Secrets from a celebrity facialist

With a client roster including Rooney Mara, Ellie Goulding and Lily Allen, facialist Ada Ooi knows a thing or two about glowing skin.

Originally from Hong Kong, Ms Ooi spent weekends growing up at her grandfather’s pharmacy in nearby Macau. “I would sit next to him every Saturday; I was the girl grinding all these herbs and pastes for the customers,” Ms Ooi remembers. “I picked up a lot about the good feeling of helping people.”

Another thing she learnt from her grandfather was the potential in mixing Chinese and Western medicines. After an ill-fated foray into advertising, Ms Ooi trained as an aromatherapist and aesthetician – realising she was trying to find a link to her grandfather.

When she started treating skin, often it was the last thing Ms Ooi looked at. “Someone would come through my door and I’d be like, ‘Actually, I don’t even want to touch your face, I want to touch your feet because your blood circulation is bad, your liver and kidney is in depletion’,” she explains.

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The next step in Ms Ooi’s career was to train as a practitioner of Chinese medicine – and that’s when she felt she was “really helping people”, she says.

“My philosophy is treating from within: that is how I see myself as a facialist, because our skin is the biggest organ of our body and is really the reflection of what’s happening in our inner self.”

This ethos has garnered Ms Ooi plenty of celebrity fans, and these are just some of the tips and secrets she’s picked up along the way.

1. Think about your skin holistically
“If you care for your skin, you should be caring for your whole wellbeing as well,” Ms Ooi says simply.

“I’m not saying you need to go and do lots of check-ups – nothing complicated, but be more mindful and conscious about your stress, the tension you have, hormonal fluctuations. These contribute to most longer-term skin problems, such as adult acne and wrinkles – yes, gravity plays a role, but a tense expression is the killer.”

2. Don’t blindly follow trends
“Don’t follow trends to try to look like other people – it really is unsustainable and you can make the wrong decisions,” Ms Ooi says.

Over-exfoliating is a big one right now. “I really do see there is an addiction to using acids and exfoliating agents, because of how it feels,” she sighs. “Initially, it feels very smooth, very good – but then you start peeling, or you have redness… And your skin can get very dry.”

3. Try not to do everything at once
Almost all of us are guilty of it: we get some kind of issue with our skin – whether it’s acne or melasma – and we try and fix it by chucking on as many products and treatments as we can.

“Try to do one thing at a time – don’t experiment with so much,” Ms Ooi pleads. “Even if you’ve got the money, doing everything at the same time cannot be good for you.”

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4. Mindset is everything
“It’s really down to the person to find the right mindset to be receiving the skincare routine they have designed for themselves,” says Ms Ooi. “Slapping everything on will always feel like a chore – it really doesn’t do much, apart from conditioning the surface of your skin.

“But if you take a little bit of mindfulness in your skincare routine, you will feel a big difference in your mood. And if you do it at night, you will sleep better as well.”

5. Massage your products in
Ms Ooi is a big fan of taking the time to massage in your products. “It really creates a brain-skin reaction with dopamine – happy hormones. They are going to be hyped up, so you’ll have more benefits from your skincare, and your mind will feel a lot better too.”

The products Ms Ooi can’t live without

An essence
Ms Ooi prefers to use the word ‘essence’ rather than ‘toner’ – particularly as toners have an increasingly bad reputation for being harsh or drying.

For Ms Ooi, an essence should follow your cleanser – it won’t minimise your pores, but it can balance your skin’s pH and “give your skin a boost of hydration, in the sense that it’s mild and easy enough for the skin to drink up”, she explains. “It’s more important than a moisturiser, I would say.”

Slow Ageing Essential Facial Essence, $105

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An emulsion
“Emulsions are the texture between serum and moisturiser,” Ms Ooi says. “It’s actually got the best of both worlds … I think an emulsion is a great light moisturiser to always have on your dressing table, so you can adjust how much moisture you want to have every night.” This means your skincare routine can be more ‘flexible’.

Bobbi Brown Intensive Skin Serum Radiance Emulsion, $115

Vitamin C
Vitamins are “vital for the skin”, says Ms Ooi. “Vitamin C is a great antioxidant you can use day and night to protect your skin from all the free radicals.” Her top tip is to make sure you don’t opt for too high a concentration.

Antipodes Glow Ritual Vitamin C Serum with Plant Hyaluronic Acid, $30

What does your skincare routine look like? What’s one product you can’t live without? Please let us know in the comments section below.

– With PA

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Written by Prudence Wade