Hands. Never take them for granted–especially when they belong to someone else and that someone else is going to apply those hands to make you feel better, look better.
I’ve come across thousands of hands in my decades of spa reportage. Hands that massage, hands that heal, hands that hover, hungry for energy. Hands, with fingers like little soldiers, perfectly following the protocol of one spa treatment after another. Hands that have wrapped me in numerous layers, hands that have held me, brushed me with seaweed, covered me in clay, coated me with paraffin (in the old days). Hardworking hands, sensitive hands–to be in the hands of a spa professional is a gift. To be in the hands of a gifted spa professional is divine.
Listen to hands. I do. I can tell a lot at first touch, be that bodywork or a facial. I just know what the hands know–and what they don’t. It’s impossible to count the number of treatments I’ve had through the years, but I can count the number of treatments that were memorable. I can count them on my fingers and toes, which goes to show you just how many of those hundreds and hundreds of treatments I’ve had that have left their mark. That were worth remembering. That worked.
I brought all of this history with me to a facial appointment with Pietro Simone. Dubbed the “Italian skincare maestro,” Pietro recently opened The House of Pietro Simone, an intimate, airy skin clinic in Soho on Spring Street. Highly sought after for his unusual and unique approach that includes organic cotton threading and dry facial massage, Pietro is a firm believer in the power of touch.
When I arrived at The House of Pietro Simone and reclined on the bed to give myself over to the Italian skincare maestro, I had no idea what was in store, but I was happy to be there. I had first met Pietro in 2019 at the annual International Spa Association conference–but I hadn’t met his hands.
But now, when Pietro put his hands on my face, I thought I had died and gone to heaven. His fingers danced on my face. Whatever he did in the hour and a half or so I was prone, it felt great. By the end of it, I felt as though I was levitating. I looked up at him, held his hands in mine, and murmured, “Now I know who you are.” And I do. Pietro is indeed a skincare maestro with the hands of a master and an intuitive sense of touch. I’ll be frank: This was the best facial of my life.
Here’s a glimpse into the man with the magic hands.
What exactly did you do to me?
You had an Introductory and a Corrective Facial. This involved a lymphatic opening; a double cleanse; an enzymatic exfoliation; the organic cotton thread; a peptides infusion, and dry massage. A DMSt Dynamic Muscle Stimulation session followed, then a relaxing facial massage and hydrating steps. We did the Oxygen Dome and finished with serum, cream, and SPF.
Can you explain some of the technology behind my facial?
My concept is to define the layers of the skin from muscles to fat to dermis to epidermis. I analyze mostly my strategy in using technology. Different technology can reach different levels of skin where I need to work. The DMSt is the most advanced technology in terms of muscle stimulation; it’s very, very new–under a year old. It’s a crazy-expensive machine, but I can really reach a different level of revitalizing. If we go back to basic chemical biology, we treat the skin, but to say that it’s very general. We need to understand the different skin layers and from that one, I build up my strategy in using technology. For example, age correcting the muscles are the main thing I need to address. If the muscle is saggy, the skin will look saggy. It’s not just ‘let’s do a laser, let’s do a laser’–what is really behind it? The muscles. Now I can work with the DMSt; my dry massage works on the muscles, but the technology helps me build up more muscle. The reality is, it’s a wellbeing treatment.
Because if the muscles are active–think yoga, pilates, etc–if I can do almost like a workout on your face, then the muscles get more repositioned and you’re fresher, more youthful.
“I need to see the entire person, how she speaks, the emotions, how she acts, and how she speaks about the problem, if that problem actually exists.”
Is there a downside to the machine?
As always, I think we need to take into consideration, we need to build a program, need to understand who is in front of me. You can’t do this every two days–we have in our hands an extraordinary technology and we need to move and work in the right way to not overstimulate, as well.
Between the machines, your massage techniques, and the wonderful cello music that played, I was in another world altogether.
