This post could not have been better timed.
Ever since getting back from Australia where I was subject to its erratic weather conditions, my skin has been throwing teenager-style tantrums, an overdue confirmation of my longtime suspicion – that I’m no longer immune to the cruel effects of time. Growing up, I had more or less perfect skin, a visual tribute to my mother’s good genes and the nightly Wei tradition of homemade soup. Annoying as that sounds, it’s true. I could quite literally slap mud on my face and get away without a blemish. My skincare routine included wiping the shampoo off my face whenever it dripped down during a shower. I’d never used anything stronger than water on my face, because my motto was, if it aint broke, why fix it?
But as I got older, more factors came into play. I started wearing make up. Lots of it. I moved into my own place on campus for three years and had to deal with dust in a way I never thought possible previously. I slept less and less and took on more and more work. Sunscreen wasn’t even on my radar unless I was headed to the beach – much less a part of my daily routine. My skin used to glow with the promise of youth and stupidity, and glow it no longer did. I started buying facial wash, spin brushes, moisturisers.. because it’s what everyone else was buying. I didn’t really understand it beyond moisturiser: good, sun: bad.
The day after I touched down from Australia, in a state of depression over my wretched complexion, I headed to the Fairmont Singapore to meet with the Erno Laszlo team who’d been flown in specially for a workshop. In retrospect, given my travelling schedule and their own timeline, it was really a miracle that our schedules managed to coincide long enough for us to sit down and have slightly more than a chat. I know close to nothing about the beauty industry, and it seemed like every new month the newest miracle product on the block would be the saviour of my skin and the new burning hole in my pocket. So I’ve been thinking of visiting a derm for the longest time to pin down some proper, medical, answers, held back only by my schedule and lethargy, which brings us back to the start of my post – that this could not have been more well timed!
About the brand
Erno Laszlo is a cult luxury skincare brand based in New York that believes in personal prescriptive skincare as compared to over the counter sales. Positioning themselves as a lifestyle over simply a cleaning routine, the Laszlo experience begins with a skin consultation and analysis, diagnosis, and then a prescription of products that cumulate in what they call The Ritual, a clocked system of cleansing that has to be done twice a day for two minutes. The brand counts royalty and celebrities under their devotees, with some of the most beautiful women of their age swearing by Laszlo – Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, and the native Princess of Hungary.
I count myself very fortunate to have been one of the first in Singapore to try out their legendary skincare techniques. While waiting for my consultation to begin, I had the chance to chat with Hyang Berg, Global Training Director of Erno Laszlo, and to clear up any burning questions I had on my mind, which I’ve taken the liberty of transcribing..
We’ll start with the most obvious question. What’s your signature product/ facial, and what differentiates it from other brands?
We don’t have a signature product. Our signature products are whatever your skin needs. That’s why all our clients have a unique personalised skincare and product routine prescribed for them.
Fair enough. But lots of young people starting out dont have the cash to spend on a ton of skincare products, which routines tend to encompass. If you really had to pick, how would you rank the main skincare products in term of importance?
Well I really wouldn’t skip any of the steps! But if I had to pick, it’d be in this order: Cleanser, Moisturiser, Serum, then Toner.
I grew up believing that drinking eight glasses of water does more for your skin than any product. What’s your take on this?
How do I say this? You can’t do without water if you want good skin, but you can’t only have water either. Your skin is an organ, and all organs need water. But your skin is also made up of seven layers – and water hydrates it from the inside. It’s almost certainly not going to reach the top layer of your skin, especially not when you’re losing water in such great quantities from your hot weather! So you really need to hydrate it both from the inside and outside, which is where your moisturisers come in.
Can’t I just use a moisturiser then? Why do I need a whole ton of products?
Different products do different things! For example, your moisturiser and serum both target different issues – your moisturiser moisturises, obviously, but your serum is meant to deposit nutrients, antioxidants, etc etc into your skin.
Fair enough. What’s one skincare step you think most people leave out?
Do you wash your face in the morning?
Well, no. I just splash it with water, I guess. Should I?
Yes! A lot of people forget this, or just think that washing it at night is enough. But your skin accumulates so much dead skin, sweat, dirt and other disgusting things at night when you sleep, especially if you havent washed your sheets in awhile. You definitely have to wash it again properly in the morning, and then apply your moisturiser and serum after that to seal it off.
But it’s funny that you mentioned splashing. At the heart of the Erno Laszlo Ritual is the famous splashing technique, which helps to plump and soften the skin as well as enhance the absorption of moisturisers. 30 splashes of warm water instead of the normal rubbing motion you do when you wash your face. Our founder swears by it.
Since we’re on the topic, then. What differentiates Erno Laszlo from other skincare brands?
Well, firstly, we’re not just a skincare brand, we’re a bespoke skincare brand. All our products are customised for the individual – your skin is like a fingerprint, unique to you. You cant just use the same products as everyone else and expect the same results. We do a Skin Personality Profile for each customer to accurately classify the client’s skin time and needs, before prescribing the most appropriate Ritual for you. We also diagnose products for different times of the day – all our products are clocked, meaning that they are tailored for how dry/oily your skin is going to be at different points in the day.
That sounds very intense.
Well, the brand motto is that beautiful skin requires commitment, not a miracle.
I guess I’ll get to try that out for myself later. But just out of curiosity – Erno Laszlo has had a very high profile clientele over the past few decades, like Jacqueline Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe. Who are some of the current celebrities under the brand?
I couldn’t say. Erno Laszlo is synonymous with the nickname the Duchess of Windsor gave it back in the old days – The House of Silence. We’re bound to absolute secrecy by all of our clients. You’ll never find us getting a celebrity to endorse the product in a magazine or something. And to be honest.. we don’t have to. You’ll see.
