“I have 10 siblings, and I’m the youngest. We grew up very poor, working on a farm. We didn’t have any TV or radio until I was 14 and I remember lots of candlelight and the fact that when it rained outside, it rained inside too, because we lived in houses made of mud and straw.
We ate porridge for all three meals, but that’s partly how we learnt the power of putting natural ingredients on our face. It’s how we discovered that oat masks are great for soothing and softening the skin, that rice water whitens it in addition to also being very calming. So in a way everything I do now comes from my early childhood.
In high school, I studied business; I suppose I could have been a banker. (Laughs) But when I was 19, we had a ballet teacher come to visit, and I remember being blown away by her that day. I didn’t know our bodies were capable of doing so much without breaking.
Since that day on, I was the first in class and the last to leave. I used to look at my teacher and say, “If she can do it, I’m sure I can do it too.” You know, that single mindedness without fear. I started at 19 and worked my way to university, where one day I saw a video about Pina Bausch, this great German ballet choreographer, and I decided that Germany was the place for me too.
So I worked – I cleaned people’s houses, I did backup dancing, and with that money and some money from my siblings, I bought myself a ticket to Germany without knowing how to speak a word of English or German. I met my husband there too and we danced together in a company in Germany, and then Brussels.
But we worked very long days and when we turned 37 we decided to give it all up and start a new life in London, where my husband is from. It was there that I decided to really give my shiatsu practice a go. At that time shiatsu wasn’t really well known, so I decided to start slow. I said, “Give me two weeks. If the shiatsu doesn’t take off, I’ll change my career completely.”
I got lucky, because through word of mouth it just started to spread from one person to another. I ended up treating a doctor on Harley Street, a naturopath who had Juliette Binoche as one of his clients. She was my first celebrity client; that’s how the connection started.
I was Juliette’s personal facialist for five years, and I taught her how to dance as well. Everywhere she went, I was responsible for making sure that she always looks her best. And I don’t know if Freida (Pinto) told you, but in addition to being her facialist I also trained her for her recent movie where she played a dancer.
So the truth is I’ve been in this industry for almost my whole life. Growing up poor, we had to look to natural ingredients to help make us look good, and the dance really helped me discover the power of the body. It was a back injury that led me to shiatsu, and that’s where I discovered Chi, the energy channels, and how powerful they are, and Pilates as well.
That’s where my facial techniques come from, just combining everything. Just like the body, it’s all connected, emotionally, physically, mentally. In Chinese they always say that if you treat even one part of your body, you can heal the whole body. I just happen to concentrate on the face.
When people come in for a facial, I analyse their skin to determine their skin type. Most people have combination skin – dry skin on the jawline or cheeks, oily on the nose and maybe a bit on the forehead. To tell you the truth, there’s no such thing as normal skin, except when you’re a child.
Once I know someone’s skin type and allergies, I do a steam, extraction and massage, followed by a botanical mask. It’s quite simple, something any facialist might do, but what’s different is that the type of technique I use varies from one person to the next (Editor's note: Lisa Eldridge would be pleased.)
Most of the time, their body guides me. If you come to me for a facial, your body will usually tell me what I have to focus on. I had a client recently who had been through a divorce – all of a sudden she found she had these rashes on her face, her body was aching and she had difficulty moving her neck.
The moment I put my hands on her I realized there was so much trapped emotion and energy around her chest, so I started by massaging it first before moving on to her face. It’s really instinctive, so I have no formula, to be honest. That’s why it’s difficult to teach someone my technique.
People describe my facials as one hour alternatives to Botox. I didn’t come up with that, to be honest. (Laughs) But it’s true that facials are extremely good for anti aging because massage improves microcirculation. It increases the oxygen in your muscles, like when you exercise, and it makes them more supple, more mobile.
Also by moving your face, you’re unclogging the pores, so you totally rejuvenate your skin. It’s like a deep cleansing from the inside out – it encourages lymphatic drainage as well, and so all of this combined really makes people feel like they look ten years younger.
It’s not about being wrinkle-free – it’s more about what’s in your mind, the trapped energy being released. When that happens the light starts to shine through your eyes; that’s when you start looking younger and more youthful, because your light is shining again.
Touch is so important to everyone - when you are sad, you hug someone. Growing up, when we didn’t have doctors, that’s how we healed each other. When we were sick, we put our hands on each other to say, “Where is the pain?” When we were tired after a long day working on the farm, we massaged each other. That’s how I grew to understand the connection. Does that make sense?”
For smoother, plumper, younger looking skin, try Su-Man's daily facial massage technique, which she rather kindly agreed to break down for Jossbox's readers, below. Before you begin, here are a couple of tips from Su-Man:
"Follow this sequence of massages after cleansing your face, usually in the morning or evening. Make sure you touch your face, eyes or ears with clean hands. In ancient Chinese medicine, all the pressure points on the face are not only related to internal organs but also to beauty. They make the face radiate, take away dullness and enhance your physical appearance.
Before you begin your daily self facial you need to generate heat in the face, stimulating circulation before preparing the pressure points for massage. This is done by rubbing the ears with the palms until heat is generated in the ears.
All exercises are easier to do sitting down.
When you have finished this sequence, I suggest you drink a glass of warm water to help the Chi flow."