How Joanna Czech Became One of The Most Sought-After Facialists

“Just landed. I’ll make time for you LH”. Joanna Czech, facialist to the stars, texts me from the airport late one night in July. I first met Czech ten years ago at a La Mer event in St. Tropez and since then her career has been on a steady meteoric rise. Today she operates two facial studios in both Dallas and New York City, has her own line of products, and counts Cate Blanchett, Christy Turlington, and Bella Hadid (among others) as clients. And when Kim Kardashian was launching her own skincare, she tapped Czech for advice.

Czech’s story begins in Poland where, growing up, she always wanted to take care of others. “I never played with the dolls by cutting hair or braiding hair,” she says when we FaceTime, wearing her signature thick black frames. “I would put bandages on them.” She planned to pursue medical school but didn’t pass physics, so she went into esthetics. She had a studio for about two years, but in 1989, at the age of 25, she fled for the USA.

It was a slow burn from there. Czech worked steadily, amassing clients, but it wasn’t until 1995, when she landed at the Paul Lebrecque spa-salon inside the Reebok Sports Club in New York’s Upper West Side that word really took off. Besides tending to high profile clients, Czech worked from morning until night, doing everything from waxing to pedicures to brows. She’d overhear clients discussing the esthetician that started at 5 a.m. and worked straight through until 11 p.m. But it wasn’t just the long hours she kept; she was clearly excellent at her job.

Soon Kyra Sedgwick was a regular, as were Sting and Trudie Styler. She did Barbra Streisand’s manicure and fixed a botched self-tan application for the late Natasha Richardson in time for her to fly off to the Cannes Film Festival. Richardson left her a voicemail thanking her and passed her name on. “Then all of a sudden, Miramax is calling to ask if I would do Kill Bill with Uma Thurman,” says Czech.

She was visiting Kim Cattrall on the set of Sex and the City, and seeing Kate Winslet and Penelope Cruz whenever they were in NYC. By 2012, she’d moved to Dallas to be with her future husband and was focused entirely on facials; she’d always loved deep tissue massage and was receiving loads of requests for them. It was also a more economical use of her time; she could also do more of them since her manicures and 79 pedicures were two to three hours long.

So, what precisely is it about a Czech facial? When asked, she defers to her assistant, Elle Finney. “She can’t talk about herself like that,” says Finney, who started as Czech’s client and “begged” to be hired. “No treatment’s ever the same,” she says of Czech’s individualized approach. “She changed my skin. And I always say she underpromises and overdelivers.”

Then there’s Czech’s touch. Though she has always remained inquisitive about new technologies—she loves any device that can stimulate ATP energy to the cells with sound and light, pushing products into the skin faster and providing lymphatic drainage–her absolute favourite tools are her hands, which are capable of feeling every muscle on the skull. “Nothing else can get deep enough,” she says.

The level of deep tissue massage she executes almost “reshapes the face,” lifting it temporarily. And, out of her hands, you’re told what to do. “Clients leave very educated,” Czech says of her treatments. A prescription is given and explained, such as what the pH level of your toner should be. “I don’t believe in one skincare line, even though I have my own,” she says. “I teach them that their skincare routine starts at night when skin has at least 40 to 50% more ability to absorb everything.”

Czech is turning 60 this year (“which is unbelievable,” she says) and would ultimately like to keep spreading the “Joanna Czech method,” which four estheticians have already been schooled in. “I train them with my massage techniques,” she says. “They use at least three skin skincare lines and 80% of the technology that I use during my treatments,” she says.

Along with LED, cryotherapy, and microcurrent, other elements of her technique are things she learned decades ago in Poland—proof that some traditions need never change. “My very first instructor said to treat muscles like dough and skin like sponge,” she says. “So massage deeply, but when you apply your products, spread everything. And make sure your final touches are always the press and release.”