Inge Theron, 43, is a self-proclaimed “spa junkie” — and rightfully so. The London-based mom of two visited 57 spas, sweated through 32 different fitness classes, tried 25 anti-aging treatments, and experimented with more than 15 detoxes within five years while working as a columnist for The Financial Times®. It’s fair to say, she’s definitely earned her title.
Theron’s beat eventually led her to found FaceGym®, a face workout (not a facial) that lifts, sculpts, tones, and tightens the face. The trainer facilitated exercise — available at 11 studios in London, Manchester, New York City, and Los Angeles — targets 40 facial muscles using non-invasive signature muscle manipulation techniques. As a result, blood circulation, collagen production, and cell renewal are stimulated. (Not to mention, it feels fantastic, too.)
Despite Theron’s thorough, first-hand knowledge of products, classes, treatments, wellness fixes, and spa offerings, her idea for FaceGym wasn’t inspired by a conglomeration of experiences. Surprisingly, her company came out of a treatment gone awry. Read on to find out what this writer-turned-entrepreneur does when she isn’t working, all of the treatments she’s tried without regret, and what her kids have taught her about beauty.
Spotlyte: What sparked the idea for FaceGym?
Inge Theron: After a series of incidents trying a lot of new treatments, it was a botched thread lift that left me housebound, which was the final straw. That kickstarted me to change my approach to aging, and I booked a one-way ticket to Mexico to work with a shaman.
Spotlyte: What did you do together?
IT: The shaman and his expert team of generational Inca healers worked on my mind through therapy and my face through massage. Hours of face massage every week for a couple of months together with muscle manipulation, detox, mediation, and yoga, they helped me heal and look and feel the best I had in years.
I knew I had to distill this protocol and approach and bring it to the world. There was a huge gap between facials that focus on skin and doctors that offer transformation; nobody was working on the muscles in the face. Once I had the idea, it did not take long (roughly five months) to develop the signature protocol of FaceGym. I worked with industry experts in skin, personal trainers, and a handful of Inca healers who had learned an age-old massage technique.
Spotlyte: You were trying so many treatments because it was your job. Take us back. How did your writing career begin?
IT: I was writing about “wellness” when people still thought it was a term that referred to granola-eating hippies chanting kumbaya. The opportunity arose by chance, around the time of the  financial crisis.
My previous business had gone belly-up, and as such, I had embarked on a one-way journey around the world with my first stop in India to learn how to meditate. That is when I got the call that cinched me the best gig in the world: spa and wellness columnist for the Financial Times, “How to Spend It”® a.k.a. Spa Junkie.
Spotlyte: What inspired the column?
IT: The editor was intrigued by the idea of me walking away from corporate life and going on a huge journey of self-discovery. As we discussed more, she decided I should go undercover, as the spa and wellness industry was so unregulated. She said, “I want you to find out what is going on.” I literally couldn’t write a shopping list back then, but she mentored me, and for the next few years I would go on to review a ton of medspas, treatments, and retreats around the world, and uncover the good, the bad, and the ugly underbelly of the wellness industry.
Spotlyte: You visited 57 spas during your Financial Times stint. What was the most unique experience you had on assignment?
IT: I am actually still writing for the magazine, and recently went to Japan to learn more about Wabi Sabi, the art of nothingness. It was a wonderful experience journeying through thousands of temples, and learning Zen Buddhist meditation, where they actually beat you with a stick to keep you focused.
I also had a really crazy experience called Kosoyoku where I was buried chin-deep in a bath of super hot enzyme-powdered sand that smelt like manure on a really hot day. I was left to simmer for 30 minutes as part of a detox.
Another unique experience was Otonamaki, which translates as “adult wrapping.” It’s basically a spiritual bondage! It is a new underground meditation practice of “rebirthing” that claims to alleviate problems related to posture, stiffness, and insomnia. I was fully wrapped in a fetal position, into a cocoon with cloth so tight I could barely breathe for 45 minutes, whilst being rocked and sung to. It was pretty bonkers. I did sleep better that night, but I’m not exactly rushing back for it!
