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Beauty

How to Get Your Skin Red Carpet-Ready This Holiday Season

Ahead of Augustinus Bader's West Village pop-up, we asked asked the brand's global ambassador, celebrity facialist Gavin McLeod-Valentine, to weigh in on some common winter skincare woes.
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The Augustinus Bader pop-up includes around 1,000 square feet of retail space and two treatment rooms. Courtesy Augustinus Bader

Gavin McLeod-Valentine sculpts some of the most notable faces in Hollywood–Cate Blanchett, Julia Garner, and Kim Kardashian to name a few. But his skincare career started at, of all places, a PR firm in 2016. As its director, he led the promotion of Australia-based Intraceuticals’ latest new skincare offering at the time, the oxygen facial. And he managed to catch the eye of one celebrity team, but they didn’t want just any aesthetician to perform the treatment, they wanted him. So McLeod-Valentine learned how to provide the service in just two days for his first ever client—Halle Berry.

Fast forward to today, you can find McLeod-Valentine navigating a busy schedule performing his coveted red carpet-ready facial massage and traveling the world as the global ambassador for Augustinus Bader. He is now headed to North Texas this holiday season to usher in the opening of the Augustinus Bader pop-up in West Village.

We chatted with McLeod-Valentine how to achieve his magic lifting, sculpting, and glowing results in the comfort of our own home.

Have you always wanted to pursue a career in the beauty industry?

It’s certainly not something that I’d ever envisioned for myself when I was starting out. Within that same week [of working with Halle Berry], I was getting lots and lots of calls from various makeup artists from celebrities, including Cate Blanchett, Julianne Moore, and Brooke Shields. It just sort of started snowballing from there. So I said, okay, I’ve got to get trained, I have to hone my skill set. And then, I became extremely proficient in what I was doing—I was trained by a geisha who was living in the outskirts of Beijing. She taught me the ancient art of kobido: the sculpting, the manipulation, and the momentum of the face. So that’s what took me to what I’m doing now. 

You are known for your facial massage techniques, what’s your secret to success?

Facial techniques and practices within the industry are very much known for the machinery or the technology. But there has been this return to physical human contact, probably spurred on by COVID lockdowns and the fact that we were so separated. There is a marriage between that sensorial human to human, emotional touch (with clarity and precision) and an exchange of heat with lifting of the skin. It has a really massive impact. But I think that hybrid relationship between technology-forward skincare tools that help to deliver a higher level of response, in tandem with the physical human connection, is where we see things going. And that’s definitely a marriage that is blooming with a variety of people within the industry now.

Speaking of the marriage between manual technique and the latest technology emerging in the beauty scene, do you have technology favorites? Can we buy them?

I think I would answer that in two ways. In terms of a home device, there are many great devices. You have LYMA lasers, you have NuFACE devices—tools that do a lot of great things. But oftentimes, they take time for the consumer to really see the results of the response. And I understand that generally, staying consistent is not one of our strongest suits. Most people want to see an instant response. I’m a big fan of radio frequency devices, cryo sticks, and the Conture Kinetic Skin Toning Device, which can help with lymphatic drainage, hot and cold treatments, and simulated facial cupping. You also can’t go wrong with gua sha, whether it is stainless steel or a mineral stone like rose quartz, and put it in the freezer or the fridge. You can use it in the morning to help tighten the skin and expunge the congestion. It’s very simple. I always like to advocate to people: Technology is a means by which you bear forward a result. It doesn’t have to be sci-fi or advanced. If you’re doing something that brings a sense of meditation or connectivity to you and yourself, that’s a win for me.

Winter weather is here. Are there any specific ingredients you suggest using in a cold weather skincare routine?

The winter months are a really good time to get very focused on barrier repair. Essentially, the skin barrier function is to keep the skin intact, to protect the body, to be resistant, and reject the onslaught of environmental damage, free radicals, pollutants, sunlight, and things of that nature. Plus, it shows our skin’s response to our habits–whether it be alcohol, caffeine, or medication. Oftentimes, people find sensitivity, whether it be a response with rosacea, psoriasis, eczema, and just a sense of unease during the winter months, because when the barrier is impaired. When the reservoir of hydration is decreased, your ability to fend off the damage and dryness is not so strong. So we want to keep things hydrated, we want to keep things mobile, and we also want to bring lipids and essential fatty acids to the skin in order to again protect and preserve the complexion. So I would look for anything that has evening primrose oil, argan oil, avocado oil—getting oils involved in skincare is really, really key.

I will always give this word of advice: If you are someone who is oily, do not be afraid of oil. Oftentimes oil calms things down and brings balance and harmony back to the skin. I would also be consistent with your moisturization. Look for products that are rich in hyaluronic acid, squalene, or glycerin by themselves or in combination. These products will stave off trans-epidermal water loss, a.k.a. dehydration to the skin.  

What is your holy grail product in your own routine?

There’s no question, my holy grail product of any product is what took me to Augustinus Bader—The Rich Cream from the brand. What I love about the cream is its decadence and gorgeous emollience on the skin. It has a very high level glow. You never look sticky or sweaty with it. But you look energized; you look refreshed. What I particularly like about this product is that it’s really taking care of all of our proactive aging concerns. I never say anti-aging, but rather, I take a proactive aging approach. I know that the technology in the product is adaptive to the individual needs of the user, recalibrating within the skin what you need at the moment. So we’re addressing fine lines and wrinkles, we’re looking at hyperpigmentation, we’re looking at lack of tone elasticity in the skin and supporting those functions. And in addition to that, it’s rich with evening primrose oil, argan oil, and avocado oil. So it’s nourishing and protects the lipid barrier of the skin. 

Do you have advice when it comes to achieving celebrity facial results at home?

My job is to get clients ready the day of or the day before a key moment or event where there’s going to be so much photography, and those images are going to live on in memoriam. I want to make sure that you are lifted, sculpted, toned, hydrated, energized, and feeling your best. 

Now, the way I train the client to take care of their skin at home, it comes back to the simple adage: Consistency is absolutely key and your routine doesn’t have to be complicated. It doesn’t have to be a 20-step South Korean system. It can be something that you, in your own bandwidth, can do every day. And when you do something every day, you will see a transformation and results. So I always say that to people—find something that not only do you trust the science behind [and] you trust the brand, but find something from a texture perspective that feels good to you. And often the first point of that is to find yourself a cleanser that you really love. Cleansing the skin is the most essential, important step of any skincare. Probably the most important in skincare is that first step. Find something you like, like a folding lathering cleanser. Do you like an oil cleanser? Do you like gel? What allows you to feel a sense of connection or enjoyment when you’re using [it] from a texture and feeling standpoint? Find products that feel good to you based on your preference, and then lean into that and stay consistent with that. 

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Zoe Roberts

Zoe Roberts

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