Rosalind Sack meets facialist Su-Man Hsu – who counts the likes of Juliette Binoche and Joely Richardson among her devoted fans – to discover the secret to that red carpet glow.
You grew up in rural Taiwan and were initially a dancer – so how did you become one of London’s leading facialists?
It was a beautiful accident; everything I did before somehow just merged together naturally. When I was a dancer in my 20s I injured my back and was unable to move for a year, until my Shiatsu master healed me through the power of touch. It was then that I discovered the importance of the connection between the emotional and the physical. I continued working as a dancer for the next 10 years, met my husband and eventually moved to London, where he is from, and then my love of Shiatsu took over.
Your technique is often described as Pilates for the face, how is it different from more typical Western treatment?
First, I perform a scan to see what kind of skin type the client has, which starts to determine how I will work with them. Then, the moment I touch my client my technique will change again, because it all depends on the condition of that person and what is going on in their lives on that particular day. Generally speaking, there are three stages – purifying, energising and nourishing. Purifying means cleansing and extracting whilst you’re steaming, then I move on to a serious massage. I used to dance on stage, and now I dance on people’s faces!
And is that all intuition?
I have a certain technique, which I think everyone needs, but the rest is really intuition. I can’t have a set of rules, like, ‘One two three, that’s it, I’ve done your facial’. Every day, every week, my clients are different and their skin is different. I also find people treat their face so differently to their body, which is weird because your face is so connected to your body – you can’t separate from the neck upwards! Sometimes I also work on people’s arms or hands, or I concentrate on their neck or their head, depending on what I find. That way you can reconnect and open out all the energy channels before moving on to the face.
What are the most common skincare mistakes that people make?
When people have a problem with their skin, they tend to over-wash and over-exfoliate because they think their face is dirty, which makes the skin thin and vulnerable. People also tend to wipe and rub the skin really hard when removing their make-up, especially around the eyes. You have to be patient and be gentle but firm, don’t pull at your skin because that’s how fine lines start to appear. Take your time and your skin will love you for it.
You’ve developed your own skincare line as well. How did that come about?
That was really for one obvious reason – because I wasn’t satisfied with the products I had used before, and I’d used many, many brands. So I started creating my own in my kitchen and my clients could see the results and started asking where they could buy them. So I launched my own range three years ago.
What can we do every day to keep our skin looking at its best?
Keep it hydrated… but hydration isn’t just about drinking loads of water. Whatever your cleansing regime you should apply moisturiser directly afterwards to lock in the hydrating agents to the skin to keep it soft and smooth. Secondly, spend five minutes a day massaging your face and you’ll look ten years younger. Massage not only increases circulation, it deeply penetrates the active ingredients of your skincare products into your skin layer, and this strengthens your skin. It’s like toning up and firming your muscles like you do when you work out; your face needs exercise, too, and the best form of exercise for your face is massage. The best time to massage is whilst you’re cleansing and moisturising – two-and-a-half minutes in the morning, and two-and-a-half minutes in the evening.