As a young girl growing up in Atlanta, Georgia, I loved watching my mother dress up for church in coordinated outfits complete with perfectly set hair and natural makeup. I remember going to Rich’s Department Store where my mom would have her foundation custom blended from colorful green, yellow, blue, and pink powder dispensing tubes. Little did I know then that these impressions would lead to my vocation in aesthetics.
AN EARLY CURIOSITY
Around age 12, my parents were going through a divorce. The combined stress of their breakup and my changing hormones erupted in my first acne breakout. In the late ‘50s, there were very few products available for acne – only Noxema, Clearasil, and Noxema-infused Covergirl makeup, to be exact.
All through my high school years, I would pack Clearasil on my pimples and use Cover Girl makeup packed on top of that. Looking back, this mission I have been on for so long, helping people with their skin, was born from that real self-conscious feeling of having to face people with pimples all over my face. During a bad breakout right before prom, my mom took me to see a dermatologist who prescribed a sun lamp to dry the pustules. Unfortunately, that only made the breakout and my low self-esteem worse. I developed a voracious curiosity about the condition of my skin and experimented with home remedies like egg white masks, salt, and baking soda scrubs, always trying but never curing the acne.
A WOMAN OF MODERN TIMES
After high school, I considered myself a woman of modern times and moved from the conservative south to sunny California. The 1970s were a decade of great political, economic, and social change worldwide and the beginning of the women’s liberation movement.
I was awakened to changes in women’s fashion and attitudes about wearing color cosmetics. In those days, wearing makeup at all was considered unthinkable by some women of this new culture. There was also growing concern from public safety groups about the way cosmetic ingredients were being manufactured and tested. Microbial contamination was linked to cosmetic acne, along with health risks that were associated with metal in lip colors and coal tar in mascara. In response, manufacturing laboratories introduced quality control standards, with no animal testing, no harmful artificial dyes, and safe cosmetic preservatives.
On one of my phone calls home, my mom told me about a new store that had opened in Lenox Square Mall called iNatural Cosmetics. She loved the products and sent me a care package hoping to help me with my skin. I, too, fell in love with the products and, being a southern belle with a blind ambition, I wrote a letter to the president of the company, Louis Muller, with an inquiry about the possibility of opening a franchise in Santa Cruz, California. Mrs. Muller and her vice president of sales flew from New York to meet with me and approved my location in the Cooper House, the old county courthouse built in 1894 that had been converted into shops and restaurants by developer Max Walden.
This was a time when it was difficult for a woman to even get a credit card on her own (fortunately, things changed after the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, which guaranteed that right in 1974). But, if it were not for Max Walden and my mother believing in me, I would not have been able to secure the $7,000 business loan needed to purchase the products and build out the shop.
I launched the first iNatural Cosmetics franchise in California in 1974. Kim Rizzo, the iNatural educator, came to California from New York to train me on all the products and cosmetics. Soon, I was sharing the benefits of Cucumber Cleanser, Honey Nut Scrub, Milky Toner, and Strawberry Frappe Moisturizer, as well as teaching women how to apply natural color cosmetics in my shop.
This natural makeup and skin care products trend was to be a dream come true. I must credit my mother for raising me and my sister as a single working woman. She taught me a lot about the value of being financially independent and the importance of having a strong work ethic. She would always say 90% of success is getting up, suiting up, and showing up – advice I now give to aspiring “esty-preneurs.”
I knew I had found my calling as a beauty therapist before aesthetician licensing was even available. In my early twenties, I had never heard the word entrepreneur and I did not realize that only 4% of women in the United States owned their own business.
A EUROPEAN EDUCATION
As the ‘70s era came to an end, there was an influx of European beauty therapists coming to the United States, introducing French, Swiss, and German product brands to American women. On a visit home to Atlanta, I heard about this growing demand for European beauty services. I instantly wanted to return home to be closer to my mom and to become part of the professional skin care services trade. I sold my iNatural Cosmetic Shop and left Santa Cruz to get in on the ground floor of the aesthetics explosion happening on the east coast.
I was hired by Judith Sans International, a prestigious full-service skin care center newly launched in Atlanta. Judith Sans, a Hungarian CIDESCO diplomat, partnered with Sydell and Arthur Harris to create product manufacturing and a chain of facial and body care service centers. My business experience with iNatural Cosmetics fit right into helping them grow the company. I quickly rose within the organization to be a top sales person and trainer. Learning the art of European facial techniques from these passionate health and wellness beauty experts fueled my love for this emerging field.
