For Alexandra Wagner, skincare is a creative process. And art is an imperative, not a choice.
As a child, the esthetician saw painting as a life raft, seeking solace from growing pains in artwork. After years as a decorative painter on the East Coast, she stumbled onto skincare and found a new fascination. She studied the craft and applied her artistic skills to working with the skin.
Ultimately, she opened an eponymous clinic in Venice, California, where she treats patients and donates a portion of proceeds to nonprofits that give art supplies to underprivileged children. In the meantime, she continues to paint, showing work in galleries across LA. Now, she is launching her non-toxic White Tiger Skincare collection, inspired by simplicity and efficacy.
Here, she explains why helped others—via art and skincare—offers a much-needed perspective check:
Live The Process: How did you first discover your passion for art and skincare respectively? How do those interests intersect?
Alexandra Wagner: From a young age, I had a very strong connection to art. My uncle was a painter and he used to buy me all kinds of art books. Art saved me in school. It was my favorite subject and the only one that really excited me. It allowed me to express myself and to escape the difficulties of growing up. We all have our challenges and I definitely needed something to help me through. Art allowed me to feel connected to myself. I am so grateful that I had it. I was lucky that I went to a public school that had art classes and lots of supplies. All children should have the opportunity to experience art in some way. In high school, art was my main focus too. Then, I decided to go to Savannah College of Art and Design and received a BFA from University of Colorado in 1994.
When I was 27, I came back from traveling in both South East Asia and India for six months and was working in a restaurant. While working, one of the older waitresses there asked me what kind of moisturizer I used on my face and I told her whatever natural body lotion I could get from the health food store. She said, “Well, you need to get something because you could write the word ‘dry’ right on your cheek!” I never thought about taking care of my skin before then. That comment started me thinking and learning.
At that time, I also started practicing yoga, and yoga in general helped me to transition to a healthier lifestyle. It helped me to see that self-care is such an important part of life and actually a good thing to do to help [create] balance.
During the years that followed, I had my mural and decorative painting business; I worked all over the East Coast. I would get facials and massages because my work was very physically demanding. I always felt so good and nurtured after a facial. I thought, how nice to do work that makes people feel taken care of! During one facial in New York City, I asked the esthetician about the best school for studying skincare. She told me and six months later I had my license. I was so interested in learning more about the biology of the skin and skin health. I wasn’t sure if I would ever work as an esthetician, but that was twelve years ago now, so I think it was meant to be.
Art is something that I need to do in my life. It’s not an option. So, to find balance with my skincare business, I make sure to take a couple days per week for my art. I have my paintings on the walls in my skincare spa and I often sell and do commissions for my clients. I believe my ability to work with my hands has transferred over to taking care of people’s skin. My artist’s eye allows me to really look at the skin in a creative way and decide how I’m going to make it look its best.
LTP: Why is it important to you to give back and how do you do that?
AW: Giving back is important because it not only helps others, but it allows us to look outside of our own life situations. I donate art supplies through the sales of my White Tiger skincare products and, for every signature facial we do at Alexandra Wagner Skincare, we donate art kits to nonprofit organizations that work to educate children.
In 2008, I traveled to Cambodia with my best friend who is a doctor. We were both getting out of long-term relationships and needed a trip that was more than just a vacation, so we could give back in some way. She was invited to Maddox Chivan Children’s Center, which is part of the Global Health Committee center, because of her work with Cambodians in California, so we went. They work with children who are infected and/or affected with HIV. I raised money through my business and took a bunch of art supplies to do a project with them. The kids got to experiment with paints and supplies they had no access to before, and it brought so much fun and color and spontaneity into the present moment. We did 25 foot paintings on canvas and they all got to work together on it. It was a really different and fun experience for them. Many of the children had serious health challenges, so this was so amazing. What I didn't realize is what a profound impact this trip would have on my life. These kids had so much love and kindness and appreciation; it honestly broke my heart wide open.
When I moved to Los Angeles, I learned that 29 percent of public schools here offer no study of arts discipline and that most students don’t have the access to art, though it is required by law. Now, I work with nonprofits that bring art into the lives of children who don’t have it. The kits allow the kids to take the supplies home for a creative outlet.
LTP: What makes your White Tiger Serum unique?
AW: I am all about keeping your skincare routine simple yet effective, so I wanted to make a serum that was hydrating, anti-aging, helped brighten the skin and even out skin tone, all in one treatment. I did a lot of research into product ingredients over the years and made a list of what I wanted to include. White Turmeric and tiger grass plant stem cells are the main ingredients. White Turmeric is an antioxidant and is also calming. I liked Tiger grass stem cells because they not only have a firming effect on the skin, help prevent the breakdown of collagen and are hydrating, but they are also excellent for calming irritation and redness. There are four different brighteners in the serum to help even skin tone and botanical peptides to help with fine lines.
LTP: What personal wellness rituals or practices keep you feeling healthy and balanced?
AW: Becoming an aesthetician led me to a very healthy lifestyle. I have a very healthy diet and love to eat lighter vegetarian meals while I'm working. It allows me to feel more focused and have more energy. I love green juice with turmeric and cayenne or jalapeno pepper. The peppers make any green juice taste so much better.
I love exercise, as it helps me balance my energy and my body. I do Pilates twice a week and I love the Daily Method barre class. It’s an all-over body workout that builds long lean muscle and feels a like very feminine practice.
LTP: What does happiness look like to you?
AW: I believe that true happiness starts with inner balance, self-care and really being compassionate, first towards myself and then others. When I have the inner balance that I strive for, I have a greater appreciation for all the other elements that add to external happiness. The most important things in my life that keep happiness flowing are spending time with the people I know love me and have my back, hanging out with my amazing dog, being near the ocean, creating art, eating healthy food, planning trips and traveling to keep life interesting and keep the inspiration for life flowing.
LTP: What does it mean to you to “Live The Process” and how can we all do that more each day?
AW: I love this! “Live The Process” is one of the most important phrases to live by. Being present in what is happening each day, while being focused on what we want our lives to look like in the future, is a fine balance. Of course, it is always healthy to have goals to work towards, but it’s important to be present, appreciate each day, each unique experience, and to be aware that our lives are a process and not a destination. Some days, it can be almost impossible to remember this, but when we let go of control and flow in the process, our lives feel a little more free and fun. This energy allows more positivity to flow into our futures.