From a childhood playing with face masks concocted from pantry essentials to now being on the precipice of opening her fourth international skin salon, Melanie Grant is undeniably one of the world’s most influential names in beauty right now. Lauded for her approach to skincare that is simple, luxurious and effective, as well as her partnership with Chanel and her coveted Paris Fashion Week residencies (at which the world’s most recognisable supermodels converge to ensure their skin is catwalk-ready), it’s hardly surprising that this Sydney-based skincare expert is held in the highest regard. Catching up with Melanie between fashion weeks and European holidays, we sought her advice on skincare for spring, non-negotiable wellbeing rituals, and her favourite products in her bathroom right now.
We’re coming out of winter here in New Zealand — what rituals, products and treatments should we be investing in for our skin right now? While it can be frustrating to navigate year in and out, seasonal skin changes present us with an opportunity to reassess our regimes and take note of what’s working and what could be improved. Rather than planning your skincare investments seasonally, I recommend looking at the bigger picture. If you’re working within a budget, you can reach for more cost-effective options for things like cleansers and moisturisers. Some of my favourite products are from the drugstore, products such as Bioderma Sensibio H2O or Embryolisse Lait Creme Concentre which I always have in my kit. Serums are the key element of a regime to invest in. They often contain the most concentrated amount of actives in the smallest molecular form, so they can penetrate deeper into the skin yielding a more significant result. In terms of treatments, coming out of winter is a great opportunity to have laser treatments and depigmentation peels before summer comes around again. I also love LED Light Therapy coupled with gentle peels to revive a tired, dull or compromised complexion coming out of the harsh weather of winter. LED is a great way to boost collagen and elastin production, promote circulation and flood the tissues with nutrients from within. It also promotes hydration, radiance and reduces inflammation — and all without any downtime. It’s a great way to repair a compromised barrier after being exposed to central heating, cold climates and harsh weather.
What are your favourite trends and movements in the skin industry at the moment? Slugging as a trend is still going strong. I’ve actually been doing this for as long as I can remember but without the new name. Creating an occlusive barrier over the skin is a great way to help actives absorb and prevent trans-epidermal water loss. I’d recommend “slugging” overnight or while on a long-haul flight, as it can feel too heavy for most on an everyday basis. I’d also advise being mindful of the products you’re using — look for ingredients like shea, ceramides and candelilla wax that can offer benefits to the skin in addition to their humectant properties and please don’t use vaseline! I also love an ice plunge — for me, it’s a cure-all. It’s great for puffiness, fatigue and dullness and puts a real pep in your step, especially if you didn’t sleep well the night before. Simply empty a tray or two of ice into a bowl, cover with clean water and submerge your face in and out of the water in 10-second intervals for a minute. It’s quick, painless and always delivers. And I don’t know if it’s still a trend, but I like to multi-mask. It’s such a great way to save time but deliver a comprehensive treatment at home. Multi-masking can be done either by mixing two or more masks together to make a custom blend or by applying different masks to different areas of the complexion at the same time. This is a great way to combine product textures and get the most benefit from each formulation, like a cream mask with a collagen sheet mask overtop or a clay mask blended with a gel mask so it’s not as dehydrating. No one’s skin is completely unified so it’s important to treat your entire complexion holistically, paying attention to what you are seeing and feeling and adapt your skincare to suit.
Are there any dietary upgrades people should be making to help their skin? The skin is a reflection of many of the body’s processes, from hormones to gut health, sleep deprivation and stress. I believe in taking a 360-degree approach that champions a strategic home regime and favours an anti-inflammatory diet rich in colourful fruits and vegetables, high-quality protein, and lots of healthy fats like avocado and cold pressed olive oil and prioritises hydration. I don’t believe in deprivation, so there’s always a small place for dark chocolate or a glass of red wine, and it’s more about crowding out too much caffeine, alcohol, refined sugars and processed and fried foods with foods that nourish the body and benefit the health and vitality of the skin. Supplementing mindfully under the guidance of a naturopath or healthcare provider can be really helpful for a myriad of skin concerns. Some of my personal favourites for skin health are magnesium, zinc, probiotics (or probiotic-rich foods), vitamins C, D and B complexes and fish oil if it works for you. I’ve also been exploring adaptogens like maca and ashwagandha which can be helpful for balancing your hormones and stress responses, both of which can present in the skin as pigment, oiliness and congestion or redness and flushing.
“I’m always overly cautious of marketing jargon, especially on product packaging. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.”
