At Nefaire in Westport, you’ll find an integrated approach to skincare and wellness that incorporates personalized facials, a curated selection of products, specialized massages and more. As busy moms, self-care is crucial to staying healthy and happy (which in turn, makes us better moms and partners), so we love what Nefaire has to offer. We spoke to Michael Chang, owner of Nefaire, about his unique local business.
For people who haven’t been yet, can you please describe Nefaire?
Nefaire is a skincare and wellness brand focused on the “full-stack” of factors that affect skin. We don’t think great skincare comes from just a single product or a single miracle fix. Nefaire looks at regimen, diet, lifestyle, and more, starting with our first two offerings:
- A highly personalized facial (and massage) experience designed and priced to fit into everyday life, not just spa days or special events.
- Thoughtfully designed and contextualized skincare products that we’re introducing later this year.
Where does the name “Nefaire” come from?
Nefaire is derived from the ancient Egyptian hieroglyph “Nefer”, which means “wellness and beauty”. Ancient Egyptian royalty would sometimes use the word in their name, such as the famous queen Nefertiti.
When did you open and what was the inspiration?
We’re coming on 2 years now with the shop. It started with a personal problem. As a chronic acne sufferer for over a decade, I’ve tried everything from drugstore products, to expensive brands from Sephora, to two rounds of Accutane. After being frustrated over and over, I started doing my own research, and realized that skin is extremely complex, and getting it clear and healthy requires an interplay of several factors – it’s not just about product, but things like diet, gut health, ingredient sensitivities, and hormonal fluctuations all play a role.
I started tweaking these variables to see what worked specifically for me, and figured out that certain harsh ingredients in products, a high-glycemic diet, and stress were my key triggers. I know what it’s like to purposely miss social events, hide from cameras, or not look people in the eye because of your skin, and it was frustrating to see that most skincare brands were still just trying to sell you a miracle in a bottle that clearly would not work. Nefaire was created to be an honest, forward-looking brand that acknowledged what’s really required to get healthy skin.
Why did you start with facials first?
We started with facials because an esthetician was actually the first to introduce me to this sort of “full-stack” approach to skincare. However, looking around at the traditional spa industry, facials didn’t seem to be something that was designed or priced to be a part of an everyday, healthy skin routine. Our facials are an important component to customer education, and also provides a platform for the voice of our estheticians which has been kind of overlooked in this day and age, despite the fact that they work with skin every single day.
What else separates you from other spas?
Instead of the old, tired “spa” connotations for estheticians and therapists, we thought about creating a shop that was fresh, digitally-driven, and with modern design. From there, we’re extending into our own line of skincare products this year. Our spa-quality products were created using the thousands of data points we have collected from our facial clients – we’re starting with topical products, but we’ll eventually go “down the stack” into ingestible stuff and things that go more than skin deep.
What do you mean when you say you take an integrated approach to skincare, and why it that so important?Integrated skincare refers to the “full-stack” approach I was mentioning earlier. When a client walks in, we’re not just looking at them and saying “you should buy this product because you have rosacea”. We look at all the factors that can affect skin, such as their diet, daily regimen, stress levels, and more, because it’s not one thing that will get them the results they want. We’ll even tell them to see a dermatologist if warranted. Taking an integrated approach ultimately means being honest about what actually matters in skincare vs. the typical marketing speak.
Our unique approach means:
- we want to focus on the entire stack of skincare factors, so topical, regimen-based (through facials), and ingestible, instead of just one component. This also allows us to be agnostic to any industry fads.
- we like natural things if it’s more effective – not for its own sake. We think synthetics and prescriptions are just fine if they’re the right ones, and there are natural ingredients that aren’t good for you as well.
- we want our brand to feel elevated, but still be approachable and accessible. I think a lot of the holistic brands in the space right now are priced and designed in a way to appeal to a very certain niche of the beauty category that’s already super into it, like they read Goop, have went vegan, and juice on a daily basis. We love our customers who follow this lifestyle as well, but we want people who aren’t that versed in skincare (both men and women) to feel like our brand is approachable. It’s ultimately about having someone with a similar frustration with skincare to look at us and say “finally, someone gets it”.
What is a “personalized facial?”
Personalized facials are our take on the traditional classic spa facial, which we specifically designed to fit into a modern wellness routine. Clients start with a skin quiz on our website which uses our algorithm to form a unique profile for their skin. Our estheticians then use this profile to determine what they’re going to use for the facial, with our face masks being mixed on-site. Facials include a classic cleanse, exfoliation, steaming, extractions, and high frequency treatment.
Our estheticians also advise on our clients on product selection and at-home considerations, which they can actually see right in their account. It’s sort of like having a personal skin coach. The idea is to have a human presence that people can feel like they can go to with any of their skin questions.
Unlike most places, we don’t have 20 different facials, and only break them down by duration. This means each facial is highly personalized and unique to the client, which is important since everyone’s skin and skin concerns are different.