I would, however, go back to Aman Kyoto℠, which recently opened their amazing Onsen Spa℠ with fabulous gold facials! [Other go-tos are] still Henri Chenot℠, the Viva Mayr℠, and Chiva-Som®.
Spotlyte: When you’re at home or traveling, what products are in your beauty bag?
IT: I do not leave home without my FaceGym Signature Training Serum, the FaceGym Pure Lift Face device, and FaceGym Training Sticks that combat free radical damage when you exercise. I am also currently on my fourth bottle of Augustinus BaderTM The Rich CreamTM, which is honestly amazing for those with more mature dry skin who travel as much as I do.
I have been using SK-II® Essence for years. I swear by Obagi® Clinical Vitamin C+ Arbutin Brightening Serum. I am currently loving NourishMaxTM Hyaluronic Serum, and believe in Heliocare® for reliable SPF, which is always an absolute must before leaving the house.
Spotlyte: What is your morning skincare routine?
IT: I’m constantly testing our new formulations in skincare, but I start each morning with a quick cleanse and follow with my FaceGym Training Serum to use as a base for a few minutes of knuckling, kneading, and pinching to fully activate the serum, followed by Heliocare SPF 50. I rarely wear makeup aside from a subtle BB cream and mascara.
Spotlyte: How does your evening skincare routine differ?
IT: At night, I spend a bit more time and incorporate our Gua Sha Stone for lymphatic drainage, and top it off with Allies of Skin® Bright FutureTM Overnight Facial.
Editor’s note If you take blood thinners, talk to your doctor before doing lymphatic massage.
Spotlyte: What is your stance on anti-aging?
IT: I do not like to use the term anti-aging. Aging is something we should embrace and consider ourselves lucky to experience. I do, however, believe in doing what makes you feel your best and boost your confidence, both inside and out.
For us, a priority has always been making you feel and look like the best version of yourself. Now it sounds familiar, but five years ago it was very much about fear mongering — making people feel self-conscious about their looks to support the beauty business top-line. Today, I think it’s constantly changing, and I am proud to be part of the conversation to evolve the approach of how we think about aging and talking about it in a negative connotation.
Spotlyte: What laser treatments have you tried?
IT: I am a huge lover of lasers, lights, and currents. I have tried it all: Fraxel®, IPL, HIFU® (high-intensity focused ultrasound). I love Alma® Q [laser] rejuvenation for under the eyes. I live for Radio Frequency at FaceGym, which I do every 10 days and swear it has changed my face. There is nothing as effective for skin tightening with no downtime.
Spotlyte: Which in-office treatments do you feel have made the biggest difference?
IT: VASER® Laser Lipo was the most impactful 30-minute treatment I have ever tried. I went from a lifetime of trying to firm my belly region to a six-pack. The former has never come back!
Spotlyte: What is your stance on injectables?
IT: I am not opposed to them at all. I do believe there are amazing doctors that are truly artists with injectables.
I do, however, have an issue with young girls and boys starting the habit of injecting as early as 18. I want to educate the younger consumer to adopt [another] approach.
As always, talk to your doctor before starting any new treatment or supplement.
Spotlyte: Have you tried injectable wrinkle reducers?
IT: Yes. I have tried it all and been back for seconds! I started with injectable wrinkle reducers in my forehead.
Editor’s note Injectable wrinkle reducers are used to temporarily smooth the look of moderate to severe wrinkles in certain areas of the face such as the forehead, frown lines, and crow’s feet. They should not be used more frequently than every three months. Like any medical treatment, they have potential risks and side effects. Be sure to talk to a licensed provider to see if they’re right for you. Have more questions? Chat with our team of trained aesthetics specialists now.
Spotlyte: How often do you get FaceGym treatments, and do you have a favorite?
IT: I do my best to get in every 10 days for Gotta Have It AllTM. I always do a deep clean with SKIN IV®, then Radio Frequency, followed by massage, and then end with Cryo OxygenTM.
Keeping up with that routine can be hard with how much I travel, so I make sure I never leave home without my Gold Derma Roller, Beauty RestorerTM Gua Sha, and Face Ball.
For post-flight lymphatic drainage, the Gua Sha is amazing. When I go into the studio, I get the Signature ElectricalTM as a base with Radio Frequency, Skin IV, and Cryo Oxygen added on! I feel brand new once I am done.
