This 'best supporting' oxygen facial stormed the Academy Awards – and it's so gentle that anyone can have it. Victoria Woodhall meets the man behind it, A-list aesthetician Lord Gavin McLeod-Valentine
Lord Gavin McLeod-Valentine should be puckering up for a “massive snog” from Best Actress Oscar winner Olivia Colman just about now. She promised the lip-smacker to anyone she didn’t have time to thank as she accepted the award for her role as Queen Anne in The Favourite. The poetically-named Scotsman said to be a direct descendant of Robert the Bruce, is the man who gave Olivia her red carpet glow (although we can’t discount her sheer delight that she actually got to deliver the speech she had practised while working as a cleaner).
Lord Gavin is Director of Services for skincare brand Intraceuticals and his gentle but powerful ‘hyaluronic acid layering’ antioxidant facial is a favourite among movie stars both male and female. He's carved himself a niche among women of a certain age for helping them achieve a timeless glow: notably Julianne Moore, Laura Linney, Susan Sarandon and Allison Janney – Janney was apparently thrilled with her Gavin-gotten decolletage as she picked up her ‘Best Supporting’ statuette for I Tonya last year. “She called me the next day and said, ‘did you see how good my boobs were?’” he beams.
"Allison is a good example of somebody that was doing conventional beauty work, she was trusting creams, she was having facials, but she wasn’t looking at hydration. There was a huge transformation in the eight weeks that I was working with her."
His armoury is rather less invasive than his 13th-century ancestor’s (no blades here) and comes in the form of a spray-tan-style nozzle that uses oxygen to ‘blow’ a hydrating cocktail of glow-getting antioxidant goodies into the skin. Gavin and his gadget get to work on celebs six weeks before a red carpet event for weekly facials that hydrate, lift and tighten. It’s a technique that’s so gentle and so rejuvenating that he’s usually the last person they see before they go into hair and makeup.
It wasn’t just Olivia showing off her Intraceuticals glow last night. Lord Gavin posted Instagram pictures of his handiwork on Laura Dern, Janney and Elizabeth Debicki. "Multiple Ubers, a 30lb oxygen machine and a 10lb Birkin bag" is all it took to get them glowing, he said afterwards.
He's all about hydration and glow. "Especially when you are in your mid-50s plus, lack of hydration is the one thing that’s a tell-tale sign of age. It doesn’t matter if you have sagging or jowls or wrinkles, without hydration you’re flat and you're dry," says Gavin with an archness that’s all part of his charm.
The 'done' look is emphatically over, he says. “The number one question my clients ask me is, ‘what can I do that’s non-invasive?’
Everyone’s very guarded about doing something more aggressive. They are trying not to do filler and Botox." He recommends LED light, microcurrent and galvanic facials.
Why the backlash against needles? “As character actresses, they want to be able to emote. Nicole Kidman is very good at the ‘single tear’ but most actresses want to be able to be emotional. They are also so scrutinized. As soon as you don’t look at all like yourself you are so vilified in the media. You only have to look at what happened to Rene Zellweger. We still don’t know what she had done. She was made to feel terrible for wanting to do something. So they want to avoid that at all costs."
Quite apart from that, movie stars simply don’t have the downtime, he says. “They are ravaged. They won’t thank me for saying that but they have the biggest disadvantage to looking their best when they need to look impeccable."
How come? “They are travelling like dogs,” he says rather dramatically (I’m sure they are not flying coach). “They have the longest hours known to man and on set they are eating questionable food at questionable hours, having products put on and taken off the skin in makeup all the time. There’s fatigue, dehydration, redness. When I get to them, they are often doing a promo tour or filming and need to look like they can have a camera close to their face. I spend a lot of time removing fatigue from their skin.”
He tells the story of being in a lift with a famous – and of course unnameable – client and a fellow passenger saying, “‘Aren’t you so-and-so? We, you look like sh*t!”
