‘I treat the skin that’s presented to me and not so much what the client wants’: beauty therapist Cecilia Westberry

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Because when it comes to skin care and beauty tricks, the woman is a genius diagnostician with unfathomable skills she began honing when she opened a little salon across the road from the old Marco Polo Hotel back in 1985.

“I realised early on that it’s not just about a facial. Everything is linked,” she explained. “If your body and nutrition are no good, the skin won’t be good. If your skin is not prepped properly, your make-up won’t be nice. I also only use quality products [such as Biologique Recherche, Guinot and Methode Physiodermie], so my prices are a little higher, but my clients see the results.”

And then some.

With a single scan, she can tell what your skin needs, or what’s troubling it. A friend B was told that she could help with the fatty deposits on his face. When he said he was more concerned about his eye-bags and droopy eyelids, she intoned with Delphic accuracy, “You must have pets and sinus. Your eyes are puffy because of the sinus!”

What he and I and Westberry’s devoted clientele realised very early on is that the skin condition we show up with at her salon is not necessarily what she will fix. “I treat the skin that’s presented to me and not so much what the client wants,” she likes to say. Because as she spends more time with you, especially as she’s cleansing your face and peering even more closely at your skin, her forensics skills kick into higher gear. Her mantra is: What will make this face look even better?

“I’ve gone in for a buccal face massage,” said my friend, Debra, “and come out with micro-bladed brows and semi-permanent eyeliners as well.”

“I like to be a one-stop shop from facials, nails and hair, to helping with your make-up,” Westberry said. “I’ve been accused of upselling, but the reason I’m so good is because I care. I renovate your skin. I transform skin and give good advice. So, you see results. Because I want to see you and your skin look better every time I see you. I could use cheaper products and be full every day. But the results won’t be as good.”

On my first visit to the salon, what was meant to be a simple facial turned into one involving Westberry’s famous deep massage of tendons along the cheekbones and jawline. “You’re too tense!” she told me as she drifted out of the room and sent in another therapist who then proceeded to knead and tug and prod my face with strong, yet oddly gentle, pressure.

When that was done, Westberry drifted back in and began waxing my eyebrows. On a later visit, quite without any prompting, she waxed the insides of my nostrils. “You see, you see?” she exclaimed happily, showing me the unsightly follicular results of the procedure.

For days after, people would ask me what I’d done to my face because the skin looked so much tighter and refreshed, and the landscaped eyebrows gave me a more alert, striking profile.

“Her experience is second to none,” said Debra. “And it’s not just her. Every facial therapist in the salon is an experienced technician in her own right.”

“I started out with three staff, and grew to 24,” Westberry said. “My senior therapists are in their 50s now. I used to have eight single mothers working for me. I gave them each a skill they can use.”

This, if it’s not already clear, is not an attitude you encounter too often. It’s rare enough to find a superb facial therapist, but a superb facial therapist with a heart? Ever rarer. 

Which is why each time I visit Westberry’s salon and I’m asked, “How much time do you have?”, my reply is always, “As much as you need.” 

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