Mali-born, Paris-based facialist Sophie Carbonari is making waves. Her international client base includes model and former first lady Carla Bruni, French model Caroline de Maigret, The Vampire Diaries actress Nina Dobrev and musician Lou Doillon. One of Naomi Campbell’s favoured facialists, she has worked with the supermodel on set. Carbonari visits London once a month to see clients, has hosted a pop-up residency at The Venice Venice Hotel and travels to the Cannes Film Festival to look after her A-list clientele. This month, she launches the first product in a debut skincare line. 

Carbonari’s technique is what brings fans to her light, bright Paris studio, where windows look over the Jardin du Palais Royal, a short walk from the Louvre. The “Sophie Carbonari protocol”, as she calls it, brings together Japanese kobido and “cosmo facial” rituals with Ayurvedic techniques and lymphatic drainage. 

Carbonari taps into pressure points to “unlock” the skin
Carbonari taps into pressure points to “unlock” the skin © Alexandra Alvarez Garcia

“First, I put pressure points into the fascia and the skin pops,” she says. “You will hear it. I feel muscle tension and lymphatic retention. Second is the superficial level and I do the same with my index finger; I feel where there is blood stuck, or crystallised lymph nodes. Next I [connect with] every point of the face and unlock everything for about 30 minutes, with pressure and rolling.”

Clients are evangelical about the results. But there’s seemingly more to it. “I could tell you about Sophie’s art of working my skin and how she carefully sculpts the contours of my face and how plumped it looks afterwards,” says de Maigret. “But what also struck me when I first met her many years ago is that Sophie is kind, fun and generous. Her solar aura is contagious, and I know it shows on my face when I step out of a treatment. It makes all the difference.”

Carbonari honed her skills at the Chi Yu Wellness Centre in Marylebone, where she began working in 2013. “It was a new philosophy for me,” she says of the Japanese approach to holistic health and its ethos of supporting the body’s ability to heal itself. “And put meaning behind what I was doing: it’s a wellness action, not just skin.” She left to join a midtown Manhattan medi-spa in 2016, but returned to France within a year.

Sophie Carbonari S serum, £256 

Sophie Carbonari S serum, £256 

Millie Kendall of the British Beauty Council refers to Carbonari as a “super-facialist”. “It’s a very elite category where someone has developed a unique technique, method or protocol,” says Kendall. “Finding your niche is important when launching in this very competitive arena. Beauty treatments are a growth category: we’re seeing more beauty businesses open than ever before – with a massive rise in micro businesses with fewer than four employees.”

Carbonari in her treatment room at her Paris studio
Carbonari in her treatment room at her Paris studio © Alexandra Alvarez Garcia

Sophie Carbonari Skincare launches with a single, Korean-made serum. “My clients were always a bit lost. They have 10 serums and do not know what to do – so they apply them all at once!” Her S Serum (£260 for 30ml) is a “multi-perfecting cocktail” of potent ingredients including hyaluronic acid, Centella Asiatica extract and argan and black cumin oils to improve skin firmness, even out skin tone and reduce the appearance of age spots and scars. “I focused on precious and healing oils that are good for blood circulation and calming irritation, and regulate sebum.” 

Botanical gardens in London’s Barbican and at Lake Como are her horticultural hotspots for inspiration, and she also mixes her own cleanser, exfoliator and masks. But, she says, “I don’t want to create 20 products and I don’t have the audacity to say that you need a whole range to be perfect.” Still, she concludes, “You never know what the journey can bring.”

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