Jeni Sykes

We all have strengths and weaknesses and there's not an ounce of shame in it. – Great advice from Jeni Sykes

I recently wrote about the Changing Face of Spa, specifically about three spa concepts that are changing our industry: Skin Laundry, FaceHaus, and Heyday. It is always a delight for me to meet the people behind these new concepts – the brains that are contributing to the evolution of our industry. Meet Jeni Sykes, Head of Skin care for Heyday.

AP: What city were you born in? JS: Denver, Colorado. There’s a little poem about the city that’s always stayed with me:

Denver, Queen City of the plains
Lift high our spirits
Sing well our praise
For in you
We live
And are loved.

Simple. But speaks to a type of kindness and heart you find in Denver natives 🙂

AP: What city to do you live in? JS: Brooklyn, NY – my chosen home, also very close to my heart.

AP: What is your middle name? JS: Marie.

AP: What is your astrological sign? JS: I’m on the cusp of Cancer and Gemini. Born on the day of the blissful wizard.

AP: What is something about you most people don’t know? JS: Actually, I hear “I didn’t know that about you!” fairly often. I’ve always been the one who’s asking questions and listening intently…  Despite being a natural leader and someone who’s spent all day every day for years connecting to people through my practice and managing teams in hospitality, I’m also an introvert and have historically been pretty private as well. I’m one of those odd Millennials who’s lived largely off the grid digitally. That said, I feel very aware at this point in my life though that it’s time to start putting myself out there too, that sharing is a powerful thing. This is the beginning of a new chapter for me in that respect.

AP: What is your most prized possession? JS: I would have to say my hands. I’m not particularly attached to many things, but if it weren’t for my hands I wouldn’t be able to do all the things I love, from cooking and painting to my work in skincare.

AP: If you could have dinner with the person of your choice, who would it be? JS: If it were a stranger, it would definitely be bell hooks or Cornell West. But above them, I’d have dinner with one of my best friends who passed away a few years ago. It’s easy to take for granted the amazing and inspirational people we have right in front of us until they’re not there anymore.

AP: Describe your fashion style in three words maximum. JS: Minimal, unembellished, and considered.

AP: Do you wear a watch? If yes, what model? JS: Either this little all black resin Casio because it’s a little irreverent, perfectly minimal, and reminds me of my brother when we were kids, or a small vintage watch face I wear on a long thin chain around my neck, usually tucked into my shirt. I went through a serious watch phase, but I find that watches are attention pieces, and ultimately I prefer the feeling of being very understated where adornment is concerned.

AP: Diamonds or pearls? JS: Citrine and Coral 🙂

AP: What is your #1 beauty secret? JS: Water and oil. Guzzle water like its glam and get into high quality seed and essential oils. Both are game changers, both for how you look and how you feel.

AP: What fragrance do you wear? JS: Hermes, Un Jardin en Mediterranee

AP: Botox or not? JS: Not for me, but I believe everyone should be empowered to care for their image in the ways that make them happy with the reflection they see in the mirror each day. Wherever that journey takes you, from cosmetic procedures to reclaiming natural curls, your body is your own. When it comes to supporting my clients who opt for more invasive procedures, my top concern is maintaining healthy, balanced skin along the way. Healthy skin that has what it needs to heal quickly will mean the better results on any cosmetic investment.

AP: Hair color: natural or not? JS: Natural, but about twice a year I consider how I might work some deep vibrant blue into the mix… like indigo, something rich and alive. When I figure out how to pull it off elegantly I’ll send pics 🙂

AP: What are your special diet tips, if any? JS: I think the biggest thing is letting yourself feel your body enough to be attuned to the feeling of being full, loving your body enough to listen to those cues and respect what it’s asking you for, and when it’s asking you to stop. Bodies are surprisingly smart and communicative, but it’s so easy to get disconnected from ourselves in this way. With skin, I’m constantly seeking ways to help clients learn to check in with how they feel, and what counts as a good or not so good feeling when it comes to this organ. I think eating is the same.

Also I don’t believe in deprivation. I’m a lover of good fats (hello nuts, avocado & high quality oils), dark chocolate, red wine, and perfectly crafted tiny pastries. If the base of your diet is mindful, balanced and full of bright, happy, healthy foods, there’s room to treat yourself to regular little indulgences too.

AP: What do you do for exercise? JS: Pilates and yoga (could you guess?), but recently I also started running, which I never thought I’d be interested in. One of the Skin Therapists at the shop came in so infectiously enthused about a charity run and the idea of having a Heyday team that I agreed to step way out of my comfort zone and participate. I’m surprised at how great it feels.

AP: What are three things that you always have in your fridge? JS: A variety of greens/seasonal veggies, a giant batch of amaranth or quinoa as the week’s base, and at least five varieties of salsas and hot sauces. I love heat! I have memories from growing up in the Southwest, peeling giant bags of roasted green chiles to freeze and have on hand year round. In the freezer – Coffee or Vanilla frozen yogurt. Rain or shine.

