I sat down to speak with Shizuka Bernstein, owner of Shizuka New York Day Spa after receiving the spa’s Collagen Boosting Facial. The Tokyo-born esthetician and spa owner indeed has lovely skin and is very selective about which products she uses, including the UV sanitized, powdered bird poop used in the spa’s Geisha facial. Read on to discover what she shared from her years of practicing medical esthetics (as well as my own commentary).

What is your approach to client skincare?

If you are in your 20s and take care of your skin, you should get a professional facial at least every quarter, either before or after the season’s change. When you start noticing fine lines, hyperpigmentation or sagging skin, you need to come in more often as it’s not possible to do what we can do at the medi-spa at home. We have skilled estheticians who perform chemical peels, microdermabrasion, microcurrent and photofacials to address mature skin needs. Many clients come in for monthly maintenance unless they are trying to achieve a particular goal, in which case they may need to come in more often. The esthetician can tell you how often you can safely have particular treatments done.

What do you recommend for treating hyperpigmentation?

First, stay out of the sun! You can prevent and manage hyperpigmentation by using an SPF, daily. I do recommend hydroquinone and kojic acid for hyperpigmentation as it’s very effective. But I think that most people are unaware that hydroquinone, in low concentrations, is safe when used only for a limited time. We specifically put expiration dates on products with hydroquinone so clients know when to stop using it. It’s really not good to use hydroquinone daily all year round. I also recommend deeper (medi-spa level) chemical peels and use combinations of TCA/Jessners/glycolic, etc., depending on the type of hyperpigmentation. I also have home-use glycolic pads in my line with lightening ingredients that can be used weekly in between treatments. Chemical peels combined with photofacial treatments are great for severe hyperpigmentation, especially on sun spots on the décolleté. However, photofacials are safe for only fair to olive skin tones. There are a lot of variables to consider.

What sunscreen do you use?

I use sunscreens by DCL (Dermatologic Cosmetic Laboratories) daily. If I expect major sun exposure, I use La Roche Posay Anthelios sunscreen - but the one from France, not from the U.S. (I use La Roche Posay too!).

What are some of your favorite products?

It’s hard to say because it was hard to find products that really delivered what I was looking for. I started my own product line after a particularly inspiring trip to Japan, where I noticed people came from far away for the pure water from Mount Fuji’s springs. The Shizuka New York Skin Care System uses Mount Fuji water as the line’s base.

(I can attest to the effects that water type can have on hair and skin. I admit to continuously dousing my entire head and body with Evian Facial Spray while vacationing in Dubai - it’s a miracle the hotel could keep the gratis spray bottles in stock - but my skin and hair were noticeably luminous despite the arid climate! I have an Aquasana shower filter (read about it on TIA!) at home. While NYC water is considered “soft,” it renders soap more resistant to rinsing off, which isn’t good for your hair/skin. BTW, I’m told the “Jonathan” shower filter sold at Sephora is just a branded - i.e. more expensive - version of Aquasana.)

What do you recommend for dark under-eye circles?

Smoking, drinking too much caffeine or alcohol, and not getting enough sleep can result in dark under-eye circles. But it can also be genetic; therefore, not really treatable. I tell clients to sleep on their backs with the flattest pillow they can find. Ladies in Japan do this because large, fluffy pillows can contribute to dark under-eye circles.

(I have trained myself to sleep on my back over the years and completely concur on the use of a flat pillow - all those extra pillows may look lovely but aren’t practical as they usually end up on the floor and are just a breeding ground for dust mites.)

What do you recommend for loose, sagging skin?

Microcurrent is great for sagging skin, but results take time and the esthetician must be very skilled in performing microcurrent. The sooner you start microcurrent treatment for sagging skin, the better. Retinol or a prescription-strength retinoid also really helps. My product, Retinol 20, absorbs quickly and doesn’t over-dry or irritate skin. I formulated the coated retinol molecules to be time released; therefore, gentler to the skin. I recommend using it every other day or every two days. I also believe in taking a day off from products. So if you use a retinol on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and use a good moisturizer on the other nights, you should give your skin a rest on Sunday. It’s good to give your skin a regular break from using strong products.