One Way for a Man to Save Face, Cosmetologist Lia Schorr Contends, Is to Mask It

updated 11/16/1981 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/16/1981 AT 01:00 AM EST

Lia Schorr has fixed many a famous face. Gene Simmons of Kiss was one. He wears more makeup in one day than Phyllis Diller wears in an entire year. So, proclaims cosmetologist Schorr, he must "clean his skin properly all the time, and I taught him how." Paul Newman's skin was "beautiful and sensitive," but Schorr warned him to use a moisturizer before his daily sauna at home. Ex-astronaut Scott Carpenter made an appointment to clean his pores. Dustin Hoffman came by to have his face massaged and "for the relaxation. Dustin," says Schorr, "loves to be pampered."

So do all of the 1,500 clients who have made Schorr a leading expert on men's complexion problems, from razor burn to oily skin. At her salon on Manhattan's Madison Avenue, Russian-born Schorr dispenses a line of face-care products (with ingredients like ginseng, oatmeal, almonds and Dead Sea seaweed) plus plenty of advice on what she calls "the most exposed and neglected organ we have—our skin."

Schorr, 36, starts her customers off with a facial massage to stimulate the blood and soften pores. Then she steam-cleans the face with chamomile and applies a mask—mud or strawberry for normal or oily skin, egg and honey for dry skin. She believes everyone should use a mask once a week, have a full-fledged facial at least four times a year and apply a moisturizer daily.

For puffiness around the eyes, Schorr recommends tea bags to calm down the skin. And for a face refresher she favors cucumbers. Other tips: Switch between an electric and a safety razor to reduce irritation, never stay in direct sunlight more than 20 minutes at a time, and avoid talking on the phone with the germ-laden receiver against your chin.

For severe problems like oily skin and acne, Schorr performs a "deep peeling"—removing layers of dead skin over the course of six days. Cost: $300. A basic facial runs $30. Schorr also sells a kit for acne ($89), another for dry skin ($110) and an all-purpose kit for men (at $90, it includes almond cleanser, eye cream, shaving gel and a gentle after-shave).

Nothing could have been farther from her mind than mudpacks and moisturizers back in the Soviet city of Tashkent, where the Schorrs (Lia's father was a wealthy Jewish gold dealer) had fled to escape the Nazis after they invaded Poland. The family returned to their homeland after World War II, but were so distressed at the devastation that they decided to emigrate to Israel in 1950. At 12, Lia herself moved to a kibbutz in the Negev desert and five years later served in the Israeli army. "Everyone says I had such a hard time in my life," says Schorr, "but for me, I didn't know any other way."

After her two-year hitch Schorr enrolled in a Tel Aviv skin-care school ("Even on the kibbutz I always wanted to be feminine and know about beauty"), but in 1967 she abandoned her career plans to marry her electrician boyfriend, who was living in New York. When they divorced four years later, she was working for the noted skin expert Georgette Klinger. "I was the busiest person there," she says proudly. "I did all the celebrities." As head of Klinger's men's salon, Schorr was also called upon to dye eyelashes ("Some men have beautiful blue eyes but light lashes; dyeing the lashes dark makes the eyes look huge"). Now she even removes men's chest hair. "Actors may need to look a certain way," she says, "so they come in to have their chests waxed."

When Schorr struck out on her own in 1978, she took many of the clients she had tended at Klinger with her. Now 60 percent of her business is male, ranging in age from 9 to 80; that's the way she wants to keep it. "Men are great listeners," explains Schorr, who lives alone in Manhattan. "If you prove to them that you are right, they trust you." So far she has managed to convince them they need moisturizers, cocoa butter and eye creams. What next? "Lip gloss and mascara," she predicts. "In 10 years 50 percent of the men will be wearing makeup—and I'll be there to save their skins."

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