What a Master Esthetician Knows About Great Skincare
Master Esthetician Lisa Brasfield reveals ageless beauty “truths”
Growing up as a self-described “tomboy” in southern California, Lisa Brasfield gives some credit to her mom for helping her achieve her esthetician #goals. “She was very holistic, and instead of just saying something like ‘Eat your carrots,’ she would say ‘Eat your carrots because they contain beta carotene, which is good for your eyes!’” she explains. That training to “read labels” closely from a young age resulted in a passion for skincare products and ingredients, and ultimately becoming the super successful expert she is today.
“Of course, there’s the products and beauty side of my work, but there’s also this profound power of touch component too,” she says. “And when you change someone’s skin and they develop this new confidence, it’s life altering.” We sat down with Lisa to pick her skincare genius brain.
In your role as a master esthetician, what are the most common concerns your clients have?
On the East Coast I see a lot of weather-related skin concerns. As the humidity levels drop in the fall and winter months, I begin to see a lot of dry, itchy, and irritated skin on my clients. This can be an indication of an impaired barrier function of the skin.
Lately, I’ve been receiving a lot of questions about pores from my clients, specifically asking how they can “get rid of them.” I believe this is due to the filter over use we are seeing on social media, and it’s unfortunate.
Pores don’t open and close, but they can be stretched if you have oily skin with a lot of sebum accumulation. Salicylic acid is great for oily skin, and niacinamide is fabulous for dryer skin and helps regulate sebum and the skin barrier, plus it brightens. For older skin, where pores aren’t as refined due to loss of elasticity, that’s where retinol comes in.
Any issues that aren’t so common?
While I’ll see clients concerned with hyperpigmentation and other extrinsic age-related skin concerns, few are concerned that they might need to be utilizing better sun protection. It really is the first line of defense!
What is your philosophy when it comes to aging? Like aging, has it evolved over time?
My philosophy really is to follow the science. I personally use skincare ingredients with the most research backing them, like sunscreen, retinol, peptides, and antioxidants.
I do believe [our approach to] aging is evolving over time and in the best way possible. I feel like there is a whole movement towards skin health and age prevention. I’m hearing less and less people talk about tanning beds, and instead they are looking at self-tanner, because it’s a safer alternative. It makes my little sunscreen-loving esthetician heart so happy! There is not only a push for daily sunscreen use, but the reapplication of SPF throughout the day, which is key.
We are also seeing lots of new advanced skin care treatments and noninvasive tightening and resurfacing lasers which I believe is contributing to the evolution of skincare in a big way. We are getting positive results faster than ever and often with less risk of complications, which is huge.
What about your clients' attitudes?
Clients are more educated than ever, which is exciting. I keep hoping that means we will all start seeing less DIY disasters!
For example, I have had clients come in with severely sensitized and congested skin and I ask, “What is your regimen?” and they say something like they’re using bar soap, toner with apple cider vinegar, and slathering on coconut oil. Natural products can really irritate skin. There are a lot of influencers out there that mean well but promote some things that aren’t necessarily the right regimen for your skin. Skincare has to be personalized.
You have also worked in product development. What are some of the skincare ingredients that you find most efficacious?
I have a long-standing love affair with retinoids, good quality sunscreens, and my daytime antioxidants. I also may or may not have an obsession with niacinamide, but I just love that it does so much for the skin. It helps regulate sebum while improving the skin barrier and brightening up the skin; it’s a true multitasker. I also love peptides as retinol alternatives, for example, during pregnancy.
A newer ingredient I’ve been really interested in lately are DNA repair enzymes; the research looks really promising there!
You love a beauty device. Do you really think people can get greater at-home DIY results than ever before?
This is a tough subject for me because there really are a lot of gimmicky devices out there, and if you don’t know what to look for you could end up wasting a lot of money.
I can’t stress enough the importance of doing your due diligence. I personally stick to well researched technology like red light therapy, microcurrent, and radio frequency, but I do try to only buy from companies that have the research and studies to back their claims.
Thoughts on cosmetic procedures?
I think it’s a really personal decision, but I believe if you’re going to do it, it’s important to research the procedure well and understand the risks involved. Then when you are feeling ready and well informed, you should seek out a reputable, highly experienced, and skilled board-certified practitioner who truly understands facial anatomy.
There are new beauty trends every day, but what are some tried and tested, ageless tips you have for beautiful skin?
I was raised very holistically in southern California, and truly believe skin is affected very much by our lifestyle. I try to eat right, limit sugar intake, I don’t drink alcohol, I exercise and try to get plenty of sleep. I use great quality skincare, and never sleep with my makeup on.
Speaking of sleep, I love me a silk pillowcase! They have completely eliminated sleep lines for me, and definitely live up to the hype. I don’t have a ton of DIY tricks, but I do have a few and they work really well: I use wine chillers to quickly de-puff my face in the morning, and I love the occasional oatmeal mask to calm and soothe my skin.
What is your specific regimen?
I’m an esthetician and total skincare junkie, so while I’ll play around a lot with different masks and things, my core regimen is actually pretty simple, but super effective. I use a gentle cleanser in the AM and PM, and during the day I use an antioxidant serum under my sunscreen. At night I use Retin-A. In the winter months I buffer my retinol with a good moisturizer to help cut down on the side effects typically associated with retinoid use.
You grew up in SoCal and are now based in Northern Virginia. When it comes to aesthetics, how do the west coast and east coast differ?
In SoCal, we didn’t really have the weather extremes that we have here on the East Coast. Here it’s super humid in the summer, and super dry in the winters, so it’s even more important that we adjust our skincare regimen with the season change. The perk of course with the cold winters is that we truly have a designated "peel and laser season,” since you are advised to avoid heat and sun after those treatments.
What has being a master esthetician taught you when it comes to beauty “truths”?
Know what questions to ask! Understand how things work and know that MORE does not always equal better. I see a lot of people falling for gimmicks because it’s easy to assume you are seeing results right after a treatment, when in reality, that massive fine line and pore size reduction is just coming from swelling. Once the swelling is gone, people are fooled into believing they need more of that procedure, then you’re caught in this cycle of chasing swelling. This is important to note because when acute inflammation becomes chronic it can accelerate the aging process, and no one wants that!
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