The most common remark about Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle's wedding beauty look was how natural it appeared — you could still see her skin! And her freckles! Makeup artist Daniel Martin deserves lots of credit for that; however, you can't do beautiful no-makeup makeup for a big event without a perfect canvas. And that's where Markle's longtime facialist Sarah Chapman came in, providing one of her famous treatments the night before.
The London-based skin-care expert has been a facialist to the across-the-pond stars for many years — Victoria Beckham is another of her top clients — and began working with Markle when she first made that across-the-pond hop. And while Chapman may have recently lost her most high-profile client to Canada, she probably found some new ones last week.
Chapman was on this side of the pond — Los Angeles, to be exact — to prep more famous faces for the Oscars and its surrounding events. Even I was treated to a luxurious hour-and-a-half-long facial by Chapman's associate (who herself is booked more than a year in advance, I'm told) featuring her signature massage technique, and I swear, a week later, my face still looks more lifted and younger than it has in years.
In addition to prepping stars for the unforgiving flashes of red-carpet photographers, Chapman is also known for her luxury skin-care line Skinesis and its bestselling Overnight Facial Serum — "If I meet people and say my name, they go, 'Oh my God, you're Overnight Facial,'" she says — and growing collection of innovative at-home facial tools.
I caught up with Chapman over coffee (tea for her, because Britishness) to discuss that Markle Sparkle (sorry), what regular humans can do to prep our skin for a big event, the at-home facial tools we should all be investing in and more. Read on for the highlights.
Can you tell me a little about why you're in town, and what the pre-Oscars process is like for you?
We're in town really to get everyone's skin glowing. So lots of my clients are based here. They come and see me in London when they're in London filming, shooting. They all kept saying, 'can you come to L.A., you gotta come, nobody does what you do. We've got great facials but nobody does what you do.' So yeah, we were here in October, we saw lots of people and it went really well. And, so we've come over really to see... starting with the people we know already, but also new people and getting everybody's skin glossy and glowing and sorting it out and preparing them for the Oscars and all the events.
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How are you treating their skin in a pre-red carpet scenario specifically?
It depends on the skin because every treatment we do is [customized]. So we're looking at the skin, we're seeing what presents itself at the moment. It's always people's stress and lifestyle and traveling or filming with loads of makeup. All of those things kind of take their toll on the skin, so we're really looking at what's happening to it now to give it that few days to get it ready for looking its best. So with some people, it's cleaning the skin massively and lots of extraction.
A lot of people's skin here gets really dehydrated because of the air, but then what happens with that is you get a lot of buildup of dead cells on the surface so they end up getting lots of tiny blockages. So we're really trying to clear the skin to get that flatter canvas. And then, really look at how do we get the skin glow-y, dewy and bright. So, we're using a lot of hyaluronic acid to get hydration in, vitamin C, niacinamide, some retinols depending on what the skin is like. Lot's of great oils and omegas so we can really condition the skin, and some machinery, but lots of handwork.
The thing we've become quite famous for is the massage technique: a lot of lifting massage and then very deep lymphatic massage to the face. Really manipulating the tissues, releasing muscle tension which gives really good lifting, boosting the circulation. And then the skin looks literally kind of dewy and plump and glow-y. And we work a lot with makeup artists here but also in the UK. So, it's about prepping the skin so they can get a flawless finish with less makeup sometimes.
Is there an ideal amount of time before an event that you'll treat someone?
We can do the facial five days before but then I'm giving some people home care to do leading up to the day: hydration masks, we've got an eye mask which has a really instant kind of tightening which is great just before the event. In the UK, we might do somebody on the day of the shoot or the night before a big event if we already know their skin.
For a regular person who has no time to get a facial, what are the products or treatments you would recommend someone do at home before an event?
I would always start with a really good cleanse. Cleansing your skin increases the brightness and luminosity. We also have a home steamer unit. So you can literally take Ultimate Cleanse, which is a soft, balmy cleanser in front of the steam and massage it using your hands — it's the easiest thing to do at home, your hands are free, you don't need to do anything. We always get people to really use their knuckles and massage [the cleanser] into the face. We always say if you're massaging, your skin should go pink. We want the blood flow, we want that rush to the skin cause it feeds the skin cells with oxygen, nutrients and helps to drain… And it does give you that healthy, 'I've just walked into mountain air' kind of glow. And then lots and lots of hydration.
Then we also talk to people a lot about diet and lifestyle: leading up to events, to not have alcohol, spicy food, salts, things like that that are going to make the skin more puffy. We try to get people to eliminate dairy if they have dairy in their diet so again to reduce risks of breakouts, to reduce inflammation in the skin. And to take lots of omega oils because they give skin a kind of plump dewiness but it also helps to control things like acne, so we look at the whole lifestyle element which people can do at home.
What you would recommend if someone were to splurge on one really great device?
It depends on the skin, it depends what the issue is. The steamer is pretty good, all around, great for everybody because you can steam and infuse hyaluronic serums into your skin or you can use it to help with blockages, blackheads, pre-extraction, that sort of thing. We just launched a brand new product called the Pro Pore Refiner, which is a device for blackhead extraction. It takes all the techniques from the treatment room but put in a tool.
If we're doing a manual extraction in a facial, we heat up the skin first, we do a massage, we soften everything and we go to extract; the device has a warming plate on one end which has ionic cleansing, so it draws negative dirt particles to the surface and then it has a heat with ultrasonic vibration so it has a little massage that shakes it about deep in the pore. Then on the other end it has an actual vacuum extraction, so it sucks everything out. So that's really good for people with congestion, blackheads. And then we have one tool which is a facial massaging device. You pick it up and roll it across the face and it fits to your face, it has a spring wishbone shape and it massages and kneads into the tissue. It's really interesting because it was about nine years ago that we launched it and it was hugely popular and then it kind of maintained and in the last year, it has [become popular again] especially in the U.S.
What can you tell us about Meghan Markle?
I've been looking after her skin ever since she came to the UK — obviously she's not with us anymore. I looked after her skin before the wedding, so I saw her the night before the wedding to do a facial, so she had all of that, what we talked about, that bright, dewy, plump [look], but she has great skin anyway. She has a good routine, but she's very minimal, she has a healthy approach to skin care, not doing everything weird. Just following the product routine and regular treatments.
Does she have any particular skin concerns or issues?
Not really, no, she's got really good skin, she's really healthy. She uses my products and we do facials, and lots of facial massage, because that can really change the look of the skin. So, she has a natural approach to beauty, not super into technology or injectables or that sort of stuff.
After the wedding, everyone talked about how you could really see her skin.
[Daniel Martin] was just saying, 'I knew she had the facial night before, I just really didn't have to put much on her skin because it was just super clear and glow-y.' She looked beautiful, amazing. We also have, I've worked with Victoria Beckham for years, and she's always talking about the products and treatments and been very supportive.
Does she have any specific skin-care concerns?
She always talks about when she was younger she had problematic skin. She had breakouts and problem skin, so its about getting the skin really healthy, healing what had been there before. And now, it's like perfection. Without makeup, it also looks perfect.
This interview has been edited for clarity.