How Star Facialist Joanna Czech Preps Celebs’ Skin for the Met Gala
The A-list aesthetician shares her secrets for getting her clients red carpet ready—and easy ways to get your glow on before any big event.
For the skincare maven Joanna Czech, the weeks leading up to the Met Gala are some of the busiest of the year. How did she become the A-list’s aesthetician of choice? She started out as Anna Wintour’s personal facialist, then spread the love to her family and invited guests, and has since worked her magic on the faces of Kim Kardashian, Hailey Bieber, Sydney Sweeney, Lily James and many, many more. We caught up with Czech between microcurrent sessions to get the inside scoop on how her celebrity clients have been prepping their skin for the First Monday in May—and to get her advice on how we mere mortals can get ourselves looking our best at home.
What are some in-studio treatments that you frequently incorporate into your pre-Met Gala facials?
The modality that I believe in the most is my own hands. At the beginning of every treatment, I do a very deep tissue facial massage. Then, we address muscles with more targeted muscle stimulation, with microcurrent—not just on the face, but on the arms, upper body, belly, and butt too. It’s a great toning and firming treatment, especially if a guest is wearing strapless or fitted gown. And I love stimulating ATP energy in the skin cells with ultrasound and LED light. Ultrasound allows products to penetrate the skin faster.
If there are any bumps or or rough texture, I make sure that skin is nicely exfoliated—that does not mean deeply exfoliated! I will usually use diamond microdermabrasion or an ultrasound water peel. I try to avoid any chemical peels, because I don't want any unwanted reactions.
Once everything is shaped and sculpted, I love using cryotherapy over an algae mask or some form of sheet mask. That helps freeze everything into the shape that I created, while reducing potential inflammation and swelling.
Are there any products that your clients tend to stock up on before red carpets?
I send them home with some sheet masks. These days, it’s often my own sheet mask, which contains weathered volcanic ash—very brightening, very hydrating and filled with tons of minerals and vitamins. I recommend that they use those while running cryo sticks or ice cubes over the top.
And I love them having proper vitamin C. I love tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate [an oil-soluble version of vitamin C] as an ingredient. It gives you glow, it gives you brightness. That’s for some skin types. For others, if they are very reactive—like if they were flying or they have bumps from rosacea, then I offer my soothing serum. These days, I see many people with over-treated skin. That’s why I created it. It contains lots of hyaluronic acids, allantoin, betaine, and pepper berry extract which is vasoconstrictive—if you have a tendency to get dark circles, a great trick is to put it under the eyes.
Two products for the body that I love are Dermalac lotion and Vitamin A, C, E oil by Environ skincare. There is nothing more softening. You put them on at night, and then you wake up in the morning and any bumps you had are already gone or softer. This is the fastest, probably in my life, that I experienced a difference from using a product.
How many days before the Met Gala do most clients get a facial?
We are talking about quite a responsible group of people regarding their looks. They know a lot. They have their trainers and chefs, they start getting ready the minute they get invited. With our steady clients who are based in New York, we start early: We love when they do weekly treatments for six weeks leading up to the event. But mostly, we start working with guests three to four days before. And then there are always a few last-second people, who fly in the day before, and we’ll see them on Sunday. On the day of the event, we’re working steadily from 7:00 AM until 3:00 PM, right up until people start their hair and makeup.
Are there any at-home treatments or techniques you recommend for anyone who has a big event coming up?
Before you do anything at home, I would advise communicating with an expert—at least booking a FaceTime consultation. What works for your friend may not work for you, and it’s important to get a sense of what your individual needs are.
The easiest things to do at home are Netflix-friendly gadgets—things you can do while multitasking, because it means you will actually use them consistently. I recommend my own manual massager, the NuFace, and the Lyma laser. I don’t love lasers, because I think the heat can be very destructive for the skin, but the Lyma eliminates that concern.
For the body, I recommend dry brushing if your skin can handle it. Start doing it twice a week, six weeks before. It stimulates blood flow, which brings nutrients and oxygen to the surface of the skin. It’s going to leave you nice and bright and smooth. That, in combination with the Dermalac and ACE oil, you are just really prepared. You are prepared for your summer. You are prepared for your partner. You are prepared for the red carpet. You are prepared for yourself.
In the weeks leading up to an event, what are some of the other ways—beyond just using specific skincare products or tools—that people can ensure their skin looks its best on the big day?
I advise clients to pay attention to their diet—usually intuitive eating, maybe go for anti-inflammatory foods. I love Dr. Stephen Gundry’s suggestions: not too much sugar or dairy. Make sure you’re getting the proper amount of sleep and drinking enough water.
Probiotics are important for balanced skin, and I like vitamin C, vitamin D, and minerals like zinc and magnesium, which are good for your nervous system and digestive system. My nutritionist, Lauren Slayton, makes great supplements. She has a couple of different types of magnesium, one is called Chill Pills, which helps with sleep, and another one called Number Two, which helps you go number two. So many women suffer from constipation, but we don’t talk about it! If you’re retaining fluid, dandelion tea, apples and tomatoes—without their skin or seeds, which can be inflammatory—will help drain it.
Are there any products or treatments you recommend avoiding before an event?
Lasers and fillers. You can get unexpected bruising, or you could do permanent damage. If you’re a Botox person, do it a month before. You will have a little movement in your forehead—it’s fine, it makes you look alive! And if you bruise from that, it’ll be gone. No last-second extractions—you should be done with that seven to ten days before. In terms of at-home routine: three days before an event, stop using exfoliating toners. Do only balancing toners. Be a little gentler, concentrate on hydration.
What would you recommend a client do if she had an acne breakout on the day of a big event?
Last Met Gala, Carrie Mulligan came to me with a mountain growing on her forehead. And what do we do? We both are making decisions. She says, “Joanna, there is a mountain,” and I'm saying, “There is.” So I said, “You know what, let’s go for it.” So I did my two incisions, because that's physics: If there are two little holes, then one releases the liquid. Like our cup of coffee from Starbucks, there is an opening and there is a little dot in the cover.
It worked perfectly. We saved the day. But I don’t recommend doing that ordinarily, and I definitely don’t recommend self-extractions. If an aesthetician is using a little lancet, you only create a little micro cut that's going to be healing very fast, versus scraping your own skin off and being so stubborn about it—then you really end up with a scab.
What would you say is the best, most thorough way to cleanse and reset skin after wearing a full face of makeup for hours?
First, remove what you can with a makeup removing wipe. That way, we’re not massaging all of it into the skin. Then, use either an oil or balm cleanser. That will break through all of the remaining layers best. Do that once or twice, then use a gel cleanser. Keep washing, alternating between oil and gel, until your washcloth is completely clean. At the end, use a hydrating clay mask. That will work as a great pore decongestant if anything got stuck. Keep it on for a couple of minutes, then activate it with water and remove it with a cotton pad. After that, use whatever works for you. I definitely would use a balancing toner, then some super hydrating mask—a sheet mask or cream-based formula.
Lastly, what are some tips for making skin look alive when you’re hungover and/or underslept?
Just be gentle. Drink water. Have your favorite breakfast and drink coffee if you need to. People say, “Oh my god, coffee dehydrates you so much.” No. Coffee speeds up the release of fluids from your body. You will not release more fluid than you would otherwise release. It will go faster. But you will not release more.
Take a cold shower. No matter how tired you are, take a walk for 20 to 30 minutes. Step out, look at the sun and start there. Start with your brains. Because again, I could tell you to put oils and put things, but that’s not where it starts. Relax. Take a nap. Take Advil if you have a headache.