Ole Henriksen: An Interview With the Man Responsible for an Amazing Line of Products

August 27, 2010 | | Comments 0

olehenriksen1I recently visited Ole Henriksen at Sunset Plaza in Los Angeles to review a few treatments. While I was there I was informed that Ole Henriksen (pronounced ooh-la), himself, was at the spa and wanted to meet with me. I was beyond thrilled. Not only was this a fabulous surprise and such a wonderful treat, but I was told that with Ole’s busy schedule, it’s quite rare for him to be at his spa. Clearly, I came on a good day. Ole greeted me in the most warm way, so charming, and full of life. He beams! His skin is flawless, he has a beautiful and radiant smile, and he instantly made me feel welcomed and special. We sat together in the meditation room at his spa, such a lovely and calming room. The genesis of Ole’s product line and career is quite inspiring. We had a wonderful chat. Enjoy!

Why did you start a skin care line?

My skin care line evolved very naturally. When I started out in 1975, I would make my own products in my kitchen, bring them on my bicycle to work and used them on my clients. In those days I would say what I became known as was the acne expert. The first big star that came my way was Barbra Streisand. So, that was a very good start for me. I got educated in London in cosmetic chemistry, phys and body work. When I landed in Los Angeles in 1974 no one wanted to hire me as a man because they didn’t want me to see women topless or without their clothes. So it was actually a great thing, because I was pushed against a wall and I realized that I was so passionate about what I had been educated in, in London, that I decided to start my own business on a shoe string. And that was what I did on Camden Drive in Beverly Hills. And I would literally bring the products on my bicycle, in my tupperware containers, to work. My specialty was complexion care, even though I had been educated in body work as well. We called ourselves “Ole Henriksen of Denmark” in those days. A lot of my inspiration as far as skin care is; keep it simple, make it effectual, make it pure, make it natural. That came from my heritage. My mom worked at the local pharmacy in my village and made up a lot of remedies for her sons for the cold weather conditions. So I was sort of inspired by her.

Henry Jaffe was one of my many clients very early on. He was the producer of The Dinah Shore Show and Dinah was the Oprah of her time. So Henry put me on Dinah’s show. He found it fascinating that I was doing the kitchen formulations. So that sort of evolved. But I remained very focused on taking care of my clients, together with a great staff, elevating people’s skin to the very best it could be, specializing continuously in eruption prone skin. In 1985 I wrote my first and only American book, Ole Henriksen Seven Day Skin Care Program, where I aim to make every woman her own skin care expert. I put celebrities in the book and I landed on Oprah’s show and Oprah helped bring the book into the forefront and on the best seller list and that was really when I began, step by step, creating products. So the products sort of had a natural, organic start in the sense that it wasn’t something that I mapped out and strategized. People said “I love your recipes in the book, please create products that have a shelf life”.

Of the products that are available in your skin care line now, how close are they to what you originally created in your kitchen, years ago?

Well, there is no doubt that the key ingredients, among others are: the essential fatty acids, sesame, avocado, the wheat germ, the soy, the grape seed oils…all those good fats are what I incorporate to this very day. They cushion, they calm, they insulate, they are not comedogenic. What happens is you take inventory ever so often and look at a product formulation and say what science and what part of mother nature can I add to elevate it to the next level because there’s always progress. So you stay close to the integrity of the texture but infuse it ever so often with a little update. I would say I’ve always stayed very true to nature. But at the same time I say nature, science, beauty wellness is sort of what I operate under, a total wellness brand, because by putting a twist of science onto mother nature you render greater results. But when you look at the ingredient index it is very clean, very simple. For me, as a formulator it is about, of course, enhancing the skin’s self proliferation that you obviously continuously stimulate the skin to function at top level. It’s amazing what you can do creatively with formulations. We have won, this year alone, 5 international awards. I just won four in the UK by the National Health and Beauty Awards. Again, for me the formulations are key that they feel great, they smell good, they deliver results. And I aim to always say keep it simple, you don’t have to do a lot. I mean someone young and flawless like you, you want to do the basics. My spa has always been the foundation because this is sort of the lab. This is where we work one on one with our clients and it’s also where you build relationships long term. So we have second and third generations here now which is such a treat. Sadly for me, having been a hands on expert as well, with the business having grown into 35 countries, I am involved, certainly here and creating treatments and working with the great staff but I’m also on the road seven months out of the year as a spokesperson for the brand so I no longer have booked appointments.