Spotlyte: Do you get facials outside of FaceGym?
IT: When I was in Los Angeles last year, I had the pleasure of going to the new Shani Dardensm clinic where I tried the azulene mask to calm and soothe, followed by a mask which pumped oxygen into my skin. I was very impressed with the results.
Spotlyte: What’s the most unique exercise class you’ve tried?
IT: I was introduced to Forward Space℠ while in the Hamptons last summer. I’m hooked! Their ethos of creating an inclusive, immersive space where you can lose yourself in the music and sweat out the stresses of the day is so invigorating.
If I’m in the mood for something deeper, I turn to Humming Puppy Yoga℠ classes. I love Heartcore® pilates in London.
Spotlyte: What is your go-to fitness class or routine at the moment?
IT: We have a yoga studio in the office, and I am currently working with a private teacher, Tom, on fixing my flow, which over the years of going to classes has had some bad habits creep in. I am actually back to yoga basics, despite doing the practice for 14 years!
I love Bodyism® in London. Their Notting Hill studio is around the block from our Notting Hill studio and close to home.
When I’m in New York or LA, SoulCycle® is my go-to. I’m so happy they have now opened in London. With two kids under 4, it’s tough to stay consistent, but I aim for at least two workouts a week!
Spotlyte: When you aren’t working or working out, what do you enjoy doing for fun?
IT: When I am not working, I am planning kids’ parties, teaching kids baking class, or building Legos®, which is my family’s new obsession. I find it so meditative. Who knew Legos were actually better — and cheaper — than Muse®, the brain-sensing headband?
I listen to Italian music, and I like educating myself on the great red wines from around the world. As a perfectionist, I am very thorough with my research; I drink through continents and don’t move on to the next until I can recite the top wines from each region in each country. Obviously, this arduous education is done whilst cooking, which, again, is always Italian. I have every single one of The River Café® London cookbooks and try a couple of recipes a week.
If I’m traveling, I will always choose a hotel with an interesting spa or fitness angle. I always book a personal trainer to take me running on the first couple of days to really get to know the city.
Spotlyte: You mentioned your two kids. What have they taught you about beauty?
IT: That we are all born with great skin. Their skin has inspired me to really research the root cause of aging skin, and find [potential] solutions to activate your natural rejuvenation ability.
Spotlyte: Throughout your career — and life — who has been your biggest cheerleader?
IT: My husband is my biggest cheerleader and inspiration. We have been together over 10 years. He’s been there through the highs and lows of FaceGym, and is a constant source of support.
He balances me. I’m super creative and a big ideas person who wants to do it all and have it done yesterday. He has helped mold me into the founder I am becoming proud to be. He has taught me to focus and prioritize, be strong and passionate, but not overly emotional, and to have courage to make hard decisions.
Spotlyte: What's the best piece of career advice you have received?
IT: I have a really amazing board of individuals that help steer me. The best advice recently was, “Don’t waste time on perfection. If the product is great, go get it to market.” If given the chance, I will edit and edit to no end, very often wasting energy on microscopic design tweaks that really don’t matter in the big picture.
Spotlyte: What advice do you have for people looking to break into the beauty industry?
IT: Do not give up, no matter what. There will constantly be people who do not believe in your vision, but use the doubt as fuel to succeed. When you come up with something authentically better and truly different, there are very often no benchmarks, so it can be really lonely out there.
Just when you think you have come out the other side, someone will take your vision and shortcut their way in, and start snapping at your heels, but never look back over your shoulder. Just feel their competitive breath behind your ears, and keep pushing boundaries and innovating. If you are continuously, authentically improving and growing your brand or mission, they will never be able to catch you.
Spotlyte: Do you have a mantra?
IT: “Work hard. Be nice.” The world needs more of it.
Learn about more inspiring women:
- Maneet Chauhan of “Chopped” Shares the DIY Beauty Tips She Learned Growing Up in India
- How Dara Levy’s In-Shower “A-Ha Moment” Resulted In a Glowing Skin Empire
- The Editor-In-Chief of InStyle Loves German Skincare
Allergan® may receive commissions for purchases made through links in this article.