Alexandra J. Zani | Aesthetician, Author, Educator, and Speaker

Alexandra J. Zani is an international educator and speaker with a background in biology and medical technology. She holds an instructor license in cosmetology/aesthetics, is NCEA certified, and has received advanced certifications both in the U.S. and abroad in the dermal sciences, spa therapies, non-ablative laser, LED and microcurrent. Zani is an independent technical and scientific advisor and mentor for postgraduate studies in the medical spa industry, including cosmeceutical development. She presents education for advanced aesthetic technology, is a specialist in longevity, including the affects of nutrition, lifestyle and the mind/body connection. As an author and technical writer, she has written over 70 articles, technical manuals and has created a recent webinar series.

ZANI-LOGOThroughout her career, Zani has received several outstanding service awards for her role in professional business organizations.I have been in the aesthetics industry for over 27 years. From owning an image-consulting boutique in Ann Arbor, Mich. to being the educational director for a small laser college and distributor in British Columbia, a rather eclectic career path has given me amazing experiences and provided great opportunity for professional and personal growth. I learned early on to view challenging circumstances and individuals as teachers who showed up in my life at a specific point in time to direct my path so that I could learn and grow. "If only I had known then what I know now."– For me this statement rings true in that years ago, I might have also added a nursing degree into the scenario to add credibility to what I was trying to convey while attempting to bridge spa and wellness into a medical cosmetic surgery practice. Prior to opening your business … plan it carefully and deeply. One must build horizontally and vertically - building a solid infrastructure along with an inviting environment. Study your market wisely and find out what services are going to serve it the most. Sometimes keeping things simple is better than having every gadget, expensive machine and product. In my opinion … building customer loyalty is dependent on the quality and caring service extended to them by a skilled and educated staff that genuinely cares. There should be no guessing games when it comes to assessing the skin. It is important to understand the underlying causes of a skin condition. You cannot just begin a session without first performing a pathway of analysis. Education is important! I have a saying … "the more I learn, the less I know," meaning that each time I listen to a lecture or read a book, it opens more pathways for questioning and exploration. Mastery of your profession is a lifetime journey.It involves becoming a critical thinker and examining many viewpoints and considerations before coming to a conclusion. Critical thinking is a route to intellectual adventure and a process of making sound decisions based on facts and experience. In the aesthetics profession, you are making decisions every day, especially when assessing the best way to achieve results, these decisions should be made with as much knowledge as possible!

 

DERMASCOPE:

What various roles and positions have you held within this industry? continued…

 Alexandra:

In Ann Arbor, Mich. at the image-consulting boutique that I owned, I performed makeup consultations, color analysis, and sold skin care and accessories prior to attending school to complete studies in cosmetology and also offered a diploma in aesthetics. There was no separate esthetic licensing at the time. I traveled to participate in special weeklong classes from industry icons. A move to the Maryland/DC area provided an opportunity to open a full service skin care and spa therapy center. Additionally, I partnered with colleagues to offer public classes for dress and image enhancement for corporations and individuals. Moving west, I advised and directed aesthetic services for a Denver vein treatment clinic. The doctors pioneered some of the first CO2 laser resurfacing treatments in the country. Additionally, they worked with the earlier IPL lights for port wine stains and vascular lesions. I was also a consultant for a spa build out in a prestigious athletic facility as well as interim spa director. From there, I journeyed onward to Dallas to become corporate aesthetician for a leading private label and custom skin care manufacturer. My first project was to research and direct the formulations of an innovative vitamin C skin care line, including nutritional supplements. I traveled to trade shows, delivered national education, wrote technical manuals and articles, worked in product development, and provided support to sales staff and customers. Sadly, big companies often sell out and downsize causing many of us to move on to seek other employment. I worked in a Dallas medical spa with some of the first hair reduction and skin rejuvenation IPL systems. I journeyed onward into a consulting capacity and was acting general manager for an award-winning research physician to support his product reorganization and expansion. The adventure continued as I moved southward to work in a new medical spa as well as directed the creation of a full product line. I became the instructor for a new evening aesthetics program. In early 2006, I had the opportunity to become an education director for a small laser college and distributor in British Columbia. I returned to the U.S. in early fall of 2008, worked days in a medical office and taught the evening aesthetics program at a local medical vocational college. During the earlier years of my career, the aesthetics and spa industry was in its baby stages, and many of us had a huge vision for the future of this industry. Networking was key for one’s success. During the mid nineties, networking and education organizations manifested to support this industry. I was on the founding board and education director for the former Colorado Society of Aestheticians and Spa Therapists. Spas were hungry for continuing education and we filled the room during our quarterly education events. Additionally, I was a charter member of the American Aestheticians Education Association (AAEA) and presented seminars at their annual conferences.

 

DERMASCOPE:

Which of these taught you the most or had the most impact on you and how? continued…

Alexandra:

The accumulation of many experiences extending across several geographical regions greatly constructed the stage for directing my career and personal life. At times, things became perplexing. I soon learned that the only way to gain insight was to quietly go inward listening in the silence where I contemplated on my life’s purpose. I also had a couple of close mentors. In the bigger scheme of things, there really are no “bad” experiences. Undoubtedly being employed in a large multi-million dollar corporation opened my naïve eyes regarding the dynamics of being part of a large team. Variable talents and personalities offered the opportunity to work closely with brilliant cosmetic chemists. It taught me a great deal.