In 1982, Sydell and Arthur Harris noticed a new trend within the industry forming and they would ultimately part ways with Judith Sans International to become the forerunners in the day spa boom of the ‘80s and ‘90s. They launched their own concept, which would become known as Spa Sydell, one of the first full-service day spas in the country. Arthur and Sydell mentored different aspects of my career during my time as manager of their Buckhead location.
LOBBYING FOR LICENSURE
1982 was also the year that the Georgia Cosmetology Board introduced licensing for aestheticians. For beauty providers that had been working in the field for over five years, a one-time grandfather license was offered. I became one of the first licensed aestheticians in the United States. In 1985, I was licensed by the Georgia State Board of Cosmetology as a master aesthetician, accrediting me to train other aesthetic professionals.
When cosmetology boards across the country were considering the deregulation of beauty industry professionals in the early ‘90s, I was one of a small group of aestheticians that testified before the state legislature. We not only helped to secure our licensure, but we also lobbied to increase the number of required hours from 750 to 1,000 in support of a higher level of education for the state.
A PARAMEDICAL VENTURE
It was around this time that I read an article about paramedical skin care in DERMASCOPE Magazine, and a spark ignited in me that this could be a new direction for me to expand and grow into. Hard as it was to leave my position with Spa Sydell, I once again received great support from my family and ventured out to launch Personal Aesthetics. This center was designed as a skin care clinic, rather than a day spa. My clinic included a retail store front of four European skin care brands, along with paramedical aesthetic treatments. My target market was dermatologists and plastic surgeons.
By 1992, I had established a network of thirteen plastic surgeons and dermatologists that referred their patients to my clinic for pre-operative peels, post-operative manual lymphatic drainage, medical camouflage makeup, and acne extractions. I also established three on-site treatment clinics inside cosmetic surgery centers. I loved working with physicians and the many challenging cases they referred to me, such as vitiligo, birthmarks, pigment disorders, scleroderma, acne, cancer patients, trauma, and facial reconstructive cases, as well as cosmetic elective surgery patients.
My client list quickly grew to include the “who’s who” of Atlanta society and local celebrities referred from esteemed physicians. To my delight, their patient referrals converted to become regular clients of the skin care center.
Through my physician affiliations, I was able to gain access to dermatology and plastic surgery conferences, where I learned about leading-edge products, devices, and procedures. I also spent countless hours and hundreds of dollars at the medical bookstore at Emory University educating myself on skin disorders and their remedies.
I attended a dermatology conference lecture in 1994 where I learned about the benefits of glycolic acid. I decided to try this new compound for myself and started using a glycolic acid cleanser and gel twice daily. The results were miraculous – my acne cleared up in a matter of three weeks after 37 years of suffering.
The intersection of beauty and science propelled me to create a line of glycolic acid skin care products under the brand name DERMess Skincare. When my staff of aestheticians and I began product protocol testing on very willing clients at the clinic, the results we were achieving were once again miraculous. We tested these protocols on acne, aging, discolored, and even sensitive skin types. I saw how skin changing the product formulations were for my clients.
I began to receive quite a bit of media attention when I contributed a chapter on the benefits of glycolic acid peels in Dr. Harold Brody’s book, “Chemical Peeling and Rejuvenation.” Dr. Brody is a well-known Atlanta cosmetic dermatologist and the author of two textbooks on chemical peeling and resurfacing. At the time, he was also a clinical professor of dermatology at Emory University Medical School.
Beauty editors from major consumer magazines, television talk show hosts, and professional trade journals were requesting interviews and articles from me, due to my expertise with the latest trend of glycolic lunch time peels, known as celebrity-style skin rejuvenation.
Before there were pharmaceutical companies in the skin care game, DERMess was one of the few glycolic acid lines being distributed through physicians’ offices. I recognized a great need for advanced education on peel application and patient care for both the medical and aesthetic communities.
DOCUMENTING THE EXPERTISE
For months, I documented all my medical aesthetic experience and business knowledge into one comprehensive program I called “The 5 Day Medi-Clinical Aesthetics Certification Course.” This course launched the Institut’ DERMed College of Advanced Aesthetics Training Center in 1995. I continue to personally teach the “5 Day” four times a year.
From the process of creating numerous lectures and courses, I discovered I like to research and write about my favorite subjects – treatments for skin conditions, cosmeceutical ingredients, and the business of beauty. Turns out, I have a lot to say. I have authored two books, “Your Guide to Beautiful Skin at Any Age” and “The Ultimate Secrets to Unlimited Referrals.” I have also written numerous manuals, guides, and magazine articles, with more on the way.
