There comes a point in every beauty junkie’s life where one realises just how deep they have fallen into the rabbit hole. My tipping point came as I ran in from the rain on a blustery Paris morning and into Oh My Cream, a multi-label beauty boutique in the Rive Gauche. My mission: stockpile Joëlle Ciocco’s cult Lotion Lactee, a toning milk for the face and neck. Never mind that I had several bottles shipped to Singapore a fortnight earlier. Ever since my first encounter with the chic epidermologue’s office, I like so many others, have become a sworn devotee. I bought Joëlle Ciocco products at their salon, at Colette or Corso Como, and now my collection has reached epic doomsday-prepping proportions. In an age where our commitment to one beauty regimen is about as long-term as an Instagram minute, this speaks volumes.
It all started several months earlier when I visited my therapist, Farnaz of Joëlle Ciocco at their famed place de la Madeleine address. Farnaz would be performing the Sculpture massage, designed to stretch and tone the muscles, drain the lymph, and lift the countenance for a firmed, radiant mien. So many beauty buzzwords in just one treatment.
“I can see that your jawline is looking a little heavy,” said Farnaz, not pulling any punches. “I’m going to work to lift that.”
Described as a “facial gym”, this treatment developed by Joëlle Ciocco ‘detaches the muscles from your bone wall for a sustainable remodelling effect.’ By stimulating the facial muscles, ‘the exercise gives tone and vitality to your skin.’
Do not be alarmed by their use of the word ‘detached’, although Farnaz doesn’t promise that it will be without discomfort. In fact, It make-up artist and Ciocco evangelist Tom Pecheux, who knows a thing or two about a healthy glow, once described it as ‘fucking painful’ but so worth it.
To the uninitiated, one may be forgiven for dismissing this as just another overhyped facial. But for Madame Ciocco, a biochemist who has devoted more than 30 years of passionate practice to rebalancing the skin’s ecosystem, your visage is her life’s work.
While many over-the-counter beauty brands would have us think that skin exists in just three definitive silos: normal, combination and dry/sensitive, Joëlle Ciocco’s team are trained to discern the nuanced conditions in between. You could be a millennial with fine lines and sensitive skin as much as you could be a 45-year-old woman with acne and jowls.
The cult therapist and her team count a loyal coterie of celebrities including Natalie Portman, Carine Roitfeld, Marc Jacobs and Carla Bruni-Sarkozy as clients. Much like a beauty Fightclub, they’re certainly not the type of crowd to Yelp their take on things. That doesn’t mean Ciocco is any less worthy of a 5-star review, even from us fabulous nobodies.
“We have many people who come to us after little results from dematologues, and we are able to resolve their skin problems because we don’t only say, ‘Put this on your face.’ We really explore why your face has these problems,” says Farnaz.
Cue the skintervention. The pre-facial consultation with Farnaz is full of probing questions, guilty confessions and helpful truth bombs. What I was eating, every single product I put on my face, stress levels, amount of exercise per week, hours of sleep–to name a few.
UNDO THE PAST
First up: the way I had been cleansing my face for almost two decades? Completely wrong. The whole twice-a-day system with a foaming cleanser was deemed too aggressive for my sensitive skin, even as I meekly protested that I loved make-up and lived in humid climes.
The tao of Joëlle Ciocco is her Epidermologie. How does one maintain a healthy skin ecosystem?
“Just like how the body is protected by clothes, our skin is naturally protected by a bouclier or shield against pollution and oxidative stress,” says Farnaz. “When you experience the effects of time, stress or cosmetics that aren’t right for your skin type, this barrier becomes weakened.”
The good news, is that this shield can be rebuilt, according to Farnaz. “The first step is the way you clean your face. This is very important and the first step of anti-aging. When your face has been cleaned correctly by the products adapted for the quality of your skin, it will breathe, eliminate toxins and regenerate correctly.” And don’t even think about soaps which are too dry, and damage the natural flora of the skin which helps guard against the oxidative stress partly responsible for aging. Ciocco herself once reportedly said, “There is no radiance if the skin is clogged by makeup and pollution. Don’t destroy the wonderful shield your skin has built, just spray some water if you need, but do not cleanse it in the morning if you have cleansed it properly at night”.