And so I would.
Erno Laszlo is famous for The Institute, a glamorous three-storey space on Broadway where clients go for their monthly skin consultations. They’re looking to set one up in Singapore soon, but since it’s not yet a brick and mortar space, the team recreated the environment and experience of The Institute in one of The Fairmont’s suites. For two hours, I chatted with the brand and underwent my skincare consultation and treatment. I say treatment, but it was really more a demonstration of how I should be using the prescribed products at home. I lay there while my face was expertly cleansed and washed with oil and soap, and then toned, moisturised, and patted. And then, feeling thoroughly like a member of royalty myself, I left, waiting for my own box of prescribed products to arrive.
I was told that my skin was generally problem-free, though prone to dryness and discolouration at times. Honestly, my skin was pretty bad after Australia, so when they asked what my concerns were, I blurted out a whole host of problems that were really more paranoia than anything else. They listened to me carefully, then wrote down their own analysis of my skin which was basically: sensitive.
When I received my box of prescribed products and the instructions that came with them, I knew that they were serious about their commitment issues. I have never had so many products on my face at one time before, and certainly never so specifically instructed what exactly to do, how many times, and in what direction. Every evening routine comprised at least six steps, sometimes more, depending on whether I wanted to treat myself to a mask. But I have long made my peace with the idea that good skin requires serious commitment, much less extraordinary skin.
Step one of The Ritual is cleansing.
One of the more unique things about the routine is the incorporation of oil and bar soap. The idea of putting a bar of soap to my cheek was previously unthinkable, but the use of specially created bar soap is actually central to the Erno Laszlo cleaning technique. Their products are all created in the labs of The Institute, and the bar soaps are no different. These bars are meant to cleanse, exfoliate, and condition the skin, and are used in combination with a cleansing oil beforehand. You are not meant to wash the cleansing oil off. You’re supposed to apply it, then leave it on while starting on the bar soap. This will be counter-intuitive to most of us, as it was to me, but the results are incredible – it cleanses so thoroughly but your skin doesn’t feel dried out at all afterwards.
The Sea Mud Deep Cleansing bar, in particular, is amazing. It’s so popular that you’re not even allowed to buy them in large quantities – depending on where you go, you’re limited to a certain number of bars per person. I actually went online to google this bar, and spent a good hour trawling through pages of customer reviews on Amazon, uncensored community reviews from real customers all over the world, and it seems that this product is something of a superstar cult product in the beauty world, with multiple people testifying to it’s holy grail status and using it for decades on end. You dont have to take my word for it – just a quick online search will tell you the same.
Fun Fact: This bar is a bit of an old hollywood star as well – Woody Allen paid tribute to it in his 1977 film, Annie Hall, when the title character Alvy pulled the bar out of his pocket and mused: “I found this in the apartment. Black soap. She used to wash her face eight hundred times a day with black soap. Don’t ask me why.”
Step two of the cleansing routine for me is using their Hydraphel Skin Supplement Toner. Now, I’ve honestly never been a fan of toner because I’ve always felt like it’s a hit and miss, but since it was prescribed as part of a larger treatment, I wasn’t about to skip this step and risk throwing everything off course. The Laszlo toner is meant to quickly cleanse the skin, while bringing it to PH balance. I used it together with the Hydra Therapy Skin Revitaliser serum.
Step three is moisturising. After using the soap, you’ll understand why this is so crucial – the soap does such a good job of stripping all the dirt from your skin, that you do have to use a moisturiser afterwards. Skip at your own risk. The Laszlo moisturisers are also formulated for different times of the day – so the day moisturiser has antioxidants and SPF to counter sun damage, and the night one targets repair and replenishing while you sleep.
Daytime: Phelityl Day Lotion SPF 15Nighttime: Phelityl Night Cream
I also used this together with the Antioxidant Complex for Eyes (AM/PM), which is really meant to brighten up the skin.
Additional products to be used on a weekly basis:
And that was it. The basic steps themselves aren’t rocket science – cleanse, tone, moisturise – the mantra of every skincare guru. The specificities and attention to detail make all the difference. I’ve been using the products for less than a week, so I’m not qualified to promise the kind of results the brand delivers over time, but then again I dont think one needs me to. Not when Marilyn Monroe herself swore by the iconic black and white jars which were famously perched on her bedside table when she died.
Still, for someone who’s been under The Ritual for little more than a gasp in the brand’s rich history, I can say a little something for its short term effects. At The Fairmont, my skin was rubbed raw from a bad reaction to foreign weather, and although I found the products soothing and pleasant, I wasn’t blown away. But a week later, with less angry skin back home, I tried out the products again, religiously following the steps dictated in their analysis card.
My face felt calm.
It sounds silly, but that’s the most apt word for what it did for me. There was none of the rawness that frequently accompanies an intense exfoliating experience, and my skin felt tight and bouncy. When I ran a hand across my cheek, it felt comforting – smooth, like back when I was a kid, promising, a silent guarantee that it would only get better from here. I can’t wait to replicate the Laszlo Glow that the brand is so famous for.
Thank you Luxola Singapore for arranging this session for me!
Erno Laszlo products are now available on Luxola Singapore, but please bear in mind that for the best results, you should be purchasing products based on your skin profile. If you’re not sure what kind of skin you have, Luxola Singapore has their in-house Erno Laszlo trained consultant that can diagnose your skin for you – just drop them an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with your inquiries.
Now go – and commit to beautiful skin. It’s about time.