To enter Practise on Walker Street in Tribeca, you’ll first ring a small, tape-labeled buzzer on an unassuming industrial brown door that looks more like the entryway to an after-hours club than the new home of the model-favorite aesthetician Kristyn Smith. Don’t let the yellow and red staircase fool you, either—the white, airy studio on the second floor is a bubble of tranquility, discretion, and transformation.
“I always combine treatments with a space and techniques to let people unwind and their cortisol levels really drop,” says Smith, a facialist with a two decade career who has become the go-to skin savior for models Bella Hadid, Jacquelyn Jablonski, Paige Reifler, fashion photographer Alana O’Herlihy, and makeup artist Erin Parsons. She also prepped Gigi Hadid for this year’s Met Gala. “Even when I worked at a plastic surgeon’s office in LA years ago people would always say, ‘I can’t believe I could actually relax during a chemical peel.’” Today, her restrained but highly technical treatments mostly consist of cult-loved Environ products and some lesser known brands like Kaplan MD, Isla, and Li Organics. While she’s less machine-heavy than some A-list facialists, she’s a firm believer in microcurrent and LED for skin and has converted clients like Bella and Jablonski into light therapy devotees.
Smith says her model following first started to pick up when she worked in a space across the street from the (now closed) Ballet Beautiful in Soho and models would wander in. She has since become known for resolving long-term skin issues like acne and inflammation through deep inquiry, painless extractions, and a fine-tuned lymphatic massage that not only reveals great cheekbones (whether you were born with them or not), but also helps trigger that transformative relaxation. “I consider it success when someone leaves their phone on the dressing table or falls asleep during treatment,” says Smith about her carefully constructed protocols. “When I started in this field people were not talking about cortisol or stress or sleep, but when the body becomes overwhelmed, it starts to show up in your skin, so it’s all connected.” Out of 20 clients, she says, maybe one won’t have notable knots and tension in their neck. (Those mysterious people tend to work in the wellness space or simply not work, she adds.)
“The first time I went to Kristyn [three years ago] it was so different because she was really paying attention to what was going on, we really got to the bottom of things,” says Jablonski, who was tipped off about Smith by her friend and model Bambi Northwood-Blythe, who is still a regular. “Kristyn knows I only trust her advice on my skin. During the pandemic I would be DMing her with questions to the point where my boyfriend actually asked ‘who are you texting this late?’ at one point.” Bella, who has posted about Smith’s ability to heal her breakouts, also became a client via model-to-model word of mouth. Jablonski raves about the “magic” masks Smith creates for results during travel: Epi Nouvelle+ Naturelle and custom Dermaviduals blends, a brand also beloved by editor in chief of Vogue China and client Margaret Zhang, Smith says.
But the foundation of Smith’s knowledge and intuition come about from working with the non-models among us, and through training and protocol development with brands like Cle de Peau (specifically their lymphatic drainage skin care range, Synactif), Blue Mercury, and SpaceNK, among others. She also studied reflexology, aromatherapy, nutrition, gua sha, and herbology, but is adamant about “staying in her lane” as an aesthetician. “I would never claim to give a gua sha or reflexology treatment,” she says. “I might incorporate a step or two, but for actual treatment, I would encourage my client to see someone that has dedicated time and education to that specific field.” Smith is also passionate about sharing wisdom with younger people who may not have access to skin experts: She founded her nonprofit 0303 Foundation with the goal to bring skin care education to public schools, noting the strong link between skin conditions and mental health for teens.
Smith is currently referral only—she sees four clients a day—but two additional rooms at Practise allow three other aestheticians to work on new clients. The limited space is by design: “We don’t want an overwhelmed waiting room where clients have to think too much about about possibly seeing someone, and we also stagger appointments so that we never have too many people in the space at one time,” she says.
Refreshingly, Smith’s slower approach is reflected in a low-key social media presence (she has fewer than 5,000 followers on Instagram) for an expert you might otherwise expect to be blowing up on all platforms. (After all, what’s more clicky than a Hadid?) “I like that people feel a sense of relief that the experience is a bit more private when they’re here,” says Smith, who grew up in a high-profile family in her small California hometown. “If you take a picture and you post, I love it, thank you, but if you put your camera away, I am so happy that you’re really present.” That said, the room-spanning picture window practically turns Smith’s treatment room into a lightbox just begging for a post-facial selfie, so there’s a chance those follower numbers may be poised to turn a corner. Indeed, Jablonski has already indulged.
SMITH’S GO-TO SKIN CARE PRODUCTS
Li Organics Liquid Amber Concentrated Serum
“An antioxidant component will always be important as we are constantly assaulted by free radicals.”