By Gina Way
I’ve been an Upper West Sider for 20-something years, and LING Spa (as well as LING skin care products) have been part of my life for that entire time. I should tell you that I’m also a longtime beauty writer and a skincare obsessive. I’ve been using LING’s Dual Moisture Emulsion (https://www.lingskincare.com/) twice a day for more than two decades! When I was a beauty editor, I wrote frequently about Ling Chan, a famous celebrity facialist whose clients included Naomi Campbell, Mariah Carey, and Madonna. Ling was the skin care guru to the stars, so I interviewed her a lot. And I was lucky enough to become her friend.
A couple weeks ago, I popped into the Spa (located at 105 West 77th Street, tucked away just a few blocks from the Museum of Natural History) to stock up on my favorite product, and learned that Ling had died after a long illness. (Her family wishes to keep the details of her passing private.) Of course, I was stunned and saddened by the news. But then I started thinking about what an incredible life she led, and the extraordinary family-run business she built after immigrating to the US at the age of 21. Hers is an extraordinary American success story.
Ling was born and raised in Hong Kong. She and her husband, Jimmy Chan came to America in 1975, and Ling got a job as an assistant to an esthetician. Skin care was her lifelong passion since struggling with acne as a teenager, and her mission was to help other people to improve their complexions in order to feel more confident. She became a licensed esthetician, and a very successful one in New York City. One of her clients, a cosmetic chemist, encouraged her to develop her own beauty line, and she launched LING Skincare in 1985.
At that time, it was a game-changer. Ling was a natural skin care pioneer, formulating products (without known irritants like mineral oil or artificial fragrances) that integrated state-of-the-art skin care ingredients with traditional Chinese ones, such as ginseng root. She opened the first LING Spa in 1984 in Midtown, and the Upper West Side location in 1996. Today, LING Facials are done by estheticians at spas all over the world, from London to South Africa.
I’ve always been impressed by Ling’s vast knowledge of not only skin care, but holistic wellness and self-care (long before these were trendy). Ling was a practicing Buddhist, and I loved hearing about her annual travels to India. I think her Buddhist faith was part of her strength, calmness, and empathy—and that compassion was something she taught to her estheticians. The company is still family run: Jimmy retired as the CFO, but her sons Patrick and Edward head the spa and product divisions of the business.
“We were fortunate that Ling got to meet all her grandchildren,” says her son, Edward Chan, “and to fulfill her true passion, which was to help others. Her ultimate goal in life was to pass on her knowledge of skin care, and to help other estheticians find success. To her, being a successful esthetician encompassed a mastery of compassion and mental motivation. Her life lives on in all the clients’ faces and hearts that she touched, and the thousands of estheticians she has trained. Her spirit certainly lives on at the LING Spa on 77th Street, where you can get the best facial in NYC. Ling’s was a life well lived, indeed. I think of her every time I apply my Dual Moisture Emulsion, morning and night like clockwork. It is my own little act of daily self-care and skin care. Thank you, Ling.