“This is the reality of what they are expected to look like on a daily basis and so it’s a pleasure and honour for me to help them have confidence and look the way they feel pressurised to look,” he affirms.
You can see why celebs love him; an hour in the chair with the Lord and his just-this-side-of-discreet Hollywood anecdotes is enough to wipe the frown off your face. But as for the treatment itself, it really does work. When I tried it at with Gavin at Sabrina Shah-Desai's Perfect Eyes clinic on Harley Street, it plumped out some pretty deep grooves and lifted my eyebrows, although you’d need a course of treatments for the effect to last longer than a couple of days.
The best thing is that it’s now available in UK salons and anyone can have it, subject to having £200 to spare of course. It’s suitable for pretty much any skin, even post-chemo, those with eczema and psoriasis and after lasers, peels, PRP and microneedling.
According to Gavin, it expedites recovery and makes any other treatment you've had last longer (he says it added extra months to his own lip fillers). “We are quite a slutty brand,” he quips, “we will layer with anything and anybody.” Prefacing the treatment with a deeply exfoliating Hydrafacial makes it even more effective as the products can penetrate more easily. Perfect Eyes offer this as a package.
So what does it feel like? Well curiously, not much for the results that you get. The key is the two-step delivery system: firstly small molecule hyaluronic acid, secondly the push from the oxygen, which helps ingredients penetrate deeper into the skin, as opposed to using any kind of microneedling or mesotherapy device, which involves downtime.
It feels like a cool breeze and you could pretty much go to sleep. I had the 'Rejuvenate' which is the serum he uses for red carpet prep, but you can also have others for pigmentation, anti-ageing and acne. As well as HA, it contains aloe vera, green tea, vitamin A (in the form of retinyl palmitate) vitamin C (from the Australian kakadu plant) and Vitamin E as well as peptides. It gives an immediate freshness but results are better over six weeks. I’ve also been using the take-home three-step system – a serum, a hydration gel and a moisturiser. Layering is key with each ingredient sealing in the last. All Gavin’s clients are on this too.
Is this really all they do for red carpet prep, a few facials and some cream?
Olivia’s final look on the night came courtesy of makeup artist Sarah Uslan who used Emma Hardie Skincare but Lord Gavin will undoubtedly have shared the advice he gives to all clients in the six to eight-week run-up to an event, during which they are in his care. "All of these together make the ultimate prep for a special occasion," he says.
Lord Gavin’s top red carpet prep tips.
1. Profhilo injectable moisturiser
“I love Profhilo and in fact, I’m going to have it next week. You start eight weeks before your event and have another session four weeks later. It’s an injectable hyaluronic that gives a wonderful fluffing, lifting effect to the skin and holds moisture right at the surface of the epidermis. You start eight weeks before your event and have another session four weeks later."
2. Intraceuticals Oxygen Facials
“Once a week a minimum of six weeks in advance to get you locked and loaded with hydration, with your final treatment the day of your event of the night before. You’ll wake up like sleeping beauty looking radiant.”
3. A VI Peel
“The VI Peel It’s my favourite peel, I tell everybody to do it. It’s a seven-day peeling process and in a week’s time you’ll be reborn and restored. You don’t get to that super-lizardy snaky part until day four but most of that happens at night. Don’t worry you are not going to be Samantha from Sex and The City. It contains salicylic acid, retin-A, glycolic and phenol."
4. Lumity supplements £85
“Lumity works for your hair strength, sleep patterns, collagen production and gives inner a vitality that comes through the skin.”
5. Light Stim LED light therapy (at-home Stim treatment £180 )
“You lie under a canopy or on a bed, often I will give my clients an Intraceuticals facial while they are lying on the bed. I’ll do their hands, elbows and knees as well.
The Intraceuticals Oxygen Facial costs £200 or a course of 6 for £930. The Hybrid Oxygen facial (with Hydrafacial) costs £350 or £1530 for 6.
Book at Perfect Eyes , 121 Harley Street, London
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Follow Lord Gavin @lordgmv