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The 411: Ji Baek


The 411 is a new feature on Beauty Counter, in which we ask some of our favorite experts to reveal their go-to gurus for everything from manicures and highlights to perfumers and holistic healers. Because when it comes to being the best in beauty, it takes one to know one.
Ji Baek doles out lots of pampering touches at Rescue Beauty Lounge—the chic downtown nail spa she opened more than a decade ago, where La Mer manicures and oxygen-therapy pedicures are par for the course. In her own life, though, she’s decidedly more low-maintenance. The stylish nail expert would much rather touch up her roots at home than spend two hours with her hair in foils at the salon. Her idea of relaxation is wandering around the farmers’ market in Union Square for fresh strawberries or flipping through old books, which is usually when inspiration strikes to create new shades for her hit polish collection. Baek isn’t totally bare-bones in her beauty routine; she does splurge on a few well-chosen items when it counts (two words: skin creams). Here, she shares her edited list of essentials.

The Pro: Ji Baek

Founder of Rescue Beauty Lounge.

The Lacquer: Rescue Beauty Lounge Nail Color in Bangin’ and Plié

“I’m obsessed with Bangin’, a hot red coral, and if I want to tone down the brightness, I love wearing Plié, a nude-pinky that’s the same color as the chiffon skirt of a ballerina. I wear the same color on my hands and toes—always matching, that’s my rule. For next season, I was really inspired by flipping through this book of brocade prints, so I’m playing with that concept for the fall collection.”

Rescue Beauty Lounge Nail Color, $18 each,

The Hair: Serge Normant at John Frieda

“But only for cuts. Going to the salon for anything else takes waaaay too much time.”

Serge Normant at John Frieda Salon, 825 Washington St., NYC, (212) 675-0001.

The No-Fuss Dye job: NaturTint

“I buy this at Whole Foods for about $15! I’m Asian, so my gray comes out every three weeks. This is so easy to use—there is zero skill involved. My only trick is that I rub Aquaphor around my hairline first, to form a barrier so the tint doesn’t stain my skin. I love it because it’s natural and doesn’t smell like ammonia or make me break out.”

NaturTint Permanent Hair Colorant, $16,

The Skincare: A Mix of Classic Hits

“I’m picky about my skincare. I apply Cetaphil UVA/UVB Defense SPF 50, then I top it off with La Mer The SPF 18 Fluid Tint. I find that layering the two tones down the dewiness of the La Mer. In winter, I use 3 Lab h Serum, which is rich and amazing. Even if I waitressed, I would spend all my money on skincare.”

Cetaphil UVA/UVB Defense SPF 50, $11,; La Mer The SPF 18 Fluid Tint, $65,; 3 Lab h Serum, $200,

The Makeup Master: Herself

“I rarely get my makeup done professionally. I’d rather do it myself, even if I’m going to a photo shoot. I use Clé de Peau Concealer and Eyeshadow—they have a quad with shades of gunmetal gray, inky black, creamy white, and this shimmer pink that I put on the center of my eyelid to add some dimension. I line my eyes with Make Up For Ever Waterproof Eyeliner in Black and always pat on La Mer Lip Balm. For my going-out-look, I’ll swipe on a dark red Serge Lutens lipstick.”

Clé de Peau Concealer, $70, and Eye Color Quad, $75,; Make Up For Ever Waterproof Eyeliner in Black, $22,; Crème de la Mer The Lip Balm, $45,; Serge Lutens lipstick, $75,

The Down-to-Earth Derm: Adam Geyer, M.D.

“I love him because he didn’t try to talk me into lasers or botox. I went to him to do a body check for moles. He was so thorough, he even checked between my toes. He’s low-maintenance and honest. My kinda guy.”

Tribeca Park Dermatology, 32 Ericsson Place, NYC, (212) 374-9750,

The Facialist: Liliya at Rescue Beauty Lounge

“I do a Custom Facial with Liliya once every three months. She tailors the treatment to your skin, and you can totally trust her.”

Rescue Beauty Lounge, 34 Gansevoort St., NYC, (212) 206-6409,

The Body-Shaping Workout: Private Ballet Lessons

“I tried everything out there—yoga, pilates, Physique 57—and nothing makes me feel better than ballet. I never danced as a child, but I played in the orchestra. I remember looking up at the dancers from the orchestra pit during the Nutcracker and wanting to move like that. I’ve been taking private lessons twice a week for three years now; it tones you in the right places and makes you long and lean.”

Joffrey Ballet School, 434 Ave. of the Americas, 3rd floor, NYC, (646) 571-0091,

The Sweet Temptation: Homemade Ice Cream

“I found the most amazing ice cream recipe in David Lebovitz’s cookbook that has no egg yolks in it. I’m not a vegetarian nut, but I’m not going to add three sticks of butter to any recipe. His has a base of sour cream and heavy cream, and then you add all these fresh ingredients. Since the strawberries hit the farmers’ market, I’ve been making strawberry mint ice cream lately. It’s sooo good.”

The Perfect Scoop: Ice Creams, Sorbets, Granitas, and Sweet Accompaniments, $16.50,

The Chiropractor: Dr. Thomas Cristello

“The reason he’s so good is that he’s also a massage therapist. He has this crazy chair that stretches out all your muscles, which you sit in while he gingerly applies heat to your body. Then he cracks your back—and it’s heaven. It only takes 30 minutes!”

Dr. Thomas Cristello, 928 Broadway, NYC, (212) 375-9802,

Photo: Courtesy of Ji Baek

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