You can add this to your list of Things French Women Don’t Do. (ICYMI: they don’t get fat, they don’t get facelifts, and they don’t contour their faces like the Kardashians). Take Caroline de Maigret, author of How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are. “I learned [to never clean my face] from an amazing dermatologist in Paris that everyone goes to–she costs a fortune and it killed me!” De Maigret, was of course, referring to Madame Ciocco.
“Beauty in France,” says de Maigret, “is epidermal. Nobody cares that much about make-up, it’s what’s underneath that matters.”
“Just use the Lotion Lactee toner to protect your skin’s shield. It will take three months, but you will see your skin become less sensitive, and the pores will be tighter. This is going to help,” advises Farnaz.
And it certainly did. If the thought of not washing your face in the morning gives you the heebie jeebies, you are not alone.
Yet, just one month after carefully following Farnaz’ prescription, I was hooked. My skin was visibly less sensitive and there was nary a breakout in sight. Thanks to Farnaz’s pared down beauty edit, I found the tenderness and burning associated with sensitive skin had reduced markedly.
LET IT GO
Next up, stress busting. It’s a well-known fact that stress changes our biology. How is our skin responding to stress versus a generation ago? “Stress is different these days. Since Joëlle Ciocco began, she has seen [more factors that contribute to aging skin]. More pollution, more diversity in the cosmetics, more climactic stress, more technology-stress. All these are affecting your skin and makes it age.”
Farnaz worked on my face, her expert gestures promoting circulation and luminosity, relaxing my skin. After a double cleanse and massage, she applied a custom facial mask layered down to my décolletage. I am hungry for information, but she advises me to put my iPhone down, relax and enjoy the treatment. Farnaz casually advised that temperamental skin types should cut other l’intolérances such as dairy and gluten–all of which slow the metabolism, causing oxidative stress and skin inflammation. Inflammation, whether internal, external or emotional–in case you didn’t know–is the devil.
“You have to work on your stress levels because it isn’t just about anti-aging creams, this is the whole of your body,” says Farnaz. “Your holistic self. If you have stress, a tummyache, a bad digestive system or intolerance to dairy, your skin won’t be good. The inside and outside is connected. We’re going to find equilibrium and when everything is correct, your skin will be better as well.”
As we concluded the treatment, Farnaz gave me the option to have sunscreen applied to my face.
“I hate sunscreen,” she muttered.
Wait, what? This is certainly counter-cultural. “Sunscreen clogs the pores.” (Indeed, years ago, I asked the d’Ornanos of Sisley why they never made SPFs in a more industrial strength, and was met with the same answer).
I expected to have a Magic Mirror moment as I look at my reflection. The real results however, surfaced the next morning–even after a long haul flight–and were sustained even a few days later. Farnaz recommends regular treatments to maintain this youthful effect, (“You don’t just go to the gym once!”) but it’s clear that even after one session, there is an improvement to the architecture of my face. It’s defined. Sculpted. Skin quality is bright and calm, inflammation is down.
Farnaz’s home-care prescription on how to treat my skin from AM to PM was haiku-like and meticulous. Surprisingly, not everything on the list was from Joëlle Ciocco–in fact, I was advised to use a mix of their in-house label as well as plant oils and trace elements found in oligosol ampoules sourced from the pharmacie. The level of detail and generosity taken to educate apparently clueless clients like me did not wane after a few months, when I dropped by the salon again to ask Farnaz a follow-up question. Client emails and queries may appear sophomore, but Farnaz has a wonderful way of making anyone feel like a VIP.
At 210 euros for a 45 minute consultation, combined with the hour-long Sculpture massage at 240 euros, be prepared to drop some serious coin. But as most clients discover, while the investment may be high, the return is high yield. “The bank is not happy, but I am,” Mademoiselle Agnes, a French TV personality once told Into the Gloss on her sessions at Joëlle Ciocco. YOLO.