The 411: Yael Alkalay
Yael Alkalay is inspired by beauty that’s not easily bottled. As founder of the luxury personal-care line Red Flower, she mines the natural, therapeutic, and “spiritual potential” of plant extracts and oils when creating her products. It’s a unique approach informed by a patchwork of cultural experiences. As a child, Alkalay traveled extensively to visit her family, which included a famed dermatologist grandfather in Bulgaria and farmers in the rural Pampas of Argentina, who taught her how violet liqueurs, rose jams, and other tinctures can be used to brighten the complexion and soften lips. After graduating with a degree in economic anthropology, Alkalay worked as the creative director for Shiseido in Tokyo, where she lived for three years, and later helped develop cosmetics for Calvin Klein. Eventually, she focused her energies and expertise on launching her own line, which bowed at Barneys in 1999 with just six of her signature petal-top candles and two organic flower teas. Today, the Red Flower range includes hundreds of unique formulas for hair, skin, and body, including her latest assortment of Isla Das Rocas Revitalizing Sea Salt Scrubs, scented with Moroccan rose, Japanese peony, and Spanish gardenia, among other flower essences. Here, the beauty spiritualist points us in the direction of the best onsens, the perfect plum lipstick, and a few skin detoxes she can’t live without.
The Pro: Yael Alkalay
Founder of Red Flower.
The Fragrance: Red Flower Guaiac Organic Perfume Oil
“I think every country has a distinct, special smell. I grew up mostly in Argentina, where the air has this blend of tobacco, leather, cashmere, and fresh herbs. I wanted to create a scent that would pull out parts of that place but not replicate it exactly. Guaiac contains the essence of the guaiac tree, which is called the tree of life and grows throughout South America. It’s combined with smoky essential oils, lighter hits of pink grapefruit, and closes with rich notes like frankincense. When I smell it, it’s like opening a suitcase. I wear it every day.”
Red Flower Guaiac Organic Perfume Oil Roll-On, $48, www.redflower.com.
The Hair: Mane Stays
“Derek at Tommy Guns is a wonderful, robust Scottish man. He’s a great sculptor, a real wizard of scissors, and he’s not afraid to keep long hair long, as you can tell by my length! To maintain things, I just apply conditioner, since my hair tends to be dry; I love anything from Philip B. with truffle oil or our Red Flower Spanish Gardenia Softening Hair Conditioner, which smells like a rainforest.”
Tommy Guns, 138 Ludlow St., NYC, (212) 477-1151, www.tommygunsny.com; Philip B. White Truffle Nourishing & Conditioning Crème, $28, www.philipb.com; Red Flower Spanish Gardenia Softening Hair Conditioner, $32, www.redflower.com.
The Japanese Bathhouse: Kumadera and Houshi
“Kumadera is my favorite onsen in the world. It’s located on a remote mountaintop near Kyoto and run by Buddhist monks. There are no Web site or contact details for it—you need a Japanese friend in the know to take you there. My second favorite is Houshi in Ishikawa, where I lived for several months. It’s an area very rich in hot springs and traditional Japanese life. Houshi is actually the oldest hotel in the world; I was introduced to it by close Japanese friends.”
Houshi, for location and reservations visit www.ho-shi.co.jp.
The Holistic Haven: Shibui Spa at the Greenwich Hotel
“This is the best place to get a radiance boost. You feel like you’ve stepped into Japan, it’s so relaxing and peaceful. The spa does our Red Flower Holistic Facial Lift, which is based on the authentic onsen technique. Also, there’s a small restaurant that nobody knows about in the courtyard, where you can order orange toast with cottage cheese and yuzu lemonade that’s shipped from Japan. It’s amazing. Don’t leave without smelling the incense; they carry a very special handmade type that you can’t find anywhere else outside of Japan. It’s, like, $50 but totally worth it.”
Shibui Spa at the Greenwich Hotel, 377 Greenwich St., NYC, (212) 941-8900, www.thegreenwichhotel.com.
The Yoga Instructor: Alexandra Auder at West Village Yoga
“Alex is the first person I started practicing yoga with about ten years ago. She teaches private classes in her West Village brownstone, which are phenomenal. You forget your body’s limitations and tap into a strength you didn’t know you had.”
West Village Yoga, 311 W. 11th St., NYC, (845) 399-8934, www.westvillageyoga.com.
The Skincare: A Serum and a Family Secret
“The Red Flower Essential Omega Fresh Berry-Oil Serum is the best, all-around incredible product that changed my life and my face. It’s made with super-potent and concentrated oil from pure organic arctic berries, which are the only kind that contain both omegas 3 and 6 to build collagen and improve your skin tone. I apply it daily using the acupressure technique included with the directions—it helps stimulate your circulation so you look glow-y all day. Also, when I get out of the shower, I rub pure extra-virgin olive oil on my legs, which is a moisturizing trick my grandfather taught me. Despaña is the place to buy olive oil in the city.”
The Makeup: Basics That Work in Harmony
“Kanebo Sensai’s Triple Touch Compact concealer is very well designed. It has a gloss that you can mix with what looks like foundation to create a creamy base that’s fantastic. I also love deep plummy lipsticks, and Shiseido Perfect Rouge in Pink Mesa is the absolute best I’ve found. Otherwise, I stick with lip balms, especially those from Dr. Hauschka and Eos.”
Kanebo Sensai’s Triple Touch Compact concealer, $55, www.sensai-cosmetics.com; Shiseido Perfect Rouge lipstick in Pink Mesa, $25, www.us.shiseido.com; Dr. Hauschka Lip Balm, $16.95, www.drhauschka.com; Eos Organic Lip Balm, $3.29, www.evolutionofsmooth.com.
The Mani/Pedi: Sweet Lily Natural Nail Spa
“This is a little gem that uses organic nail polishes. The style is a little frilly—be prepared—but they do a great job, and you can feel good knowing that you’re not soaking up chemicals.”
Sweet Lily Natural Nail Spa, 222 W. Broadway, NYC, (212) 925-5441, www.sweetlilyspa.com.
The Neighborhood Restaurant: Blue Ribbon
“I love, love Blue Ribbon. I’ve had sushi all over New York, and Blue Ribbon is one of the best places for it. I like to order the Ume Shiso Maki, which is not on the menu, but the chef will make it special for you. It’s a vegetable roll made with this strangely wonderful leaf, shiso, that’s in the mint family, and ume, which is a Japanese plum. The roll has a salty, fresh taste that’s incredible.”
Blue Ribbon Sushi, 119 Sullivan St., NYC, (212) 343-0404, www.blueribbonrestaurants.com.
The Nighttime Ritual: Jurlique Rosewater Balancing Mist
“Rose oil is very calming, and Jurlique’s is one of the best I’ve seen. I like to spray my daughter’s sheets with this before bed. I think it’s such a nice feeling to go to sleep under a mist of rose.”
Jurlique Rosewater Balancing Mist, $21, www.jurlique.com.
Photo: Anthony Harvey / PictureGroup / AP Photo