Now, what if Barbra Streisand called? Would you give her a treatment?

You know it’s so interesting. Actually, mostly not. Because the truth is I remember some years ago Naomi Campbell called who I’ve treated since she was seventeen years of age. Naomi said “Please Ole, please just do this for me” and I said “I would love to Naomi but we are not going to be able to coordinate our schedules. I’m here and you’re there. And you have all the great people here.” I mean they all (celebrities) see the staff. The truth is, we are all replaceable, all of us. And it was really hard to walk away from, but I had to. When I retired from the treatment room Charlize Theron, Renee Zellweger, Jessica Alba , Hugh Jackman, Eminem…they all began seeing different staff members.

Even Eminem is coming in for a facial?

The list is very, very long. We are very honored. Paris Hilton, who I’ve known since she was a little girl, comes in. Her mom used to have a shop here at Sunset Plaza. We have a very diverse client base, male and female.

Two different celebrities have mentioned your spa on my site and how much they absolutely love it. Most recently, Julie Benz.

You’re kidding! Well, I am honored. And they get the best treatments from everyone. So it isn’t just that I have to be here. For me, I just really cannot commit myself to a booking because I am in town this week, I just got in town from three weeks, I leave tomorrow morning…

What a treat that I was able to meet you!

Oh, it’s mine. Well I am honored that you are here and that’s what I enjoy. Meeting people of your caliber and your success. I mean that sincerely and I’m grateful. As far as my job, it takes me to small parts of the world and big cities and I’m really available for all of these different job assignments and love it.

Ole tells me (taking a look at my face) that “Your skin is very stable and very balanced”, and then he recommends the products from his line that he would like to send home with me. Very generous! I felt so fortunate to have Ole personally selecting products for me from his line. Such a treat!

I mentioned to Ole how much I enjoyed my first treatment of the day at his spa.

You got my favorite, Rub ‘n Buff. You got the Rub ‘n Buff that Madonna is a huge fan of. The last time Madonna had the Rub ‘n Buff was at Shutters on the Beach in Santa Monica, and at the Grand Hotel in Oslo, where she also came in and requested the body treatment by me and walked away with a Rub ‘n Buff. It’s been years since she has been here, but she has showed up for my treatments around the globe. We do the treatments, in addition to retail as well in about 400 spas in Europe.

We begin chatting about Ole’s partner of 26 years, Laurence Roberts. So, is he completely spoiled rotten?

He is, but you know what, he deserves it. Your other half, that you love, you want to spoil. He is such an integral part of the business in as far as his creativity. Much of the design you see here, since he does interior design, is his. Laurence also is very active in the final decisions on product names. He is, of course, very much a lover of face and body treatments. For him, it’s just a lifestyle. And I believe for all of us it’s a balance. You don’t have to obsess, you have to keep things simple. But you really must take time for yourself as part of living a good life. Eat well, celebrate, laugh a lot, have fun don’t take yourself too seriously. And great skin I often sum up in just one word. It’s all about great texture. It’s all about texture. I am not a fan of the extreme procedures that are done today. I find that it’s sad, plastic surgery and injectables, that I’ve used as well. I see it as taking things to the extreme in many instances where faces that at one time had life and natural beauty, suddenly are transformed into a mummification and often takes away the elegant features because as far of the aging process, what’s beautiful is that the face takes on more character, more defined features. Those features you want to highlight as you get older. Many people chase youth too obsessively. That doesn’t mean there aren’t certain conservative procedures that can be done but it’s knowing where to draw the line. And it’s hard for people, I know. Because you want to look good but you want to look naturally good. I think you can find a happy medium.

Ole gave me a great tip about using the Rub ‘n Buff, that is also a great tip for any exfoliator that you’re using in the shower.

“As you’re using the Rub ‘n Buff in the shower or whatever exfoliator you’re using in the shower, kneel down so you can close your eyes, not bending over hurting the back. Really be able to relax and close your eyes. Dampen your body, turn the shower off, then do your scrub. That way you maintain the density of the formula”.

It was an absolute pleasure meeting and chatting with Ole Henriksen. He is beyond charming and I could have spent hours talking to him.

Ole: Thank you for your time and generosity.

Look forward to an upcoming review of the Ole Henriksen spa, Ole Henriksen spa treatments and more Ole Henriksen product reviews. Coming soon!

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