Esthetician Talk: Lexli interviews Kris Astroff

Lexli is back with another interview in its series that profiles leaders within the field of esthetics. These discussions ask professionals for their take on industry trends, top skin care recommendations, and advice for new estheticians. Whether you’re a professional in the field or a consumer eager to learn from the experts, we’re confident the interviews in this series offer useful ideas and tips for you.

Meet Kris Astroff.

A licensed esthetician trained in oncology esthetics and corrective makeup techniques, Kris is an educator at Oncology Spa Solutions, the premier oncology esthetics training program in America. She is also the director of skin care at The Hopemore, a luxury spa that is open to all but specializes in helping oncology patients feel their best.

Kris has studied the biology of skin care and esthetics extensively, which has helped her develop an advanced ability to determine the most effective skin treatments and skin care ingredients for her clients. She is currently taking her technical knowledge even further as she pursues a biotechnology management certificate from Harvard University.

L: Let’s start with back at the beginning. How did you get your start in esthetics?

KA: My journey into skin care actually began while I was working as a freelance makeup artist. I was getting a lot of skin care questions from people in my chair. With an undergraduate degree in biology, I understood the physiology of skin but didn’t know which products or treatments could help address the conditions that my clients were concerned about. So, to better serve my clients, I went back to school to get the education and certifications needed to be a licensed esthetician. It was during this time that I absolutely fell in love with skin care and the science behind skin care product formulation.

L: You have held many unique positions in the industry, from working as a licensed practitioner to education to serving as spa director. How have these roles shaped your approach to skin care and your philosophy behind it?

KA: I have been very fortunate to have done so much at this point in my career. Each role has influenced and shaped my multi-faceted and scientific approach to skin care.

I take pride in tailoring treatments and product recommendations to each individual, which requires that I consider variables such as genetics, environment, diet, current health challenges or changes, as well as stress and sleep levels. The skin is an active organ, so it is affected by more than just the products we put on our faces. By taking inventory of these various aspects of each individual client, I gain a more complete picture of the factors that may be influencing their skin. If you don’t ask enough questions, you risk treating the symptom versus the underlying cause of an issue.

The other important part of my approach is education. I work to empower clients by helping them understand what is happening with their skin while educating them about why we’re doing certain treatments or using specific products. I love science so it’s enjoyable for me to teach my clients about the biology of their skin. Most times, my clients really enjoy the learning process, as well.

L: We’ve been really inspired by the mission of your spa, The Hopemore. Could you tell us more about the work you and the team do there?

KA: It really is a unique concept. We refer to The Hopemore as a “specialty spa” because we focus on compromised health and the skin conditions that can result. Our name is intended to be a directive as well, as we encourage women and men to “hope more, fear less.” Whether you’re in treatment for cancer or just looking for everyday esthetics, we have a full menu of services to suit the needs of any client.

All services offered at The Hopemore are performed by oncology-trained, licensed estheticians. We understand the sensitivities that accompany cancer treatment and work to ensure our clients’ skin stays healthy throughout that process. For example, we know the intense skin damage that can result from radiation therapy. I have created custom protocols intended to protect the barrier function of the skin throughout treatment. We share these protocols with our clients’ oncology teams to ensure we’re all on the same page. I’m proud to say that much of the time, clients under our care go through radiation therapy without seeing more than a pink sunburn-looking effect from their treatment. By ensuring their skin remains healthy, we help them avoid necessary breaks in radiation treatment. In fact, we’ve conducted an independent study to demonstrate the positive outcomes of this type of approach.

L: You’ve worked with so many different types of skin throughout your career so I’m curious – what would you suggest is the key to beautiful skin? On that note, what is your favorite skin care tip?

KA: Oh, great question. The top two things that are paramount to beautiful skin are 1) ensuring a healthy barrier function within the skin and 2), protecting the skin from UV damage.

One of my favorite tips is to buy a small tube of sunscreen and keep it in your purse or pocket so that you’re always prepared to protect your skin. The name of the game here is really “prevention,” so we’re trying to prevent solar aging as well as the pigmentation that can result. In addition to being healthier and preventing skin cancer, this simple preventative step can help save you money later on by reducing the need for things like chemical peels or laser resurfacing. So often, younger people don’t think about prevention but you really need to start this behavior early.

L: From your vantage point, what are the most important innovations or trends in the esthetics industry today and why?