All the music I play during my facials are soundtracks I’ve created–old songs, melodies that vary from opera to soft rock, soundtracks of movies–the things that make me emotional, I save and create a playlist. How do I choose the music? I have more than 15 or 20 different playlists, depending on the type of facial and the step of the facial. The one you heard was music from the 2Cellos.
I love the cello. And that’s when I began to feel truly transported. How did you do that?
Something I possess is that I listen. When you listen in the silence, you hear much more of the person. When I was doing the dry massage, the cotton thread, and the relaxing scalp massage.
Your organic cotton thread technique is unlike anything I’ve experienced. Where did it come from?
I’m nearly 39 now, and I must have been 19 or 20 when I developed it. I was doing an exfoliation on my grandmother, and she said she didn’t have all these good things when she was young. That was during World War II, and she was really poor. She couldn’t buy beauty products to exfoliate the skin. She told me how she and her girlfriends would walk down to a silk and cotton factory, where they would take the leftovers–the fabric and the threads that were thrown away. They used them to exfoliate themselves.
That’s when I actually thought, Hang on, if she used that one, in a very simple way, how can I take this idea and put it through something incredible? And that’s where it began. The day she was telling me the story about the threads, she was, unbeknownst to me, actually sewing my first pair of Dolce & Gabbana jeans. It was pretty dramatic. I’m searching for my jeans and she’s telling me this stuff about the cotton thread–while sewing the [very intentional] holes in my Dolce & Gabbana jeans. I literally cried for two days.
The following week, I was training in lymphatic drainage–it was my first lymphatic drainage, and I was learning about micro-currents and all of that stuff. Suddenly, my brain put together the cotton thread and lymphatic drainage, and that’s where the technique was born. It took me months to perfect it, the pressure, the direction.
Today, every single time I return to Italy, I go to the same old tailor shop and purchase my pure organic cotton thread.
Was this the beginning of your original facial technique?
No, but it was an extra step. The first step was my father telling me I couldn’t go to beauty school at 14 . . . I wasn’t allowed, I had to choose another school. In the meantime, what I did–this is destiny–I went to friends’ houses to drink coffee and chat, and at one point the mothers said, ‘You know all about creams, why don’t you buy for me,’ and I said, ‘Okay, I’ll go to the parfumerie and buy for you.’ I used the sachets, the product samples from beauty counters, to give facials to my friends’ mothers.
So, at 14 you were giving facials to your friends’ mothers . . .
Yes, all the way until I was 18, 19. It was around this time that I went to La Prairie, so I was using that line. My father didn’t say much, I was working and had a salary so I could contribute to the rent at home. But he wasn’t happy at all. He fought for years to tell me it wasn’t a job, but I kept doing it anyway. Eventually, he understood it was my real passion, so he stopped saying no.
My grandmother was absolutely my mentor. She was living with us and she was happy to be my guinea pig. We slept in the same room for years. Imagine the house of my mother–there were three or four bedrooms, but we used only two. My mother and father in one room, and me and my grandmother in another room. When I was doing all the training, my grandmother was more than happy to let me give her facials. My mother didn’t have a facial with me until I was 23, 24 because of the situation with my father.
What did you learn from your experience at La Prairie?
I was at La Prairie almost six years. I learned a lot. I was the Art of Beauty Training Manager and did the training for all products and massage, all face and body techniques for all the La Prairie spas in Italy. I was very young, 21, 22. I left at 24 to open my first beauty concept store in Italy. It was like a small salon spa, beauty, lasers, technology, skincare, hair, nails, luxury fragrances, and retail. I had ReVive, Dr. Sebagh, Laboratoires Renophase, EviDenS de Beauté, and Obagi. It was located in the Province of Bergamo; that’s where I started producing my creams in 2012.
