A simple approach to skin care at Jessica Johnson Beauty in Portland
“At the end of the day, you don’t really need a lot for your skin to look its best,” says Jessica Johnson, owner of Jessica Johnson Beauty in Portland. While the beauty industry has become overcrowded and noisy, Johnson advocates simplicity: wear sunscreen, keep your skin clean and hydrated, and lose the crowd of beauty products taking over your bathroom.
At her facial spa on Middle Street, Johnson offers skin care treatments—including 30-minute “flash facials”—custom brow styling and makeup. There’s no long list of frilly services; rather, her approach is meant to “liberate women from practicing a costly, time-consuming beauty routine.”
Skin care doesn’t need to break the bank—but that doesn’t mean a visit to the spa for a facial or brow styling can’t still feel totally indulgent. It’s a balance Johnson has mastered.
The decor at Jessica Johnson Beauty—modern and feminine, accented with grays and pinks—was inspired by Johnson’s love of New York City. She wanted women to walk in and get a feel for being in a big city or the side streets of Paris—without leaving the ease of Portland. “I wanted women to get the luxe feel at an affordable price,” she says. “This experience needs to be accessible to everyone.”
There are no private rooms at Jessica Johnson Beauty. Instead, clients are welcomed with its open-bar feel, which gives it a very social vibe. “We serve wine and espresso with our flash facial,” Johnson says. “You are there for a great facial that takes a half-hour and cost $60. That’s it.”
Bringing women together and giving them a personal experience is built into Johnson’s business. “The skin care industry feels very impersonal and big-scale,” she says. Having personal one-on-one contact with her customers and building her brand, one customer at a time, is essential. “This is a place where woman can come in and feel no pressure.”
And Johnson’s brand is building. The Middle Street spa has grown from its original iteration as a brow studio, which Johnson first opened in 2014. It was a venture she wasn’t sure would work in Portland.
When Johnson first moved to Maine from California, she noticed there wasn’t a place in Portland dedicated to brows—and she wasn’t sure if locals would be interested in her services. “I didn’t know if women were going to pay for that kind of treatment here,” she says. But four years and many clients later, her company is growing.
“This is a place where women can come in and feel no pressure.”
Johnson has also created a small line of skin care products—including the T3 Hydro Active Spray Serum and Ultra Glow Night Cream & Mask—to provide women with a “simpler, saner” skin care regimen. That side of the business is seeing growth, too.
“We are a Maine company and we are launching our products and expanding the company nationally from Maine,” she says. “It’s so exciting.”
Both the facial spa and the product line are a culmination of 30 years working in the skin care and beauty industry. Johnson got her start in 1986 while working as a makeup artist for Lancome to pay her way through college, earning her undergraduate degree in women’s studies and English. She then spent time in Europe, studying advanced skin care and learning about oil cleansing—using oil to cleanse the skin as opposed to most facial cleansers, which actually strip away the skin’s natural oils.
Women often shy away from using oils on their face, believing they will clog pores and cause breakouts, but that’s not the case, says Johnson. Oil cleansing takes the place of using a makeup remover, face wash and moisturizer, meaning fewer products are needed. “The less we put on our face, the more it self-regulates,” she says.
She was so taken with the idea, she eventually created her own face oil—3N1 Hybrid Face Oil—which is part of her current skin care line.
But her big lightbulb moment came while cleaning out her house after reading “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” by Marie Kondō. The book offers guidance for simplifying and organizing your home, and Johnson put the method into practice in her own house, including the bathroom, where she tossed out all of her extra products and bottles that were just taking up space in her cabinets. The cleaned up space changed the way she felt—and looked. “I looked better because I felt better after decluttering,” she says. The experience gave her the push to develop her own simplified line of skin care products.
Women don’t need to be overwhelmed with feeling like they need every product on the market. “We are making this harder than it needs to be,” Johnson says. Women should use a sunscreen, cleanse their skin, keep it hydrated and exfoliate. Simple.
It’s the same mantra at the facial spa. “We offer a 30-minute facial and we do brows,” she say. “That’s all you need.” Skin treatments are “quick and affordable,” with a goal of having clients visit once a month so they can truly reap the benefits of getting a regular facial.
“Women are spread so thin with everything and we are over looking for a miracle in a jar,” she says. “I want to help women do more with a lot less.”
Jessica Johnson Classic Beauty
3N1 Hybrid Face Oil and T3 Hydro Active Spray Serum
These two products replace five (makeup remover, cleanser, toner, moisturizer, treatment serum) and allow you to have a five-minute beauty routine ($170).
Brow and Lash Conditioning Serum
For longer, thicker brows and lashes ($110).
Jessica Johnson Beauty
15 Middle St., Portland
Katie Bingham-Smith is a writer, shoe addict and mother living in Bowdoinham. She pays her kids to rub her feet and never turns down anything with caffeine.