Esthetician Approved: Elizabeth Grace Hand

By Activist
February 19, 2024

Woman holding her phone taking a selfie

An interview with Elizabeth Grace Hand of Ställe Studios

Led by her own struggles with acne, Elizabeth's interest in skincare began in her teenage years. Now a skilled medical esthetician, she perfected her craft at Christine Valmy International School and later gained recognition for her glow-enhancing treatments at Dr. Barbara Sturm's spa. Elizabeth is now the founder of Ställe studios, a treatment-focused facial studio in New York.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your journey to becoming an esthetician?

My obsession with beauty began at Sephora. I grew up in North Carolina, an hour from the closest Sephora, and a trip there was always a special treat and a bonding experience for my mom, sister and me.

It was the era of Pink Sugar perfume, and the focus was more about makeup than skin — Urban Decay edible glitter, Scott Barnes shimmer palette, Stila and Benefit everything. The only luxury skincare lines I remember were Perricone and La Mer.

It wasn’t until I first experienced acne in my teens that I started getting serious about skincare. I tried everything — peels, microdermabrasion, prescription and OTC topicals, supplements, antibiotics, including one whose potential side effect was turning skin yellow! Nothing worked.

During my first semester in college, I did a course of Accutane. The acne went away, but I was left with horrible scarring, which at 19 led me to try Fraxel laser treatments. Fraxel really helped with the scars but when I moved to New York a year later, the acne returned along with years of product experimentation in an attempt to clear my skin.

I actually started my career in fashion, not beauty. I graduated from FIT and worked in wholesale fashion for a few years before making the move to the beauty industry. I had always been interested in beauty but lacked the experience to get my foot in the door. Eventually I did, with a role in wholesale for corrective cosmetics brand Dermablend at L’Oreal. I worked with dermatologists, estheticians, and plastic surgeons throughout the country where I gained first-hand exposure to various skin conditions such as acne, rosacea, and melasma. At that point it clicked that I should become an esthetician. I enrolled in esthetician school but kept my job at L’Oreal and did everything I could to learn from and meet people in the industry. During my first semester, I attended an industry event where I met the Sales Director for Dr. Barbara Sturm. I emailed her for three months until she finally replied. Eventually, I was hired to do field sales and facial events for the brand. Once the Sturm Boutique & Spa opened, I transitioned to doing in-spa treatments where I found my true calling which years later led to me launching my own facial studio.

What is your own personal skincare regime?

The specific products vary depending on the state of my skin but I always start my day with a cleanser, BioEffect growth factors, antioxidant serum, Retrouvè moisturizer + SPF and end it with a cleansing balm or micellar water (if I’m wearing makeup), cleanser, BioEffect growth factors, eye cream, Retrouvè moisturizer mixed with ACTIVIST Mānuka Mask and an oil (if I’m in need of extra hydration). I’ll alternate incorporating an acid/retinol every couple of nights. The Sofie Pavitt Mandelic Serum and the Sachi Ursolic Acid & Retinal Overnight Reform are the ones I reach for most often. I use my Celluma Pro LED 3-5 times per week for 15-30 mins at night after cleansing and before applying my growth factors.

First thing you do every morning?

Once I’m up, I start my day with a hot water and lemon with a spoonful of ACTIVIST Raw Mānuka Honey 850+MGO and a cup of Anima Mundi Happiness Power Herbal ‘Coffee’ while I’m getting ready. I listen to a podcast (I love Alix Earle’s new one Hot Mess), feed my cat Muesli and catch up with my fiance about our movements for the day.

The most overlooked part of skin care?

Consistency vs intensity – I see people following what they’re seeing on TikTok and I wish they’d just strip it back and settle into a consistent routine.

Tips for aging?

Sunscreen sunscreen sunscreen – find one that you love and use it every single day. The daily use is way more beneficial than just for those days on the beach in the summer. Two types of UV rays that wreck havoc on the skin are UVA and UVB. UVB is what gives us our color - think B for burning. UVA is what causes the skin to age - think A for aging. Applying daily SPF is so important because UVA can actually penetrates glass - and clouds - so even if you are sitting inside on a rainy day by a window, you are experiencing premature skin aging. It is such small step that makes the biggest difference in the long run.

Favorite skin care ingredient?

Mānuka and glycerin! Even combined the glycerin makes the Mānuka honey less sticky and glide nicely on your face. Glycerin is actually more hydrating for the skin than hyaluronic acid and one of my favorite ways to revive dry skin.

What are your thoughts on the skin care industry right now?

We’re living in a moment where there is so much choice and that’s really fun but it can certainly be confusing. When I was growing up, luxury skin care was really only La Mer and Perricone and now the market is so saturated. Technology is getting better and better so there is definitely room for newness, which also makes it really exciting, but because the barrier to entry is low and margins tend to be high you’re also getting a lot of brands that just want the cash grabs that are completely unnecessary. It can be almost impossible as a consumer to determine what’s worth the money and what’s just a gimmick. A big part of my job is guiding people to make the best decisions for their skin, and figuring out what is worth it and what isn´t.

How do you incorporate ACTIVIST Mānuka Honey into your practice and your own personal routine?

In my practice, I mix it up with other ingredients to give a nice glide for the facial massage portion of my treatments – it’s really nice when it’s worked into the skin.

I use it under the LED both for my clients and myself. I also use it personally as a mask (sometimes I rinse after 20 mins, sometimes I leave on overnight), and mix with moisturizers and serums. It’s such a versatile product and I love recommending it to my clients as a spot treatment because it stops people from picking while also healing thanks to the anti-bacterial properties!