Is Joanna Vargas’s At-Home Facial System as Good as an IRL Spa Visit?

Four W editors find out—and share their honest opinions about the products.

A woman smoking a cigarette why receiving a facial spa treatment by another woman
Photo by Keystone-France\Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

As Omicron rears its ugly head, you’ve likely begun spending more time indoors—and with this shift back into a quarantine-esque lifestyle, you may be considering an at-home-friendly skincare routine. But what’s the best and most effective way in to the DIY frontier (one that, perhaps, you haven’t explored before)? While we at W have supplied tips in the past, there’s no denying the luxury (and unparalleled relaxation) that comes with hitting the spa and having someone smash their fingers into your face. So we’re always looking for a nice alternative to an in-office facial—and wanted to test out one made by the A-list facialist Joanna Vargas, who has recently released a multistep routine that comes close to the services she administers for the likes of Sofia Coppola, Naomi Watts, and Eva Mendes. Four editors tested it out, and gave their honest opinions.

Sandra Ballentine, Beauty and Wellness Editor at Large

Are you familiar with Joanna Vargas as a figure in the beauty world?

I’m very familiar with Joanna Vargas, both as a prominent celebrity facialist (she’s also known for her incredible body treatments) and product maven. In a world seemingly saturated with sheet masks, hers are nonpareil. I’m super low-maintenance when it comes to skincare, and Vargas’s masks deliver a big payoff with very little lift. So when my rosacea is acting up, or I need extra hydration, I pad around the house in a Euphoria, Twilight or Eden Instant Lift mask, soaking myself in soothing serums and scaring hapless UPS, FedEx, and Prime delivery people (and my boyfriend) in the process.

I’m lucky enough to have experienced Joanna V’s magic touch first hand. There are reasons certain practitioners rise to cult status—sure, they produce tangible results, improving the texture, quality, and luminosity of skin. But the very best also possess noncorporeal qualities, things like “healing” hands (you know them when you feel them), compassion, a nurturing personality, a calming presence, a wicked sense of humor. It all adds up to the kind of special and highly personalized experience that separates a superfacial from your typical cream-and-steam.

What types of facials (signature facials, chemical peels, acne-focused facials) do you typically get?

I don’t have a “usual” treatment—I am happy to submit to whatever protocol a superfacialist suggests. But my favorite practitioners use a combination of touch, efficacious products, and the latest high-tech machines. Pre-pandemic I would have a superfacial every quarter or so, and even when things were looking up (like, three weeks ago), I was slow in getting back to IRL facials and massages. Now it looks like I will have to wait a little longer for safe in-person pampering. Which is why Vargas’s at-home facial kit came at a most opportune time.

What was your experience using the Multistep At-Home Facial?

As I mentioned earlier, I’m low-maintenance (read: lazy) when it comes to my beauty routine. I don’t cleanse as deeply or as often as I should (don’t tell Joanna—like most superfacialists, she’s a stickler for cleansing). Mostly, I just use a good moisturizer and sometimes an eye cream when I remember; needless to say, you almost lost me at “multistep.” But since the regimen was designed by Vargas, I thought I would give it a whirl. ‘Tis the season for post-revelry puffiness, so I opted for a morning self-care session. I dutifully double-cleansed with the delicious-smelling vitamin C face wash, then massaged in the gritty, golden-hued Exfoliating Mask (with pineapple enzymes and lactic acid) all over my face and décolleté, rinsing after five minutes with tepid water. Then, I carefully applied an Eden Instant Lift sheet mask and proceeded to rub outwards and upwards with Vargas’s new Magic Glow Wand, a compact, USB-charged device with both hot and cold massage settings. (Hot helps lock in product nutrients; cold is good for depuffing and soothing inflammation or irritation.) After two three-minute courses of cold (and nine more minutes of mask marination—Vargas recommends keeping it on for a total of 15 minutes) I removed the sheet.

Next, I tried to mimic the aesthetician’s signature lymphatic drainage technique with the wand, using it as directed beneath my ears and jawline. (Let’s just say I tried my best, and my best couldn’t compete with a superfacialist on their worst day.) I ended by patting on some moisturizer and serum. I am pretty sure I forgot a step and/or went out of order. No matter, because I was glowing like a light bulb at this point.

Did you see a difference after using this product? Would you use it again?

After the one-two punch of product-palooza and the magic wand, my skin looked crazy dewy and toned. Not as dewy and toned as she could make it look, trust me, but remarkably more so than it looked before I began step one.

I tend to flirt with products and regimens, rarely getting into a committed relationship with any one—especially one with so many complications. Nonetheless, I can see myself cherry-picking parts of this protocol, especially the sheet mask/wand combo, which is easy enough to do while watching TV or pretending to listen in a Zoom meeting. But given the choice between a DIY facial—even one as good as this—and an actual encounter with a beauty-world deity (who possesses the latest in heated massage tables), I will choose the superfacial every time.

Faith Brown, Social Media Editor

What’s your typical facial regimen like? Do you get them often?