INSTITUT’ DERMED CLINICAL SKINCARE
The new millennium brought a reinvention and expansion of the glycolic acid line of products. My chemists and I worked hard to create a new standard in skin care by combining enzyme, acid, and active botanical formulations for the treatment of the five most common skin conditions: acne, aging, hyperpigmentation, sensitive skin, and cellulite. The expanded Institut’ DERMed Clinical Skincare line of cosmeceutical products are formulated without parabens, fillers, mineral oil, sodium lauryl sulfates, phthalates (synthetic fragrances), or artificial dyes. I also committed to earth-friendly recycled packaging.
In May 2001, I closed on an SBA loan to fund the expansion for my product line, training center, and medical spa. Now, all three entities would come together under one brand name – Institut’ DERMed Clinical Skincare, an acronym for “scientific education on medicinal skin care.” Institut’ DERMed was on the forefront of what would be the medical spa boom in early 2000. Business owners and skin care therapists came to us for education on cosmeceutical products and procedures and national distribution increased under the new brand name.
A SUCCESSFUL PARTNERSHIP
That same year, in June, I was contacted by Glenn Stogryn, who wanted to discuss distribution of the brand in Canada. Stogryn Sales was started in 1957 by his father Bert Stogryn, a pioneer of the beauty industry in Canada. Stogryn and his team were to arrive on September 13, 2001. Stogryn Sales was going to be our first international distributor, and I was beyond excited to meet with them here in Atlanta. On September 11, the Twin Towers in New York were tragically attacked and I thought there was no way they would still travel to Atlanta given the extraordinary circumstances. However, I have come to learn that Glenn Stogryn is a force of nature, and he was determined to meet with me and learn more about how our companies could work together to bring advanced education and cosmeceutical products to the growing Canadian skin care market. Stogryn and his team arrived on September 13, as planned, and they worked with me for three days, after which a deal was made between our two companies.
Although compliance for export into Canada would pose many challenges, we stuck together through it all and have created a super successful partnership for over 18 years. Our relationship has given me a vision for creating distributor partnerships who believe in teaching skin care therapists and spa owners about retail sales of the products they are using in the backbar. I carefully select distributor partners who share my philosophies on education and am fortunate to currently have like-minded distributors in New Zealand, Africa, and Asia, as well as the United States and Canada. I am interviewing distributors for the European Union and the United Kingdom and continuously seek ideal partners to help with education and sales.
DRIVEN BY COMPASSION
In 2019, I entered the compassionate category in The Skin Games Extraordinary Esthetician competition. My goal was to help the Foster Cares Support Foundation’s Annual Prom-A-Palooza event, which provides everything a young girl needs to feel like a princess on the night of their first big dress-up affair – prom.
I was overjoyed to be one of the winners in the competition and present Racheal Ewald, the founder of Foster Cares Support Foundation, a $5,000 donation from the The Skin Games community.
Over the past five years, I have recruited aestheticians and makeup artist volunteers from the Atlanta Aesthetic community to help with this event. Each year, we serve over 250 teenage ladies from all over the state of Georgia, who without this event, would have to miss out on the most important milestone event of their school year.
While I have been recognized for business achievements from the “Who’s Who of Professional Women’s Association,” voted “Best Of” by Atlanta Magazine, voted “Best Of” by Best Self Magazine, nominated to the Sandy Springs Business Hall of Fame, and now this incredible recognition by Aesthetics International Association to be inducted into the Academy of Legends, I consider my greatest achievement to be that of helping to raise thousands of dollars using my beauty skills in support of foster children and teenage empowerment organizations in the state of Georgia.
I am often asked if I have children and, while I have not been blessed with my own kids, I am fulfilled knowing that I have helped increase the annual incomes for aestheticians who tell me about how they are able to support their families and enjoy higher levels of lifestyle from the financial opportunities provided through Institut’ DERMed Clinical Skincare.
Being an entrepreneur takes a tremendous amount of hustle and dedication. I have had to continue my own education and re-invent myself several times. I have also made incredible personal and financial sacrifices to build my business, working long hours and weekends. Nevertheless, the business has afforded me a comfortable lifestyle, exciting travel, relationships with interesting people, flying lessons, and many opportunities for personal and professional growth.
My legacy for the aesthetics industry that I love so much is to continue evolving the careers of licensed skin care professionals through advanced education, mentorship, independent Institut’ DERMed Clinical Skincare Centers, and digitizing my years of experience and wealth of knowledge to share with the global professional aesthetic community.