Are there any processes and cycles that our skin goes through over this time? How can we support these? As we transition out of winter, ensuring you’re turning your cells over with a gentle chemical or enzymatic exfoliant will help hydrators penetrate the skin and revive a dull and dry winter complexion. Our skin naturally starts to produce more oil as the humidity rises, so switching to lighter-weight gel or water-based creams is a great way to keep the skin comforted, quenched and hydrated without occluding the pores and risking breakouts. That said, between seasons I find it helpful to keep a face oil on hand as a support, so if on any given day you still need a little extra lipid content in your cream, you can combine it with a few drops of oil and not need to have two separate moisturisers on rotation. I also like to up the antioxidant focus during summer with ingredients like vitamin C, phloretin, ferulic acid, superoxide dismutase and resveratrol. These ingredients shield the complexion from environmental aggressors, pollution and oxidative stressors that wreak havoc on skin cells and accelerate the ageing process.
Your at-home skincare cabinets are famously well-stocked. What are the products you reach for every day? Believe it or not, I’m actually quite slapdash when it comes to my own regime. I prefer a ‘less but better’ approach where I can rely on a small number of really high-performance and multi-functional formulas to do the heavy lifting for me so I don’t need to do as much but don’t have to compromise on results. At the moment, in the morning I’m using Macrene Actives High Performance Cleanser, Eighth Day’s Regenerative Serum, Augustinus Bader’s The Eye Cream, Victoria Beckham Beauty’s Cell Rejuvenating Priming Moisturiser in golden and Dr Babor Cellular Protecting Balm SPF 50. In the evenings, I double cleanse with the same cleanser, then alternate between Biologique Recherche Lotion P50 PIGM 400 and Auteur’s Definitive Retinol Serum, my Bader Eye Cream, and The Rich Cream overtop. I always keep Biologique Recherche Biokiss with me — it’s the best for chapped lips and dry cuticles.
What is one skincare step you never skip?
There are two! Number one is to double cleanse in the evenings — first with a balm or oil to break down SPF, makeup, dirt and grime, followed by something a little more active with AHAs or enzymes to really deep clean the pores. You can always use the same cleanser twice if you’re strapped for time or want to keep things simple. Number two is to ensure you’re applying a broad spectrum SPF as the final step in your regime every morning and topping up throughout the day as needed. You’d be surprised at how many common skin concerns from pigment to dehydration, dullness, fine lines and laxity can all be avoided by simply being diligent with your suncare.
What are some of the timeless skincare rituals for which you are an advocate? If you’re time-poor or fuss-free, there is nothing better than applying a face mask. The ritual itself is such a symbol of self-care and a great way to take a moment for yourself to compress and destress. Masks are one of the best ways to really infuse the complexion with nutrients — you can quickly pop something on while catching up on your emails, having your morning coffee or if you can, while soaking in the tub. A couple of times a week I’ll use my MG Nutrient Dense Mask to hydrate and promote blood flow to the tissues, and pair this with a firm, purposeful facial massage with In Fiore Calendula Oil. I love Lanshin’s gua sha tools and Dermalux for LED at home in between Studio treatments, but really there’s nothing better than your own hands.
Melanie’s five essential skincare tips
1. LED & Gentle Peel
This two-in-one treatment combines the calming and anti-ageing power of LED light therapy, with the glow-giving results of a peel. It will smooth fine lines and revive dull winter skin.
Using a thick moisturiser (preferably one that contains ceramides), apply a generous, occlusive barrier over the skin as your final step at night. Not only will this help your serums to absorb fully but you will wake up with super hydrated skin. Whatever you see online, please don’t use Vaseline.
3. Ice Plunge
Fill a bowl with filtered water and ice and submerge your face for six, 10-second intervals. This will wake up your skin, banish impurities and give you a glow all day.
By mixing masks together or applying different masks to different areas of the face, you can target a variety of concerns at the same time. This is perfect for those on the go.
Always use a broad-spectrum SPF as the final step in your morning routine, and remember top up more than once during the day.
What is your stance on cosmetic injectables like muscle relaxants and fillers? I’m not one to say what we should or shouldn’t do with regard to cosmetic procedures — ageing is a complicated, personal process and one that we each need to navigate in a way that helps us to continue to feel confident and comfortable in our own skin. Prioritising your actual skin health with a strategic regime and a treatment plan shaped around encouraging collagen synthesis, enhancing hydration and keeping cell metabolism at its peak will build a strong, resilient and adaptable complexion that will stand the test of time.
