Meet Cali S., Skin Therapist & Very Proud Cat Mom

Meet Cali S., Skin Therapist & Very Proud Cat Mom

By Michael Pollak

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She may have worked in fragrance, but Cali fully believes that skincare doesn't have to smell good.

Hey Cali! Where are you from?

Nyack, New York 

How did you get into skincare?

My background is in music, actually. I have always been a creative person, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do with it. School never worked for me, I was too hands-on and I feel empowered when I make strong, genuine connections with people. I think that many people on our team have the same kind of story. We’re all creative and wanted to find somewhere to put that energy.

I’ve long been a major ingredient and product junkie. I’m passionate about raw materials and quality control. I used to work for a vegan fragrance company from France, so learning about ingredients and sourcing – the best quality herbs and oils – it all intertwines with skincare. After meeting other estheticians and seeing what they do, I realized I knew more than many of them and I could totally make this a career. It’s funny when what you love has been right in front of you all this time – you just don’t realize what you can do with it.

So, you’re the type of person who has a whole medicine cabinet of products?

I collect them and I think of it as my toolbox.  I organize by genre and by shape on my dresser. I never keep them in my medicine cabinet in the bathroom because I don’t want the excess heat to decrease the shelf life or oxidize ingredients. I do strive to be a minimalist, but I collect essential oils, too, and I keep them on their own pedestal in my kitchen so I can mix easily. I make my own blends and products.

Oh, how did you learn to do that?

I researched and taught myself. I used to work in a spa down the street from this essential oil shop on West 13th Street called Enfleurage. They’re the only place I trust! I avoid the bigger corporate companies because the quality is not the same. They source their own oils and have their own distillery in Oman. I met a friend and fellow female Scorpio who worked there; we actually met on the street. We’ve been best friends ever since because of our love of herbalism and ingredients. She got me the job in fragrance, we worked together, and then she went on to study in the south of France and became a perfumer, which is what I was going to do before I became an esthetician. She taught me a lot. 

You must have a really developed sense of smell.

I definitely have, but I would put something on my face even if I hated the smell of it, as long as it got the job done. I don’t think that skincare should smell good. You’re being distracted by marketing when it’s for your other senses. You’re forgetting the reason why you originally wanted it in the first place.

Where do you go to research new products and learn about new advances in the industry?

I hit every platform because it’s a different audience everywhere, so you can learn so much. If you stick to the internet, it’s a lot of bloggers. It’s people who don’t even have a license. You have to do it all. Though I’ll admit, I do love following celebrity estheticians.

Do you have any general advice based on what you've seen with clients?

Many people are missing out, believing that exfoliants are simply granular scrubs, but there are so many other things that exist! It’s important to exfoliate with something other than with granular because with a scrub, you’re only getting the surface layer of the skin. We need to go deeper using alpha hydroxy acids and fruit enzymes. Once you dive into this, then you’re able to see real change. It’s just finding what concentration and what types of acids works for you. They’re all different molecular sizes meaning some penetrate deeper than others and some are more gentle. I love an exfoliating toner because you can swipe it on after you cleanse and there’s no mess- but I’ll skip it if I know I’m going to be in the sun that day.

Also keep an eye on dairy, sugar, and foods that inflame your skin or can be a huge stimulant for breakouts (guilty as charged). You have to do your homework and notice patterns. How can we see success if we’re not seeing the whole picture of what could be affecting you?

What is the one ingredient or product that you think that more people should be using?

AHA’s and peels have completely changed my skin. I can’t imagine life without them. They’re not as intense as people think they are. It just depends on the concentration that you’re getting them in. They’re bringing out your best skin. It’s shedding away all the buildup that’s hiding that fresh baby skin underneath. If you’re mindful and educated about them, they’ll find ways to incorporate them throughout our weekly routine and you’ll be blinding people with that glow. But you have got to put the hydration back into your skin. I always recommend hyaluronic acid serums to all skin types. It holds all the hydration in your skin while you’re doing all of the other fun stuff. You have to hydrate your skin topically just like internally. When your body is hydrated, it's in it’s healthiest state – it's the same thing topically!

What are three things that you like that don't have to do with skin?

I’m a huge music nerd and I listen to a lot of international and experimental music.

I have a 2-year old Persian cat Patti, named after Patti Smith. She’s my biological daughter.

Rich Roll has a great podcast. He’s not your average health podcaster. He trains to compete in Ironman races all the time and is super down to earth. He introduced me to one of my favorite people, John Joseph, a singer from 80’s hardcore band “Cromags.” He has great YouTube videos making different vegan recipes, talking health, spirituality, and life, with a heavy potty mouth, which I love being that I come from a New York family!


’Every day is like sunday'-day

Cali S. sees clients at our Tribeca, Upper West Side, and Upper East Side locations.

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