It is a Saturday morning in 1980 and my mother and I are in the car making the 30-minute drive to Le Nouveau Moi, a full-service day spa. It was a drive I was quite familiar with as we made it often. As we rounded the corner into the parking lot, we filed out of the car and up to the front door.
Once my mother unlocked the door and turned on the lights, I would take my position in the back with the laundry and begin rolling elastic bandages. I was only 11 years old and, at the time, I did not fully appreciate what it took for my mom to reach this point or how many people she would not only impact that day in her practice, but also well into the future. Her nurturing hands and deeply genuine, caring approach would leave people feeling better, more confident, and empowered.
Looking back on those early days at Le Nouveau Moi, when I was paid a penny for each bandage I rolled, I never imagined that my mother, Rhonda Allison, and I would be where we are today. “In 1979, when I nervously stood in line to take my state exam to become a facial specialist, I never in my wildest imagination could have foreseen what was in store for me or the journey I would have,” said Rhonda Allison, founder and CEO of Rhonda Allison Cosmeceuticals. “My growth in wisdom, understanding, practicing compassionate business, and flourishing within this industry has been a beautiful gift for which I have abundant appreciation.”
THE MAKING OF A SILENT LEGEND
Le Nouveau Moi, which offered skin care and body care, such as body wraps and massages, was always very busy. Still, despite the bustle, I always remember it having a calm and soothing atmosphere.
It was evident that my mother had found her passion – everyone felt it. I remember clients always telling me how much they loved her as they would leave. Now, I hear that from skin care professionals from all over the world. “Le Nouveau Moi was a beautiful location in the heart of North Dallas,” Allison said. “It holds a special place in my heart, because that’s where it all began. It’s really where I was inspired to delve deeper into skin care and understand more how ingredients impact skin.”
Rhonda’s interest in skin care actually developed at a very early age and escalated quickly. “As a teenager, I used to whip up homecare concoctions like avocado and egg white masks,” she said. “In my early 20s, I began working with Mary Kay Cosmetics, a strong women’s business that taught me the importance of a skin regimen. This deepened my interest and motivated me to gain a more in-depth understanding of skin in order to remedy specific skin issues.”
Following the opening of her spa, my mother started to focus more on the skin, both observing and learning how it responded to different ingredients, what impacted its health, and what stimulated real change.
In 1990, however, one of life’s unexpected moments intervened. Faced with the decision to end her marriage, coupled with unforeseen financial obligations, Allison filed for chapter 13 bankruptcy and began two jobs in the skin care industry: one at a full-service salon and another at a resort spa, making just over $7 an hour.
She moved from our family home to a small apartment and committed herself to moving past the situation. As she was starting over, at age 41, working the two jobs afforded her the income she wanted to change her life and rise above the circumstances.
Watching her overcome that situation taught me to never give up; dreams must be guarded and kept in sight. We never know the exact path and potential experiences that will come our way as they are pursued and, sometimes, there are seasons where it is the pursuit of the dream that gives us the strength to keep moving forward. Being able to fulfill our dreams is often right around the corner, but more often than not, we give up just a few steps before the breakthrough occurs. Allison did not do that.
Within a year and a half, she was able to move into her own small practice again, which quickly grew. This time, however, it was not just the business that expanded, but my mother herself. It was from this place that Rhonda Allison Skin Therapies was born. Her private clinic, which offered advanced skin care and chemical peels, kick-started her legacy.
She set her sights high and not only wanted to be a true skin care professional that created support in abundance for herself and her family, but also to make a notable difference on the skin. For her, it was not okay to use just anything – ingredients and change were the key focuses that led her to cosmeceuticals and developing healthy, science-based formulas.
DRAWING ON THE PAST TO CHANGE THE FUTURE
My mother always took an active role in her pursuit of excellence in the skin care industry. In the early 1980s, she met Dr. James Fulton, the prominent dermatologist and researcher who co-invented Retin-A, and began listening to his medical lectures. He introduced her to the Jessner’s solution, which was invented by Dr. Max Jessner. As she learned about the solution, its nuances, and how it impacted the skin, she began to modify it for use in aesthetics and her treatment room. The results were amazing. She felt she had unearthed something that could greatly impact the world of aesthetics. “Dr. Fulton was one of our industry’s finest leaders and educators,” Allison said. “He greatly impacted my career. I am forever grateful for his kindness and willingness to share.”