What’s one thing you wish people knew about skincare? You don’t have to do much! Keeping the skin clean, hydrated and protected from the sun and environmental aggressors is more than enough to yield great results. The most important thing is that the products you’re using are right for your unique complexion and being as consistent as possible with your regime is a must.
What are the biggest misconceptions you come across in your line of work? How do you remedy these? The main thing I see every day is the overuse of actives. It can be tempting to try every new product or ingredient that’s released — and we belong to an industry that champions innovation and newness, so the temptation is always there. What’s most important is really taking the time to understand your own skin and how it functions, the unique set of concerns that you’re targeting and then marrying these up with a handful of ingredients that are proven to address them. When it comes actives, slow and steady is your best approach. Especially with things like retinol and exfoliating acids, start a couple of times per week and only build up to the desired dose as tolerated.
How and when did you decide that this was the career path you wanted to follow? I always knew that I wanted to work in beauty and skincare from a really young age. Since completing my first qualification over two decades ago, it’s been my only job. When I was little, I’d play with ingredients from our pantry — things like yoghurt, honey and cucumber and make my own masks and treatments. After graduating, I started working in traditional spas and then moved into clinical environments where I specialised in corrective skin treatments, lasers and more advanced modalities alongside doctors and plastic surgeons. After more than ten years in my industry, I took a leap and opened the kind of space I always dreamt of visiting as a client — one that combined the sense of luxury and high-touch client care I experienced in a traditional spa setting with the precision and results-driven practices of medispas. Looking back it was the best decision I ever made! Now I’m so proud to work with an amazing team across our Sydney, Melbourne, Los Angeles and Paris locations and our London Studio is due to open at the end of summer in the UK, too!
“It’s so much easier to place a little effort in caring for your skin on a daily basis, championing antioxidants and comprehensive sun care than it is to treat laxity, collagen degradation, pigment and sun damage down the track.”
What is some of the best skincare advice you’ve been given? And the worst? My grandmother gave me so much great advice about skincare and how to make DIY treatments using humble ingredients that you probably have lying around in the pantry at home. I love making masks out of raw honey, avocado, oats and yoghurt. I’ll often do an apple cider rinse in my hair if I feel like there’s too much product build-up — it leaves it so shiny and bright. The worst skincare advice that I’ve seen is that SPF in your makeup is enough. It’s not. You can combine your moisturiser and SPF into one step — there are so many great formulas these days that pair sun care with actives like hyaluronic acid, peptides and antioxidants to streamline your regime. But you do really need to apply a broad spectrum SPF as the final step in your morning regime — about a teaspoon-sized amount to cover the face, neck and décolletée and the backs of the hands with any residual product.
Any words or mottos that you live by? An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. This is especially true when it comes to treating the skin. It’s so much easier to place a little effort in caring for your skin on a daily basis, championing antioxidants and comprehensive sun care than it is to treat laxity, collagen degradation, pigment and sun damage down the track.
“I don’t like to overcomplicate things — I’ve made the same smoothie every morning for years because I know it has everything in it that I need nutritionally, it’s quick, easy and delicious!”
• Spinach or kale (frozen or baby spinach if fresh)
• Frozen wild blueberries (wild are higher in antioxidants)
• An entire avocado (this keeps me full all day)
• 2 tablespoons Vida Glow unflavoured marine collagen powder
• Pea protein powder
• Whole flax seeds and hemp seeds (whole is best, not ground)
Add all ingredients into a blender, give it a whizz and you’re good to glow.
How do you balance the demands of your career and ensure it doesn’t get in the way of your wellbeing rituals? I try to keep things really basic and rather than carving out large chunks of time, I focus more on the little things that I can do each day that add up when done consistently. Being diligent with my skincare, taking my vitamins and supplements daily, trying to be in bed at the same time every evening and making daily movement a priority, either by walking my dogs or doing 30 minutes of Pilates a couple of times a week all makes a huge difference for me. Keeping my phone out of the bedroom has been another game changer — I’m far more able to centre my nervous system and settle into a sound sleep by reading for an hour or so before bed. For me, wellness and self-care aren’t about spending an afternoon at a day spa but rather championing the humble, manageable and incremental practices that contribute to your physical and mental wellbeing each and every day.
What exciting things are in the pipeline for you for the future? After publishing my first book — The Modern Guide To Skin Health — I’ve been inspired with a newfound confidence to try new things like product formulation, introducing new treatments and modalities in Studio and we’re also opening our first London Flagship in late summer in the UK. We have several new brands being welcomed to the MG family and a couple of fun parties and events in the works for our Australian Studios between now and the end of the year too.