To celebrate Small Business Saturday, we’re spotlighting one of our favorite estheticians and small business owners, Lilin Alba. Lilin is an esthetician based in New York City and is a one woman show, performing services and running her own salon, Sweet Beauty Studios, in Flatiron. We sat down with Lilin and talked about how she got started, her biggest beauty regrets, and of course, all things body hair.
I’m an esthetician from New York—I’m Dominican. Ever since high school, I've been into makeup and skin care—but in a Hispanic household, that’s not a career, so I had to go to college, get the bank job. But after I escalated really quickly at the bank, I was like, I'm not happy, I need to do something about it. So I decided to go to school, quit my job, and I was just, like, so happy. I went to Aveda Esthetics School. Graduation for me was expected April 2020. And COVID-19 [started in] March, so I spent a little less than a month learning on virtual. Then around October, they allowed us to go back to school and we did some hands on [work], and I think around December or January, I ended up taking my exam. My life changed after that, especially because of COVID; that's what pushed me to go solo. So I’ve had no experience working with anyone else, just learning on the job.
We could be here for an hour! Okay, so let's start with body, because I use a lot of body stuff. I kid you not, I use maybe all the Fur products, just because I like telling my clients what I experienced for myself and what I like, and what I don't like. As of right now, for exfoliating, depending on if I'm feeling dry, I go in with just the Finger Mitt, because it has no actives in it. If I'm feeling like I have a lot of ingrowns going on, and I'm not that dry, I use KP Body Scrub—I don't have KP, but it still works and I love the texture. And then afterwards, Fur Oil. Everywhere. I've been mixing it with my body lotion—I'm currently using the one from Osea. It's very moisturizing and rich, but I still add Fur Oil. I don't feel complete without using Fur Oil, it's like a habit now. Sometimes I do use the Ingrown Eliminator Serum, but I'm not that consistent with it because I forget, and sometimes it's just too many actives in my routine.
I’d be lying to you if I told you what was used on my hair—my mother-in-law does my hair, so she takes care of that for me! [laughs]
For my facial skin, I’m using the Face Reality Ultra Gentle Cleanser, the Mega Purifying Cleanser from GlyMed, the Biocell Gentle Facial Wash from GlyMed as well, the Skin Recovery Mist, the Eye Calm Cream, and the Fulvic Elixir [all from GlyMed]. The Fulvic Elixir, it's amazing. Everyone with skin needs the Fulvic Elixir. I don't care what type of skin you have, you need it. Then GlyMed Daily Repair moisturizer, and then I use the UltraSun sunscreen. I sometimes use the tinted one if I want to look put together. Oh and lip balm—you can’t forget the lip balm. I love the GlyMed one, but it’s always sold out.
Body Hair Grooming
Let's get into it! I like sugaring, but it's just tough because there's not many [sugaristas]. I do go to someone in the Bronx, but her schedule is pretty complicated sometimes, so in between I do have to sugar myself. It’s not my favorite thing to do, because working on myself is harder. I'm uncomfortable, it's like I'm inflicting pain on myself. Who wants to do that? [laughs] But I’ll do my upper lip, that's like an every three weeks thing on myself. My underarms, I do in between my appointments. But I like going to someone, just to support other businesses as well—and to chat, because the esthetician community can be very catty, so when you find someone nice, you have to hold onto them. Community over competition!
I go to Sugared by Dani. She's actually what inspired me to get into sugaring, because when I was in school we didn’t talk about sugaring, it was really just waxing. But I remember seeing [Dani’s] Instagram, someone showed it to me and I'm like, Oh, that's cool, but I didn't think about it. Then she kept popping up on my Instagram and I'm like, maybe I should do that. I connected with her when I had just started sugaring, and now we're like sugar besties.
If anyone says they don't have regrets, they're lying. I got into skincare because my mom was a Clinique girl, and she also sold Avon products, so I would use those. And looking back, I'm like, actually they’re not that good—but not the worst. Then, I was the girl in the drugstore getting the Freeman Peel Off Mask—the charcoal one. Horrible. I also used the St. Ives [scrub], because I'm like, Oh it hurts, and it's irritating, but that's good because it means it's working! Yep, I was that girl. Looking back now, I think that was really my lowest point in life. [laughs] All Clean and Clear. All Neutrogena. That Neutrogena grapefruit. I slept in my makeup a couple of times. I was also a shaver, but no exfoliation, no aftercare. I was like, what’s aftercare?
Over exfoliating, or not exfoliating at all. Typically, I notice when clients have more hair, they think they don't have to exfoliate, because they don't see their skin. And sometimes clients will skip out on their appointments because they think there's not enough hair, and they’ll wait too long. So they don't exfoliate, and they grow out three months worth of hair, and then I'm doing triple the work [sugaring]. Another big mistake is shaving in between [hair removal] appointments, because an “emergency” came up. There's no emergency where you have to shave! And sometimes they’ll lie to me—I’ll tell them they shaved, and they’ll say “no I didn’t!” Like, oh, you just woke up like that? [laughs]
Don't overthink aftercare! Just keep it as simple as one exfoliating product, and one moisturizing product. It will get you far—you don't need a 10-step routine. Or just literally Fur Oil, and you'll be good.