Sam Cooper has been a spa director for over 20 years. She started her career working at Canyon Ranch, a luxury health and wellness spa with four locations (and three new ones to come) around the county, while she was in college. Then, she moved on to a few other spas and was one of the people who helped open the first Equinox Spa in the ’90s. In time, she made her way back to Canyon Ranch and now serves as the resort’s director of spa, fitness, and beauty.
She’s shaped the offerings of the Ranch to be holistic and all-encompassing, providing everything from bespoke facials to Botox. Beauty products are her bread and butter, but she’s also picked up some knowledge about how lifestyle impacts her appearance. Below, Cooper shares the three big beauty lessons she’s learned during her time as a spa director.
3 big beauty tips from a spa director
1. Chemical exfoliation > mechanical exfoliation
There are two types of exfoliation. Chemical exfoliation uses active ingredients (like alpha-hydroxy acids) that eat away the glue that holds dead skin cells to the surface of your complexion, allowing you to easily whisk them away. Mechanical exfoliation involves physically scrubbing with anything from small granules to brush bristles to remove dead skin. Over time, Cooper says she learned that chemical exfoliation is superior to mechanical.
“I was always using manual exfoliations for years and years and years—and shame on me cuz the estheticians were telling me a decade ago, ‘Sam, you need to chemically exfoliate.’” Her go-to is now the Biologique Recherche P50 ($107) exfoliating lotion and she uses it twice a week. “You can get a lot from a granular explanation, but it’s not the same.” Since she started chemically exfoliating, she’s noticed that her skin is glowier, and that the rest of the products in her skin-care routine can better absorb.
2. Face oils are fantastic
“I’m in love with face oil,” says Cooper. So many people used to be afraid of oils, and Cooper has seen the shift to greater acceptance over the years. Everyone was a little scared to try them because they were worried they’d cause breakouts, but not anymore. “It’s a big win for people to step back and say it’s okay for you to use oil, even if your skin is oily, depending on what you use.” She uses the Venn Advanced Multi-Perfecting Red Oil Serum ($115) every morning and the Keihl’s Since 1851 Midnight Recovery Concentrate ($52 to $129) every night. “If don’t use those, my skin does not look the same the next day,” she says.
This oil is composed of gromwell and Korean angelica root extracts that have been fermented for 150 hours at a low temperature to amplify performance. Plus, there are 32 additional root extracts and botanicals rich with antioxidants, phytochemicals, vitamins, and essential minerals.
3. Holistic beauty is the best type of beauty
How you treat your body impacts how you look, and your lifestyle practices are just as important as the products in your routine. “Being at Canyon Ranch time and outdoors and food and nutrients are huge. For me, beauty incorporated all of that,” says Cooper. “The products are huge and are what I love and what I do, but when I’m outside hiking or just connected with nature, it just changes like your personality and the way you feel. Everything kind of lightens and I think you just look better. And food, what you put into your body makes such a difference. From reducing sugar intake to having not as much alcohol—whatever it is for you that you need to do.”
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