He clarifies their complexions, zaps their zits and makes their faces look flawless. So, in return, Hollywood’s gods and goddesses have heaped gifts of gratitude on Ole (pronounced OOO-la) Henriksen. David Bowie serenaded him, Christy Turlington invited him to a Paris fashion show, and Billy Zane gave him a silver bracelet. But it’s not trips or trinkets that Henriksen refers to when he says he is a man blessed. “I found my vocation and fell in love with it,” he says. “I developed a fascination with being able to help people look their best.”
His devotion is more than skin-deep. “Ole’s idea of beauty is very internal,” says actress Alfre Woodard, a client for 20 years. “He invites you into his sanctuary, and you leave replenished.” That sanctuary is his 4,000-square-foot Ole Henriksen Face/Body salon in West Hollywood. There the Peter Pan-ish Henriksen, 47, with his sky-blue eyes and (yep) great skin, dispenses his line of 25 potions, including Aloe Vera Deep Cleanser ($16), Botanical Custom Blended Mask ($25) and Lavender Crème moisturizer ($35), in between appointments for $150 facials and enzyme peels. They’re all part of his bare-bones philosophy. “I’ve always maintained that less is more,” he says. “If you scrub, peel and lubricate the skin endlessly, you wear it out.” The secret, he explains, is knowing your skin type, then “consistently using a gentle cleanser, a toner for an invigorating effect on circulation and hydrating with a good moisturizer.”
Henriksen didn’t always have a handle on healthy skin. As a child in Nibe, Denmark, the eldest of three sons of Anny, 66, a housekeeper, and Henrik, 72, a manager of an iron factory, both now retired, Henriksen believed in tanning not toning. “After those long, gloomy Danish winters,” he says, “all you wanted to do was burn your skin. To this day, when I’m home, the first thing my mother says is, ‘You look so sickly.’ ”
At 18, Henriksen moved to Copenhagen, where he studied to be a social worker. But love altered his plans when the openly gay Henriksen fell for New York City scriptwriter Harvey Weitzman, who invited him to the U.S. The following year they moved to Jakarta, Indonesia, where Weitzman had business. “I met the most fascinating people there,” recalls Henriksen. “Jet-setting millionaires and their mistresses, that was our crowd.” He paid for the partying through his pores. “I developed cystic acne,” he says. “I was drinking like a fish, eating anything in front of me and tanning myself to hide a multitude of sins.” Treatments with local herbs and plants cured him—and changed his life. “It was as if a light went on,” he says.
Henriksen studied cosmetology in London, then landed a job at a San Francisco salon. But when he and Weitzman moved to L.A. in 1974, Henriksen says he “couldn’t find work as an aesthetician, [because] it was considered a profession for women.” Instead he opened his own shop in Beverly Hills. Six months later a skeptical Los Angeles Times editor said she’d write about him if he cured her assistant’s acne. He did. “After that,” he says, “the phones rang off the hook.”
They haven’t stopped. To get a break, Henriksen retreats to the art-filled West Hollywood condo he shares with hairstylist Laurence Roberts, 39, whom he met in 1984 after splitting with Weitzman. To stay in shape, Henriksen works out with a personal trainer, guzzles mineral water and limits himself to one glass of wine a week. And if you catch him preening in front of a mirror, it’s all in the line of duty. “I’m always testing different creams on my face,” he says. “I feel it’s my responsibility to set a good example.”
Steven Cojocaru in Los Angeles