I try to make time for myself to get a facial whenever the seasons start to change. That cadence is not nearly as frequently as I would like—nor is it as frequent as Olga at Rescue Spa insists I come in—but I often forget I’m past due for one until it’s the middle of winter and my skin is dry, or it’s 80 degrees out and a million blackheads have appeared on my face. Whenever I get a facial, I am always hoping that when I leave the spa, random people on the street will stop me to tell me I am glowing.

Describe your experience using the at-home facial. What time of day did you tend to experiment with it?

I found I had most time to do every single step before bed, which was a mistake, because it made my face feel and look so amazing—I wanted to go outside and show it off! All in all, it took around 15-20 minutes the first time, as I personally moved at a glacial pace, rereading the instructions to make sure I wasn’t missing a step. It definitely is longer than my usual nighttime skin care routine, and requires time to be carved out, but I don’t mind that; I used it as a way to treat myself at the end of a long day.

Did you have a favorite product from the set?

Of all the products, I really—and I can’t stress this enough—loved the vitamin C face wash. These products arrived at my doorstep at a time when I was looking for a new face wash and a new vitamin C serum, and this cleanser was the perfect solution. I’ve never had a non-exfoliating-bead face wash that leaves my face feeling so clean, yet not at all dry. It’s a true godsend, and I could write a thesis on its magic.

Did it work?

It really does work! I struggle with dullness and dark spots, and this multistep facial catered to those skin concern. I’ve noticed my skin tone is starting to even out a bit more, and I’d like to think I’m looking a lot brighter these days.

Would you use this product again?

I have already re-ordered the face wash for my mom, my two roommates, and myself.

Maryam Lieberman, Beauty Contributor

Were you familiar with Joanna Vargas and her brand prior to using this product?

Yes, I am very familiar with Joanna. She has worked on many of my friends and I have interviewed her numerous times—particularly because she is very honest and knows skincare like the back of her hand. Plus, in this very fickle beauty world, she has retained her clientele base for years. They are loyal to her and speak highly of her skill as an esthetician.

What kinds of facials do you usually get?

I tend to get gentler facials that focus on restorative face massages, nutrient infusions, red lights, and electric zapping of some sort to stimulate collagen. During spring, because the sun is still not fully out, I go for more exfoliative treatments like dermabrasion or very, very light chemical peels. (Whoever is reading this, please note that all skin is different—but I am fierce in my belief that the more I personally peel or irritate my dermis levels, the more damage it does i.e., brown spots. I don’t care if Albert Einstein was my facialist and told me I need to get a deep chemical peel. I won’t budge.)

What was using the Joanna Vargas at-home facial like for you?

I used everything as recommended. The whole process took about 20 minutes—which is long if I’m tired at the end of a long day and just want some simplicity in my routine. I am particularly fond of the mask. When I use something to exfoliate my skin, I like to really feel it exfoliating from a physical perspective. The granules left my skin soft and my complexion glowing. The difficult part for me was time management, but the last six months have really delivered whispers of quarantining, so it’s not super difficult to stick to such a routine. If I am watching TV, it’s far easier for me to use her tool regularly.

Did you experience results?

Yes, I experienced results. The vitamin C wash is powerful for brightening and very luxurious—so is the Eden Lift Sheet mask. The whole set is formulated to make your skin much softer and brighter and it doesn’t disappoint.

Would you use this product again?

I will use this product, for sure: when I have the time. I really do love the products and will most likely take one or two and mix them into my routine (like the exfoliating mask and moisturizer, both of which are divine) but overall, there are a lot of steps for me. However, it’s a great program, especially if you are serious about stepping up your skin game.

Hannah Westbrook, Assistant Visuals Editor

How often do you get facials?

I don’t frequently get facials although I’ve started to go more often in the last year (as a Covid-era treat to myself). I generally do the standard treatments, which involve exfoliation and hydration services. I have struggled with clogged pores and oily skin in the past so I aim to have everything scrubbed away, and leave feeling glowy and moisturized.

Describe your experience using the Multistep At-Home Facial.

There was A LOT in this package, and I was excited to try it all. I used the face wash every other day, as I am happy with my usual face wash; I just wanted to test Vargas’s out—I do like the scent. I applied the serum and moisturizer in the AM after cleansing, and I’ve used the mask a few times in the evening before bed. Despite having a strong (yet wonderful!) scent, none of the products irritated my skin.

I use the Glow Wand in the morning; my face is puffiest when I first wake up. I typically use the hot setting with the serum for about five minutes or so, then it’s nice to finish with the cool setting—it really makes my face feel less swollen (especially after a night out!). It is quite cathartic to use, but definitely not something I have time for every morning, as you must sit down and do it properly for the best results.

Did these products work?

Overall I like all the products—they WORK, and the mask is my favorite. The wand with the serum really helps de-puff in the morning. I’m not sure if it’s helping my skin soak in the product, but I definitely notice that my face feels more sculpted after I use the hot/cool settings. I am still using all the products and have incorporated them into my daily routine.