AP: What is your cocktail of choice? JS: I like having fun with simple bases, gin & tonic does it for me – but my latest obsession is infusions. Basil or rosemary are both great notes, and can be easily paired with the standard fresh cucumber or lime. Infusing a variety of citruses (grapefruit, lemon, lime) with mint and a few coriander seeds is also pretty divine, and you can always add a touch of agave or another sweet profile to soften up your finished glass, depending on the primary herbs.

AP: What is your secret to work/life balance? JS: Haha, well opening a new business has me figuring this out all over again, especially as someone who is passionately absorbed in my work as a part of what makes me feel happy and fulfilled. But to me the key is actually establishing a consistent routine. It can seem counter-intuitive, but nothing lets you free up time and energy the same way as structuring time. A mentor also taught me to schedule the personal items that keep me in balance first, and figure out how the remaining time needs to be managed to get the rest done each day. So for example, I set aside a specific half-day each week that I tend to my home, cook, and work on creative projects. This is also my self care time (why not face mask while you tidy?).

Also, I believe in at least one dinner/drink/call a week with a friend you can be completely yourself around. Even if you go through a time when you can’t be as social as you’d like, a little of the the grounding perspective and laughter that comes from the people who love you no matter what you do or how well you do it goes a long way.

AP: What are your three top tips for travel? JS: 1. Bring a hydrating mask for during or after flights – your skin with thank you every time. 2. Don’t neglect drinking water – It’s obvious but also one many people seriously forget about. 3. Bring a mobile comfort zone! Smell is a very powerful thing, so something as simple as a great face mist with a scent that makes you feel awesome and an essential oil blend that will help you get deeper sleep in a new environment can really help make every travel day a good one.

AP: 3 songs on your ipod right now. JS: 1. Wye Oak – Logic of Color; 2. Bonnie Rait – Love in the Nick of Time; 3. Ana Tijoux – Mi Verdad

AP: What book are you reading right now? JS: I always read a few at a time. Right now, I am reading Daring Greatly by Brene Brown, Every Day is For the Thief by Teju Cole, and The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.

AP: Quote to live by. JS:

“Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact, and that is – everything around you that you call life, was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use…That’s maybe the most important thing. It’s to shake off this erroneous notion that life is there and you’re just gonna live in it, versus embrace it, change it, improve it, make your mark upon it…Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.”

– Steve Jobs

AP: What is your worst pet peeve? JS: When people assert that something isn’t possible before they’ve tried or after trying only one way, and without seeking help and advice.

AP: What time do you usually wake up in the morning, and how many hours of sleep do you usually get? JS: I am highest functioning with a full 8 hours or more, every night, but right now I’m in a phase of life where I can only realistically prioritize 6 hours on average. I generally wake between 6:30-8am, and I try to let myself go slowly in the first hour of the day.

 AP: What is your favorite thing about the beauty industry? JS: There are so many professionals in this industry with profound kindness, warmth, and grace, who have lived incredibly interesting lives and have fascinating stories to tell. I also feel grateful every day to work with people who feel and care openly in environments focused on helping, sharing with, and giving to others.

AP: Least favorite thing. JS: Despite the deep values that bring many of us to practice in beauty and the healing therapies in general, to be frank I believe the beauty industry is one of the biggest propagators of misogyny and systemic racism in our culture. The history is deep and troubling, but I believe that we have the power to start changing this. I already see this pot bubbling up in a new way for my generation – we are savvy to the sell in anything and for a long time beauty has been sold to many women on the tenets of fear, shame, and guilt. I believe it’s imperative that we start demanding a new level of conversation (with both our voices and our dollars) around our own definitions of beauty and the power of self-care and self expression.

AP: Who is your mentor? JS: I have several, in and outside of my industry. Two of them are inspiring estheticians who over the years have each worked in direct practice, managed national training/education programs, and worked alongside chemists and R&D teams for major beauty brands and small, passionate cosmeceutical lines alike. They’ve both shown me that our industry holds enormous opportunity for variety, adventure, and evolving professional challenge. Another, Julia, I have the blessing and fortune of working with today. She’s an industry vet who has lived the thrills and challenges of a COO scaling incredibly successful national spa brands. She’s a fearless truth-teller and a sharp business woman with kindness, humor and warmth that I admire and respect immensely.

AP: Words of advice for young women starting their careers today. JS: Learn about your strengths and weaknesses. Be able to articulate them. We all have both and there’s not an ounce of shame in it. Play to your strengths and rather than getting stuck beating yourself up over or focusing a great deal of energy on the things you struggle with or that drain your energy and loose your attention, instead focus on how to build relationships and teams around you with people who excel where you do not, complimenting your natural weaknesses with their strengths, and vice versa.

This is not to say that you shouldn’t try to develop and grow beyond what comes naturally – you have you challenge yourself and take risks in life. There comes a point for even the most talented people where you’ll have to work for it, where you’ll find yourself on the ground or feeling not good enough or not ready for an opportunity before you and you have to stand up, take a deep breath and give it your all. But that can also look like taking natural skills to the next level, or developing some of the core professional skills which will better allow you to run with your greatest talents. The point is, the more you can align what you pursue in life to who you are and where your strengths lie naturally, the more graceful and successful you can become in whatever you do.



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