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Joanna Vargas on Her New Salon and Expanding Into the Body Category

The go-to facialist for stars such as Constance Wu is projected to double her business in 2019, according to industry sources.

In 2006, Joanna Vargas opened her first salon: a 300-square-foot suite at 501 Fifth Avenue in New York. Last month, she unveiled her newest space: a sprawling spa overlooking Bryant Park that occupies the entire third floor of the same building.

When my husband and I started our salon 12-and-a-half years ago, we started in a very small space, but I wanted to focus on doing one great facial at a time and making the facials so special that each client would leave wanting to tell somebody about us,” said Vargas. “That’s how we built the business and that’s how we’ve grown it.”

Joanna Vargas Salon
Inside a treatment room at Joanna Vargas’ Fifth Avenue salon. Jeremiah Unruh

Vargas, the go-to facialist for stars such as Constance Wu, Elisabeth Moss and Mandy Moore, has become known for her treatments, including the highly requested Triple Crown Facial, $250 for 60 minutes, and popular RevitaLight Bed, $150 for 20 minutes, which she patented in 2013. In 2011, she entered skin care with just four products, aka “the basics.” The line now spans 20 sku’s and has found success in top-selling items such as the Daily Serum, $85, the Exfoliating Mask, $75, and the Vitamin C Face Wash, $40.

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Though Vargas declined to talk sales, industry sources estimate that the business did $7 million in 2018. It is expected to more than double in 2019, with sources projecting $15 million in sales. Salon services are said to account for 75 percent of the overall business, with the remaining 25 percent coming from skin care. Sales from skin care alone grew fivefold in 2017.

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The growth of the Joanna Vargas skin-care line coincides with its entry into Nordstrom two years ago. Vargas has since entered more retailers and soon, her line will make its debut in Europe via hotel partnerships in Germany, Greece and Scandinavia. She is planning in-store meet and greets abroad to promote her line, but only after the Oscars wrap, as awards season is her busiest time of year.

Joanna Vargas on Her New Salon
A RevitaLight Bed room at Joanna Vargas’ Fifth Avenue salon. Jeremiah Unruh

This spring, Vargas will expand her body offerings via both skin care and treatments. A bigger salon — hers now boasts 13 treatment rooms and four RevitaLight Bed rooms — means she can incorporate non-invasive technologies, such as full-body cryotherapy, coming later this year.

Skin is an organ and I don’t want people to forget that they need to care for their entire skin and not just the face and neck,” said Vargas, whose skin-care line includes soap bars, $22. “I’m excited about expanding into [body], and I’m super excited about expanding into possibly home devices. I don’t sell any devices at the salon, mostly because I’ve always maintained people [aren’t] that good about sticking with a routine with a device, but I wanted to interject my own viewpoint into that category.”

Overall, Vargas is noticing a shift toward non-invasive beauty treatments, which is her specialty. She names technology and an increasingly savvy customer as drivers of the changing landscape, noting that technology has been her focus from the start.

“People dabble with more invasive things and always come back on the side of non-invasive as not only more effective, but a better version of yourself without changing the way you look,” she said. “I don’t think technologies are gonna stop anytime soon. When I first became an aesthetician, almost 20 years ago, people were always looking for the holy grail, the one treatment that would do it for them. Both clients and providers now understand that it’s the combination of things that gives you the best results. I wish there was just one magic machine or one magic facial that did everything for everybody, but it really is the combination that makes the biggest difference.”