Very early on, she began working with scientists and formulators to create more corrective solutions. As she journeyed deeper into her quest to learn about skin inside and out, she spent some time at Scott and White Hospital and gleaned valuable information from Dr. Charles Verheyden, who was the head of the plastic surgery division. She also immersed herself in the writings and teachings of prominent physicians, such as Dr. Mark G. Rubin and Dr. Harold Brody. It was through her experience in working with the skin, however, that proved key to her deep understanding of the impact and changes that could be made. She quickly learned that the hands-on approach is what really takes ability and skill to the next level and, eventually, to mastery. “Having been in the business of skin care development and manufacturing for 25 years, I’ve had the pleasure of knowing and working with a number of early founders of top professional skin care brands in the United States – not the least of which is Rhonda Allison,” said Linda Walker, author of “The Skin Care Ingredient Handbook” and a cosmeceutical innovator. “These founders were an elite group of original adopters of cosmeceutical skin care in the 1990s – long before anyone else. Rhonda has built one of the most innovative, ingredient-savvy, results-driven brands in the professional skin care industry.”
EDUCATING THROUGH EXPERIENCE
Taking what she has learned over time, my mom turned her focus toward empowering other professionals in the industry. It started with a small group of skin care professionals in Dallas, Texas that were wanting to learn about skin peels and, from the very first class, a video was created teaching step-by-step, hands-on skin peels. This was truly a first for the aesthetics industry, outside of the medical arena.
None of us had any idea how impactful that treatment would become. It is really where her influence in this industry began. She soon became known as the “Queen of Peels,” and was asked to speak at various general sessions and participate in panel discussions throughout the country in the 1990s.
During that time, she also released her book, “Cooking with Acids.” This book was an avant-garde recipe book of sorts that provided an in-depth look at the skin, the various challenges that impact it, and how acids and various modalities could be used to safely and effectively correct and bring about change to the skin. At the time, it listed more than 25 peel protocols. Still widely used today, the information holds true; only the name of the book has been changed: “The Art of Skin Peels.” “What is particularly special about Rhonda is her relentless commitment to education over the years,” Walker said. “Most brands provide education, but with Rhonda, there has always been an additional desire to foster the business success of her clients for their own welfare, not just her own. The unique methods she developed early on are what has made her brand a success and why she’s still so highly respected in the industry.”
In the early 1990s, Allison supported the American Aestheticians Education Association (AAEA) as director of education. This association was headed by Bonnie Day, who had a strong interest in furthering education for skin care professionals. This pivotal time cemented my mother’s desire for teaching even more.
Her love for empowering and educating others has become such an integral part of her journey. For decades we have held trainings and symposiums all around the country. Two years ago, she opened the RA Education Center in Colorado with the goal of helping support skin care professionals in growing their practices and motivating them to set their sights high.
“Rhonda’s impact on me has spanned longer than my career with her, which has been more than 15 years”, said Louisa Alten, colleague and television host. “I say that because she influenced me before I even knew her. I would hear about her wherever I went when working for another industry company. She has had such an impact on aesthetics and was a pioneer in bringing advanced work and peels to this industry. Rhonda stands out foremost for her contributions in education, she raised the bar and has inspired me to continually grow and learn more in my field. Rhonda has pushed the envelope and contributed a body of work on enzymes that spans over 100 protocols. I see her as a creative genius, visionary, and mentor.”
BUILDING FOR A BETTER TOMORROW
Looking back, my mother never reveled in praise. She was more focused on supporting others and continually deepening her knowledge of the skin and ingredients. She could have easily slipped into contentment with the work she did with acids, but, instead, she has continued to innovate and introduce advancements in ingredients, such as growth factors, encapsulated retinaldehyde, and couture peel ingredients, like flower acids.
She instills in her team a consciousness of the environment and the importance of making natural choices whenever possible and taking an active role in bringing in Earth-friendly, recyclable materials and supplies when available. She believes that the workspace is a reflection of who we are. One of her favorite sayings is: “A clean car drives better than a dirty car.” It is a mentality that has carried into every aspect of her life and has inspired the lives of the Rhonda Allison team and the day-to-day work experience.
In an effort to carry on the clean, environment-friendly focus, my mother was one of the very early adopters in aesthetics to use webcast technology as an education tool for clients. This technology eliminated the need for travel and reduced the impact on the environment. One year, she held a webinar each week for 50 weeks, enabling clients that were impacted by the economy to participate in advanced education, while also providing an Earth-friendly alternative. From there, she realized how invaluable web tools are for clients. Rhonda Allison Cosmeceuticals has continued to make this practice a standard part of its education. “At a time when I was working and not seeing the success I had hoped, Rhonda said to me, ‘If you love what you do, the money will come.’” said Mary Van, colleague and founder and CEO of Mineralogie. “This always stuck with me and how right she was. Rhonda has influenced me in skin care, physical health, and business.”
My mother has long followed the belief that people are the most important ingredient in any business. In fact, another one of her infamous phrases is: “No one is better than or less than.” This saying has become a core value in the business and, as such, we all value the relationships that form when everyone is loved and respected.
Not every girl can call their mother their role model. I am fortunate to have a mom who is mine and one to many others. In my eyes, she is a silent legend because of her humility and focus. Celebrity and awards are certainly amazing, but that spotlight has never been the focus of her intention.