Rationale made history last year when it became the first Australian luxury skincare brand to gain a permanent place in David Jones’s grand CBD beauty hall. In April the department store completed its Elizabeth Street flagship following a $400 million facelift, and the cult beauty brand was included in the line-up.

It’s the Melbourne-based company’s fifth Sydney store (in addition to Balmain, Mosman, Rosebery and Woollahra). Broadsheet visited in March, a few days before the state went into lockdown, but the store has now reopened. The aesthetic is sophisticated research lab, with numbered dropper bottles and tubs displayed on angular white counters. In addition to the retail operation, there’s a dedicated treatment room with futuristic-looking equipment – such as photo-imaging machines and LED therapy lights – for consultations and facials.

The David Jones store is just the latest move in Rationale’s expansion into retail sales – a few years ago the brand was primarily sold in dermatologists’ offices, but now it’s sold directly to customers in 15 stores across Australia, through dozens of medical and skincare clinics, and online.

For Richard Parker, who founded the business in 1992, he’s sure the David Jones store is something his grandmother would have loved.

“My grandmother Mavis Churchin worked in the ladies fashion department of David Jones, and I loved visiting and having lunch with her at the restaurant on the seventh floor,” he tells Broadsheet. “It was the most glamorous thing in the world. When she was very old, my grandmother told me that her aunt, Ada Elizabeth Johnston, launched a beauty range in David Jones in the 1920s called Rose Marie. ‘Beauty is in your blood’, she declared.”

Rationale is doing its bit to keep that glamorous reputation intact. Staff members wear floaty black outfits as they attend to your skin concerns in front of illuminated geometric mirrors. They’re all well-versed in Rationale’s origin story: a young man (Parker) studies formulation science to try and tackle his own acne and sun damage, and the result is Rationale, a line of products that are said to mimic the skin’s natural processes.

They’re also well-trained in the brand’s six signature product lines, which – when used in the correct order at the prescribed dosages – help tackle everything from acne to oily skin.

If you’ve booked in a treatment you’ll be whisked into a low-lit, windowless room for a chat with a consultant. They’ll talk you through your skincare concerns and what you hope to achieve, and ask a series of questions about your lifestyle and beauty habits, such as alcohol consumption, your current skincare regimen and family history.

Next, depending on what treatment you’re getting, you might receive a manual skin scan, in which the consultant uses their fingertips to get a feel for what’s going on with your skin (for example, whether your nose has good oil flow or your forehead is dehydrated). Afterwards, a skin-imaging machine will take close-up photos of your face, showing any sun damage, pigmentation or inflammation not visible to the naked eye.

While the start of the service feels a bit more results-driven than your average facial, the latter half is all relaxation. An LED light is used to strengthen and brighten the skin, working in tandem with a facial that targets pressure points to both ease stress and boost radiance.

At the end, you’ll receive a “prescription” for tackling your specific concerns. If you get all the products recommended there’s a good chance you’ll spend upwards of $1000 for a set of serums, creams and cleansers. That might be too steep for many people, but the brand has many dedicated fans who say it results in glowy, clear skin.

Rationale David Jones Elizabeth Street
Ground Floor, 86–108 Castlereagh Street, Sydney
(02) 9261 2293