You can thank Shani Darden for many of Hollywood’s most beautiful faces. The esthetician is regularly revered on blogs and social media for her work with clients Jessica Alba, Emily Ratajkowski, January Jones and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, to name a few. Fashion industry figures sing her praises, too, including the editor-in-chief of InStyle, Laura Brown, and Katherine Power, the CEO and co-founder of Clique.
None of this was planned for Darden, who got her start in Los Angeles as a backup dancer for the likes of Destiny’s Child and LL Cool J. But dancing was never her end goal, and the spa scene was calling her name, so she enrolled in dermatology school and started assisting Dr. Erma Benitiz, who’s known for her acne-killing techniques. From there, she took on stints at two of LA’s prestige spas, Le Spa by Sofitel and the Kinara Skin Care Clinic. Eventually, Alba, who’s a close friend of Darden’s, convinced her to break off on her own.
Darden with client and friend Jessica Alba
Alba’s own public praises of Darden led to an uptick in clients. In 2013, she launched her own line of skin-care products and tools, including an LED mask ($2,300) and a resurfacing serum ($95). Alongside her own website, the line is now sold in boutiques across the world, from New York to New Zealand.
Today, Darden has 115,000 followers on Instagram and lives in the Hollywood Hills with her husband and two daughters. We asked her to detail a recent day in her life that involved an Oscars comedown, lots of social media activity and the filming of a “top secret” video segment.
4:00 a.m.: I woke up an hour early today because I’m still having PTSD from the Oscars last week. I cranked out a total of 50 facials and peels in seven days flat! My 4-year-old daughter, Lenny, is sick and has wiggled her way into my bed while coughing on me. It’s only 4 a.m., and I’m already bathing in hand sanitizer!
5:00 a.m.: It’s time for my favorite part of the day: using my Deesse Pro LED Mask. I use it every single day for 20 minutes, usually on the red light setting which helps with anti-aging. I respond to a few emails while I’m at it.
6:00 a.m.: I have a call scheduled with my media trainer, who’s helping me prepare for a top-secret segment I’m filming later this afternoon. I want to a) make sure I don’t have to take a tequila shot before being on camera later and b) make sure that I remember how to pronounce my own name in English while doing it.
6:30 a.m.: I text my social media manager, Heather, to get all of my skin tips for the day organized. They go live on my Instagram Stories every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. We’ll talk about 45 more times throughout the day — I do whatever she tells me to do. Social media has become a new obsession of mine, with video and skin-care tips being a big part of our strategy.
7:00 a.m.: It’s time to get the kids ready for school, but I’m also already thinking about what I’ll have for lunch today. My go-to is usually a Steak Salad from Tender Greens, unless I’m super busy, at which point I’ll opt for a bag of gummy worms.
8:00 a.m.: My friend Sam, who moonlights as a hair stylist, stops by to work her magic on my hair for the shoot later. I actually don’t know how to do my own hair. I think about asking Sam to teach me how she does it, but I really just want her to hang out with me.
9:00 a.m.: I pull a few outfits together to take with me for the shoot; I like having a couple of different options, just in case! I gravitate toward white T-shirts and jeans. I own maybe three or four of the same V-neck tees from J. Crew, which I sadly just found out have been discontinued.
9:30 a.m.: I drive myself to the office this morning. I throw on some Beyoncé to help me get through West Hollywood traffic at 10 mph. #anxiety
10:00 a.m.: I get to work and respond to a few more emails, then open Instagram to look at my recent notifications. I have over 200 comments with skin questions, plus about 50 direct messages that have been growing fast ever since Jessica [Alba] posted about our last facial together. I plot an upcoming Instagram Live session with my social media manager so that I can answer all of these questions in one go.
10:30 a.m.: I drink a ketone shake while I work with my assistant on my client waitlist to see if we can squeeze in anybody last-minute for a facial or peel this week. I’m booked out for the year already, but I try to see as many new and existing clients as I can. Have I mentioned how badly I want everyone to have glowing, gorgeous skin?
11:00 a.m.: My first facial of the day arrives. Speaking of which, did we order lunch yet?
Darden with her daughters
12:30 p.m.: I head right into my next treatment when the first is over. The entire day is scheduled, down to the minute. It’s so tight that I’m running to the bathroom while my clients get undressed and into the bed. Amid it all, I notice that some new packages have arrived from Chanel, Dr. Dennis Gross and Glossier. I’m super excited — I love presents!
1:00 p.m.: Lunch from Postmates arrives. I ordered the steak salad from Tender Greens. Lately, I’m obsessed with protein and veggies. I’m going carb-free because that’s what my nutritionist, Kelly Leveque, tells me to do. I met her through Jessica [Alba], and she’s become a client and friend. By the way, steak is what I eat when I really just want pizza from Jon & Vinny’s.
2:30 p.m.: My favorite makeup artist, Shea Hardy, comes over to do my makeup for the shoot later today. I don’t normally wear makeup because I’m obsessive about letting my pores breathe.
3:30 p.m.: I call Heather for the 15th time today. I’m trying to leverage the small window during which I’ll have makeup on, so she tells me to film a video for social. She yells at me for my office being too dark. Oops.
4:00 p.m.: We start filming the secret segment, and I ponder having a glass of rosé. The first half of the shoot is an interview segment. Thanks to my media trainer, I’m speaking English today.
5:00 p.m.: For the second portion, I start doing a facial on camera. I put our model under some steam, give her a few minutes of microcurrents and a peel, and then finish it off with some LED light. This combination results in an instant glow.
6:00 p.m.: The secret project is wrapped, so I head home to spend some time with my girls (and possibly sneak in some pizza).
7:00 p.m.: I eat dinner with my family, while catching up with my husband and talking with my girls about what happened at school today. We’re scheduling sleepovers and activities for the weekend, and then I talk my daughter Lenny out of dancing naked to Sir Mix-a-Lot on top of the coffee table.
8:00 p.m.: After a crazy day, I treat myself to an at-home deep-tissue body massage. And I text Heather again while I’m at it. I know, I know, I should be relaxing.
9:00 p.m.: I finally slip into my bathroom to begin my evening beauty routine. I cleanse, tone, apply my Retinol Reform serum, followed by my favorite hyaluronic acid serum, and finish off with a moisturizer. This is how I manifest aging backwards.
9:30 p.m.: I slip into bed to watch Bravo, which is my guilty pleasure — but then, is any pleasure really guilty? I love every show with the word “Housewives” in it and, of course, “Vanderpump Rules.”