On Beauty

Five Tips for Curing Winter Skin, From a Cult Facialist

Kristina Holey
Credit...Danielle Rubi-Dentzel

The cult facialist Kristina Holey, whose holistic approach to skincare favors healthy habits (eating well, exercising, sleeping) over a medicine cabinet full of topical antidotes, might be the beauty industry’s worst nightmare. Her modus operandi — that there is no universal rule for the skin, and each person requires a unique regimen — rejects the idea of any products touted as a quick fix cure-all. Yet it is this long-term strategy towards skincare that has seen Holey become San Francisco’s most sought-after facialist (she opened her own skincare center in June), with clients also clamoring to see her in Los Angeles and New York, where she works out of the West Village boutique Calliope.

“There is nothing black and white about skin. People ask me all the time to make a list of what’s bad and what’s good, but it doesn’t work that way,” says Holey, who studied cosmetic formulation and perfumery composition in Paris at Versailles’ Institut Supérieur International du Parfum, de la Cosmétique et de L’Aromatique Alimentaire (ISIPCA) before holding an apprenticeship with the renowned Parisian skin expert Joëlle Ciocco. “What’s good for you might be bad for me. It’s about looking at the whole picture. There are so many details involved in having good skin and it is very important to take the whole body into consideration when tackling a symptom.”

Before deciding on a treatment plan, Holey examines each client’s diet, current skincare regimen and lifestyle. And her approach changes with the season. In winter, she focuses on reducing redness and puffiness by building up the skin’s protective barrier, made up of fatty acids and oils. Holey says nutritional deficiencies are usually to blame: “Malabsorption of important nutrients will not allow your body to produce this beautiful layer of oils to protect the skin.” To correct this, Holey regularly teams up with the holistic health nutritionist and founder of Buckwheat to Butter, Jenn Taylor, to create a Seven-Day Reset meal plan for each change of season. The goal is to effectively eliminate inflammatory foods “or anything that could be causing digestive irregularities or stress on the body.”

The nourishing, week-long program avoids alcohol, caffeine, dairy, processed sugar, wheat, gluten, soy, processed vegetable oils and processed foods — and instead pushes seasonal fresh vegetables and fruits, high quality fats, organic animal proteins and non-glutinous grains. “It not only makes you feel great and keeps the skin balanced, but it also promotes self awareness,” she says. “It allows you to really understand how certain foods make you feel and what they can do to your skin.” The meal plan, which includes recipes, is free for clients or can be purchased for $20 by contacting Holey directly. Here, she shares some of her plan’s founding principals — among them, “dedication and patience” — and offers tips on how to maintain optimal digestion, and therefore flawless skin, during winter.

Stay Warm

Start the morning with warm water and lemon, eat warm foods to keep the digestive system functioning properly — and avoid cold beverages. “How we care for the skin in the winter is how we care for the body,” Holey says.

Drink Smartly

Sip apple-cider vinegar throughout the day. According to Holey, this will “balance the acid mantle in the belly, which impacts the acid mantle on the skin that regulates hydration and bacteria.”

Cleanse, not Slough

Eliminate skin-stripping products and instead cleanse with something gentle and non-drying — to remove makeup and pollution. “I like doing a dual cleanse with an oil first and then a creamy cleanser to follow,” Holey says. Exfoliating with an enzyme-based exfoliant (rather than a scrub) once a week will also ensure the removal of dead skin cell buildup, enabling moisturizers and serums to penetrate the skin’s surface.

Soothe and Moisturize

Applying products that will hydrate and calm irritated skin (rosewater, aloe, chamomile, calendula, hyaluronic acid and seaweeds), as well as a replenishing oil or cream, is “really important,” Holey says. During the winter, ingredients with anti-inflammatory properties (calendula, green tea, turmeric, aloe, niacinamide, St John’s wort and sodium salicylate) are especially helpful.

Do Your Homework

Though Holey admits she “loves oils” — for acne, she uses tea tree, borage, jojoba, black cumin seed and tamanu; for rosacea, she suggests sea buckthorn and hemp seed; and for dry, mature skin, evening primrose, argan, grapeseed and Vitamin E — she cautions against using natural skincare products made up of essential oils without “understanding how to properly use them” first. “They are very powerful. Some have medicinal strengths, which can cause photosensitivity and a lot of damage to the epidermal barrier layer if they’re not used correctly.”