When Dennis Hopper sends you a note saying "you saved me", you know you're on to something. But Linda Meredith is used to receiving such missives. The facialist has a client list that features the likes of Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell, Madonna, Jude Law, the late Alexander McQueen, Zoë Kravitz and Colin Firth – and their thank-you notes are proudly displayed on her website. "You are a joy and a riot," writes Kate Beckinsale. "Thank you for my skin," proclaims Emma Thompson.
“We have built up a reputation within the TV and film industry, so that film directors and make-up artists send clients to us, as they know our treatments are effective and not invasive, and therefore would never halt any film production, which could cost millions to the production company,” explains Meredith, who has worked in the beauty industry for the last 40 years.
Her flagship salon is located in London’s Knightsbridge, but her treatments and products are available around the world – in the Mandarin Oriental hotels in London, Boston and Barcelona, in the Akaryn Samui and Aleenta Phukey spas in Thailand, and since February, at Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi. Next on the list are the Palazzo Versace and Address Downtown Dubai.
So, given that she has come face-to-face with some of the most beautiful people on the planet, does Meredith attribute good skin to lifestyle or genetics? “Approximately 60 per cent comes from genetics and the rest is lifestyle,” she says.
The threats faced by our skin as a result of our lifestyles have changed radically in recent decades – while the beauty products that we use to combat those threats haven’t, Meredith maintains. “Since the 1950s, we have all lived in a world full of toxins and synthetic chemicals, in the form of medication, hormones and preservatives in our food. This has dramatically changed the natural balance inside our bodies and, of course, our skin.”
Meredith is of the opinion that no big beauty company “has adapted a new philosophy for skincare in the 21st century”. She suggests that established brands cannot radically overhaul their product lines and philosophies because these were put in place “long before the introduction of chemicals. That philosophy and the hundreds of products that have been developed over many decades cannot just be changed without huge financial cost.”
With the medical industry now encroaching on the beauty industry in increasingly aggressive ways, and unrealistic ideals of beauty being proliferated daily by the marketing industry, it has never been a more challenging time for those in Meredith’s field. “Advertising and marketing show us perfection in their ads, which most of the time gives false hopes to women, as pictures and TV ads have been retouched. Celebrities are still people, and have the same skin problems as we all have at some point.”
Other misconceptions about skincare that Meredith regularly encounters are that the more expensive a product is, the more effective it will be. “Not true. Products that are ridiculously expensive return huge profits, which are needed to pay for celebrity endorsements, even when the celebrity rarely uses that product – I know from the celebrities that use mine, but endorse others.”
Other myths are that a skin product can prevent ageing (“No. It can, however, slow it down,” Meredith says), and that drinking water will hydrate the skin. “When we drink water, it works first and foremost inside the body. It flushes out toxins, regulates body temperature and keeps our organs functioning before finally reaching the surface. This is why using the right products on the outside is as, if not more, important,” Meredith maintains.
Since the skin is facing a new barrage of threats, does that mean that the old cleanse, tone and moisturise model is dead? “No, not at all,” says Meredith. “The only change is with toners, which were originally made with high levels of alcohol simply to help remove heavy cleansers that had a base of lanolin, or sheep fat. Most cleansers today are water-soluble, which means they are easily removed with water.”
Meredith's own skincare range is designed to address skin problems, rather than skin types. Her signature product is LM1, a thick, buttery cream for those who prefer a more matte finish. Designed to rebuild the skin's moisture levels, LM1 contains bio-oil to even skin tone and Dermaxyl, from the peptide family, which is important for anti-ageing.
With so many different kinds of products on the market – serums, emulsifiers, masks, creams, oils, lotions – it can be difficult knowing what you actually need. What's Meredith's advice? "Yes, there are far too many products on the market today, but that is because most of the cosmetic giants don't discontinue many products; they just keep adding more. We do need a variation of products, or I should say ingredients, that deal with different problems. We need humectants, which draw moisture from the environment to help hydration; emollients to improve and replace lost nutrients; and then occlusives to seal in the first two and prevent dehydration."
And her biggest skincare no-no? “The biggest no-no for me is too much skin peeling. Chemical peels, which are more aggressive than natural peels, and laser re-surfacing can become addictive, as the skin feels much tighter. The problem is that with overuse, the skin will become thinner. Part of the ageing process is the skin getting thinner, so why would you want to speed that up?”