What’s the biggest misconception people have about skincare?
Besides the “full-stack” approach which is what our entire brand is built around, I think there are two. One is that more is better when it comes to the number of products.This was a mistake I made early on when I was trying to fix my acne. There’s something called the acid mantle on your skin, which is basically a protective barrier that ensures regular function in healthy skin. When you throw too many harsh products at your skin at once, you can disrupt the natural PH levels of the acid mantle which hinders its ability to function properly, leading to things like acne, dehydration (which leads to aging), oily skin, or irritation.
Less is more is also true for the ingredients in products. 90% of the stuff you see in products with a laundry list of ingredients are just to keep the ingredients from separating, are there for marketing purposes, or are preservatives. They serve no real function, and people are paying for it.
The second misconception I think people have is that skincare ends at the “skin” part. I think a big component of skincare is not just the stuff you use, but the community and stories – it’s the reason why there are millions of subscribers to skincare subreddits, why it’s one of the most viewed categories on Youtube, and why brands like Glossier have been so successful. It’s sort of this universal bonding thing, because almost everyone has skin and will run into skin issues at some point in their life. This is why we hold so many community events at the shop, and it’s also why we’re launching an online community platform this year, which will feature content and stories all related to our “full-stack” approach.
What are you some great ingredients to look for in products?
So this is tricky, since each person is different and has different skin concerns. I’m also not a big believer in ingredient fads. With everything we do, and it’s the same for ingredient selection, we like simple. I think simple is hard, and the reason is because if something is not good, you have to try and get around it with complexity and confusing technical terms.
We look at ingredients almost like “food” for your skin, hence the “skinfoodscience” under the Nefaire name, because it really is like food. Great food starts with purity in the ingredients.
Some of the ingredients we really like are:
- Hyaluronic Acid– an extremely powerful, moisturizing ingredient. When looking for it in products, make sure that it’s near the top of the ingredient list, not towards the end. The order of the ingredients listed on a product indicate the amount that’s in the product relative to everything else.
- Activated Charcoal– Pretty popular now, and we find it really helps with oily skin types and blemish prone skin.
- Jojoba Oil– Mimics the skin’s natural sebum and acts as a great hydrator.
- Manuka Honey– Has strong antibacterial properties and also a great moisturizer.
Can you recommend any specific products you’re loving right now?
- One Love Organics Vitamin B Oil Cleanser
- Our Skinfood 1.0 at home facial mask…it’s not available yet, but you can experience it in our facial!
What are some ingredients we should avoid, and why?
- Alcohol:just like having it in a drink, alcohol dries out the skin. Dry skin makes skin look aged even faster.
- SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate):it’s what causes foam in many cleanser products. Extremely irritating, and strips skin of its natural oils.
- Fragrances: these make a product smell good, but can irritate the skin. Irritation=breakouts.
- Topical Retinoids:this is controversial for us because a lot of our clients swear by them. In our experience, it does very little for acne-prone skin which they are sometimes used for. For anti-aging purposes, they do increase cellular turnover to make skin look younger, but we do have clients who end up getting “plastic” looking skin from prolonged use.
- Anything super exotic that sounds too good to be true – that’s because it is, and most of the time you’re buying a very common water and glycerin combination.
I heard that you have client bookings through 2023—is that true?! Why do you think you’ve had so much interest?
Haha, that’s a quote from one specific client who comes once a week. But we do have a following of subscribers who come in regularly, and I think it comes down to several things:
- Our personalized approach to services which comes from our passionate and talented therapists.
- Our constant focus improvement to the customer experience, which shows in our attention to detail on both digital and offline fronts.
- Our mission driven focus, which I think clients can sense – we’ve a bunch of clients tell us how refreshing it is for a brand to finally take the “full-stack” approach we do.
Aside from using the right products and getting the right facials, what else should we all be doing for great skin?
I would personally recommend:
- Limiting dairy intake or cutting it out altogether. Consuming dairy has been shown to trigger inflammation in the body, which can be a key contributor to breakouts and redness.
- Drinking plenty of water, at least 8 to 10 glasses day.
- Getting adequate sleep, and having a regular sleep cycle if possible.
- Using sunscreen daily, and making sure you get some sun from either going outside, or from Vitamin D supplementation.
- Supplementing with Zinc
- If acne is a concern, try drinking Green Tea daily. Green Tea has been shown to be anti-inflammatory as well as anti-androgenic.
- Minimize irritation for your skin. This means do not use harsh scrubs or over exfoliate. I’m generally against manual exfoliators.
Visit Nefaire.com for more information and to book an appointment. Use the code LocalMoms for 10% off your first 60-minute facial, 75-minute facial or Hydrafacial MD. Also, Nefaire is offering a Mother’s Day special of a 3-month subscription (one 1-hr service a month for 3 months), for $222.
This story is sponsored by Nefaire.