KA: In my opinion, one of the most significant innovations has actually been the use of medical tattooing as a way to help breast cancer survivors who have lost their nipples to surgery or reconstruction. The ability of these tattoo artists to create a three-dimensional areola and nipple that looks authentic to the individual is phenomenal and it’s so impactful because body image is a critical psychosocial issue for patients with cancer or chronic illness who have experienced profound changes to their appearance. As far as everything else, I think there are a lot of trends that just rotate through.

L: What are your top home care tips to keep skin healthy and looking its best between appointments?

KA: My top home care tip is pretty basic but it’s so often overlooked: drink water. When your body is dehydrated, your organs do not function optimally and it increases the visibility of superficial wrinkles. You will look older, more tired and legitimately worse when you are dehydrated. My other suggestion is to be consistent with your skin care routine! It’s key to keeping your skin on track between appointments. This means double cleansing and implementing your skin care routine even on nights when you are exhausted and just want to crawl into bed.

L: Let’s talk about the double cleanse. Do you suggest it even when someone hasn’t worn makeup?

KA: I like to explain double cleansing to clients as sweeping before you mop. Your first cleanse, whether you’re wearing makeup or not, should be the one that breaks down any dirt and oil on the surface of the skin so even if you didn’t wear makeup that day but you produce a good amount of oil, you’ll still want to get that stripped off. The second cleanse, in my opinion, is the most vital one. That is where you’re really getting that targeted product onto the surface of the skin and you should be leaving it there for a bit before rinsing off. Most people wash so quickly; I suggest taking 30 full seconds to massage the cleanser into the skin, allowing it enough time to have an effect on the skin. Cleansers with active ingredients can be left on for a few minutes, almost as a treatment mask to get deeper benefits. I don’t do a double cleanse in the morning and I don’t suggest it for those with dry skin. For everyone else, it’s beneficial.

Your question points out the importance of working with a skin care professional who can help dial in your skin care routine. Then, if they advise something you don’t understand, ask them to explain it! Skin care practitioners should educate so, for example, if you get a breakout or experience dark undereye circles, you understand why these changes have happened and know how to treat them.

L: If you had a client who was limited by budget, what is the one professional treatment you’d recommend due to its universal benefits to nearly all clients?

KA: I’m going to say something pretty controversial here. For someone who is limited by budget, a single professional treatment won’t make as much of an improvement in your skin as will changing your home care routine and the products you’re using. Home care should be doing the heavy lifting between treatments, which is why having a professionally designed skin care routine that’s tailored to your skin and your goals is really paramount. Professional-grade skin care products not only have a higher percentage of purity within their ingredients, they also have access to different ingredient levels. So, dollar-for-dollar, you may as well spend your money on professional products as opposed to trying 50 things from Sephora and getting nowhere.

With that said, I’m also a big fan of making changes slowly. If someone is starting 10 new products and you see an adverse reaction, it’s really difficult to pinpoint which product may be the cause. Changing one thing at a time can help ensure lasting results and a reduced adverse reaction. I would say if you’re on a budget and you’re trying to get one thing to start, the most important product, in my opinion, is a professional cleanser.

L: What is your top piece of advice to new estheticians?

KA: Set aside time at the beginning of your day to do continuing education. That could be a podcast, a book, a news article – whatever way you prefer to learn. You know the field that we’re in is ever-changing and it is important to stay on top of those changes. Additionally, if you’re doing continuing education daily for yourself, you’re able to take that knowledge and share it with your clients throughout the day. I can’t stress enough that clients really value having a skin care professional who knows what is going on. It could really change your business.

L: What is an average day like for you?

KA: An average day for me prior to COVID involved seeing both healthy and compromised patients throughout the day and managing the spa. Now, my day is a little bit different. We are open for in-person services but we also offer virtual services as an option for health-compromised patients or clients who are from a distance.

L: Before you go, could you share your personal daily skin care routine?

KA: My skin is pretty normal, but I am also acne-prone. If you look at me wrong, I break out! In the morning, I start with an exfoliating cleanser because I will produce a little bit of oil while I sleep. Next, I use a vitamin C serum followed by an anti-aging serum. I follow with sunscreen, either a physical or chemical SPF depending on what I’m doing that day or my mood. In the evening I do a double cleanse starting with an oil-based cleanser to bind to makeup, oil, dirt and debris in the skin. After removing it, I follow with an exfoliating cleanser that has lactic and mandelic acid just to keep me nice and clear. Then I’m using an anti-aging serum followed by a different preventative anti-aging serum. Next up, I grab my Lightstim LED light (the anti-aging red one), which I use for about 20 minutes while reading online. Finally, I apply a moisturizer that usually includes a retinol followed by an eye cream.

Learn more about Kris by visiting her website or following her on Instagram