The name of the salon was Pietrose–a combination of my name and my grandmother’s name. My grandmother was more than proud. She came every week to have her hair and nails done, to have massages and peels. She came to every opening, every soiree. I stayed with the salon until 2016. The salon lasted until my grandmother died in 2018, she was 93 when she passed. She lived an amazing life.
I moved to London in 2016 and opened my place in Belgravia–the Pietro Simone Clinic [now known as the Pietro Simone Beauty Concept Store]. In the meantime, back in 2012, I started working with a private lab to create my own creations, and today, I still work with the same lab. They have exclusivity for all my formulations. When I go there, I bring all my discoveries from my travels around the world, and we discuss together.
You launched Pietro Simone Skincare in the spring of 2019, and most recently launched your Fierce collection. Why did you start your own skincare line?
It’s one thing when you sell off of a shelf and a completely different thing when you have the trust of a person lying down on your bed, and you have their trust to give to them results. The entire Fierce collection is the culmination of the results of 10-plus years of formulation. Why? Because I can really see the results. I personally reviewed thousands of products to understand, and I found myself upset–because of all of these product claims. What I achieved with Fierce collection is a very aware and truthful approach to beauty.
Because I think whatever I’ve done, thanks to the delivery system, the active ingredients, the percentage of active ingredients, and also respecting an ideal clean beauty–that all comes together beautifully in Fierce–I can see results when people are raving about the products. We have 12 products for the face, with five new ones launching shortly, and five products for the body.
When you look at a person what do you see?
I need to see the entire person, how she speaks, the emotions, how she acts, and how she speaks about the problem, if that problem actually exists. I do four pages of consultation and we speak together. We go over the questions that involve foods, hormones, boyfriends–whatever we need to speak about so that I understand what’s happening. That’s really what we do here, they come, sit down, and from that moment, what’s happening is two friends speaking and being hopefully, truthful. It’s a process to build up the entire knowledge I need to deliver your results.
Can you really teach your magic, can you teach how to touch?
I love your question, and I’m going to reply in a very tough way. I think yes, it is 100 percent possible if the person [esthetician] in front of you is 100 percent as passionate as I am. That’s really the major deal-breaker. I work with so many people, and I train so many people–I can tell some people are great and passionate enough just to make a living; others are passionate like I am, and want to make a difference in the person.
Are you confident that your technique can be replicated? Approximately how many estheticians have you trained?
Yes, I am. I started training at 19, now I’m 38, and I never stopped training. I’ve probably met more than 500 to 600 estheticians around Europe, the UK, and America.
How many would you say have the touch?
To be honest, five of them have the X factor in their own way to be really successful. They really care and they want to deliver.
Do you think you’ve hit your stride?
Personally speaking, I think I hit that level of feeling great in what I’m doing in an intangible world. That’s my feeling–it’s very much an intangible world, the beauty world, claims, miracles . . . at the end of the day 99 percent of people; are crying over these claims.
What I believe I captured with the Fierce collection is when you feel you are protected, supported–products that are really doing what they’re meant for–and I think that’s just the beginning.
Editor’s Note: Pietro Simone treatments and products are available at select spas in the United States, including The Greenwich Hotel [where he launched his first line in 2019], the Four Seasons Nashville, The Four Seasons For Lauderdale, Meadowood Napa Valley, and in summer of 2023, Mohonk Mountain House.
Mary Bemis is Founder & Editorial Director of InsidersGuidetoSpas.com. She is a pioneering spa journalist, most recently honored as one of the "Top 30 Influential Voices Transforming Wellness." She is an inaugural recipient of Folio's Top Women in Media Award, and was honored by ISPA with its distinguished ISPA Dedicated Contributor Award. In 1997, she launched American Spa magazine, and in 2007, Mary co-founded Organic Spa magazine. A pioneer in the sustainable spa and beauty worlds, Mary is co-curator of Cosmoprof North America's Discover Green Pavilion. She is a Global Wellness Day Advisor, and a co-founder of the Washington Spa Alliance.
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