Shani Darden is undoubtedly one of the most sought-after aestheticians in L.A. With an impressively starry client list—including Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Jessica Alba, and Kelly Rowland—she's renowned in the industry for her hands-on experience with challenging skin conditions and a passion for health glowy complexions. With a year-long waiting list for an appointment with Darden herself at her Beverly Hills studio, it makes perfect sense then that Darden decided to launch her own range of skincare products—giving all of us a chance to achieve that coveted A-list glow at home.
And while her iconic Retinol Reform serum launched back in 2013 and quickly achieved a cult following, the full Shani Darden Skin Care line has only recently landed here in the UK. Trust me when I say that I couldn't be more excited, so when I was offered the opportunity to chat with Darden about all things skincare, I jumped at the chance.
"Retinol is the ultimate multitasking product and my favourite ingredient to treat multiple issues," explains Darden. "It can boost elasticity in the skin, minimise fine lines and wrinkles, reduce hyperpigmentation as well as help to keep skin clear and blemish-free. If there is one treatment product you use, it should be a retinol."
While a brilliantly versatile ingredient, Darden is keen to stress that retinol should only be used if your skin can tolerate it and it should be introduced to your routine slowly. "I always recommend starting any retinol just one night a week, and building up slowly—adding one additional night each week," says Darden. "Build up to as often as your skin can tolerate."
In fact, it's this general sensitivity towards retinol that actually led to the creation of her cult serum. "Retinol Reform is what I recommend to all of my clients because it's an effective yet mild formula that provides multiple anti-ageing benefits with minimal irritation that's often experienced with other retinol products," explains Darden. "It also contains lactic acid, which helps to brighten and smooth skin, so you get both immediate benefits and long-term results. It's an essential treatment for glowing, youthful-looking skin."
"Dullness is always one of the main complaints I get, especially as people were spending more time indoors during lockdown," reveals Darden. "I love to do my custom lactic acid peel to instantly brighten the skin. At home, I always recommend alternating Retinol Reform with one to two nights of the Dr Dennis Gross peel pads to keep skin glowing in-between facials."
One of the biggest skincare issues of 2021 has undoubtedly been maskne, and Darden confirms that it's most definitely a real and "ever-present issue" with clients in her studio.
"The humid environment under the mask is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria and blemishes," explains Darden. "It's so important to always wear a clean mask! I love to keep a stock of masks and only use them once before putting in the laundry and changing out a couple times a day, if possible, to make sure I’m not contributing to breakouts."
As someone that has been dealing with acne for the best part of my life, I was fascinated to learn that Darden also dealt with acne as a teenager. "Growing up with my own skin issues, I know how it can affect your confidence, so being able to help others with their skin is very important to me," explains Darden. "I saw firsthand how much it affects you and it was very much so part of my decision to become an aesthetician."
Her best advice for dealing with breakouts? "One of the biggest mistakes I see is [clients] trying to overdry the skin in an attempt to dry out blemishes," says Darden. "This often ends up exacerbating the issue and causing more breakouts to form."
Whenever I talk to skincare experts, this is the number one piece of skincare advice that they always give me, but that doesn't mean that it isn't worth repeating. "Wear sunscreen every single day," says Darden. "It is the most important thing you can do to keep skin glowing, youthful, and healthy."
While falling for a buzzy beauty product or a glowing skin recommendation from a friend is all well and good, Darden is hot on making sure that you know your skin type before making a purchase. "Make sure you're using all the right products for your skin type," stresses Darden. "What works for someone else, may not work great for your skin. This can feel a little daunting, but it's so worth it for the glowing skin that results!"
"Next up is Retinol Reform. It's what I recommend to all of my clients to keep their skin glowing in-between facials. It has 2.2% encapsulated retinol and provides multiple anti-ageing benefits without the dryness and irritation often experienced with other retinol products. It helps to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, uneven tone, dullness, blemishes, and acne scars. It also contains 2% lactic acid, which helps to brighten and smooth skin, so you get both immediate benefits and long-term results."
"Following that is my Intensive Eye Renewal Cream, which I use both morning and night. I finish my routine with Weightless Oil-Free Moisturizer, which provides lightweight hydration with natural extracts and light humectants."