one of the first products I launched 10 years ago and is still a best-seller, for every face massage I do. The jasmine smell is incredible. It's like a cashmere blanket for the skin.
What are the key skincare ingredients for ultra-glowy skin?
Vitamin A definitely. I have all of my clients on Vitamin A products. Throughout my range, there’s Vitamin A in many different forms, from retinal palmitate to retinol. It’s one of the most proven ingredients out there, and I've seen what it can do for people's skin, whether it's acne prone or aging or has pigment issues.
I think lactic acid is brilliant because it's mild, it doesn't strip the skin. And in addition to brightening, it’s also hydrating. Hyaluronic acid is important because that’s going to plump up the surface of the skin. And I’m a big fan of omega oils, taken internally. If you have enough omegas in your diet then the walls of the cells are stronger, they become more supple and the skin retains moisture more efficiently. And then Vitamin C will give you that light-bulb luminosity.
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