 

DERMASCOPE:

Has there been a constant theme that has led you from one point to the next throughout your training and career? (i.e. asking questions, reading certain material, etc.)

Alexandra:

Call me a workshop and book junkie! I have always surrounded myself with books, mounds of research papers, innovative ideas, and individuals who have provided amazing inspiration, even if they did not make sense at the time. I have had a life long desire for learning and to adventure into new experiences that extended far beyond my comfort zone. Consequently, I managed to move through some pretty interesting and/or humbling circumstances. As with many others during the earlier years in this industry, I attended as many events as possible – trade shows, manufacturer classes, wellness classes, integrative medicine conferences, leadership and personal development classes, and just about anything that would bring greater knowledge so that I could offer a better service to my clients and students. I have met amazing individuals along the way who were most inspiring. I must say that without the encouragement of many, I would not be where I am today. A consistent theme has always been the underlying mission that we are all here to make a difference in the life of others. It is through serving others that we expand our universal horizons and are able to become role models. We have a profession that is hands-on and speaks greatly of prevention and wellness – in mind, body and spirit.

 

DERMASCOPE:

What has surprised you most during your professional journey? Do you have any regrets, or is there any one thing you can point to and think, “I wish I would have done that differently” or “if only I had known then what I know now.” continued…

Alexandra:

Given my present knowledge, I would have made better business decisions earlier on by asking the right questions as to expectations and also do a better job of negotiating contracts. Years ago, I might have also added a nursing degree into the scenario to add credibility to what I was trying to convey while attempting to bridge spa and wellness into a medical cosmetic surgery practice. It is truly inspiring to watch the transformation of an aesthetics student as they sit in your classroom where you teach them the necessary skills of their chosen profession. Some may surprise us with their ability to grasp complicated information. We can only do life with the knowledge and experience we have at any given moment so there are really no regrets. What is most amazing is that each of us has an innate strength that appropriately shows up at the right time when we listen and take on the challenge of moving beyond what we think is possible.

 

DERMASCOPE:

Why do you think people come to a particular spa/skin care clinic? continued…

Alexandra:

The facility must be clean, attractive and provide a feeling of peace and renewal. Staff members who walk their talk become role models in their profession. Sending and providing support to each other is part of being on a team. This caring energy is immediately sensed from the moment a customer walks through the portal. What patients also embrace are treatments and products that provide results.

 

DERMASCOPE:

What do you believe separates the best clinics from the rest? continued…

Alexandra:

As I mentioned earlier, the ambiance and feeling of being welcomed into a very caring, professional, results-oriented environment builds loyalty. Also, become a good listener. Does a client desire a simple relaxing facial or massage, or do they have concerns that require a little more in-depth approach for skin correction. Not to be underestimated, and indeed may set you apart from the rest, is the importance in keeping an open door for health challenged individuals such as cancer survivors or others who would normally be turned away at other spas. Offering Oncology Aesthetic services is a growing trend that requires specialized training. However, it will greatly enhance your uniqueness.

 

DERMASCOPE:

Do you have a signature treatment or modality that you feel is a classic of sorts? And, why do you feel this way?

Alexandra:

During my years of practice, what fostered repeat business was that I took the time to do a thorough skin analysis (actually it was a separate service), and then developed a plan of management for whatever the concerns. I carefully analyzed not only the customer’s skin but reviewed their current products and regimen. Additionally, I also had them complete a health-intake form to help detect any underlying causes of a skin challenge. I love enzymes. I am also in favor of microcurrent and/or LED, specialized masks, and of course, when deemed appropriate, a massage. Also, when offered, body wraps using Moor mud mixed with essentials oils are so therapeutic. I always felt that the first hands-on session should build a customer’s confidence in my skills. A simple session involving a thorough cleansing, enzyme and application of appropriate products, including a concentrate, a mask also gave me an indication as to how their skin was going to respond during future treatments.

 

DERMASCOPE:

What tool or tools would your treatment room not be complete without? Why?

Alexandra:

Technology is ever evolving. There are newer generations of microcurrent, LED, and sonophoresis. The core choices for equipment depends a great deal on the focus of the service and the type of environment in which you are working. Are you offering basic services or are you going to add a little more technology? Having a good loop lamp, Woods lamp/skin scanner, a steamer, iontophoresis, high frequency is a start. Additionally, invest in a comfortable facial chair and be aware of your room ergonomics. This may sound elementary, but after you do your homework – market study, attend a trade show to view all the new innovations in this industry, speak to lots of people, take the time to develop a plan of action including a budget. Purchase your equipment and products only after you are clear on what you are doing. Moreover, the further you understand the dermal sciences, skin conditions and disease, and product chemistry, the better decisions you will make for machines and treatment products.

 

DERMASCOPE:

What adaptations have you made over the years to stay relevant in the treatment room?

Alexandra:

Contrasted to what we did years ago, I recommend a slower approach to skin correction and treatment. At one time we thought that the way for correction was to become aggressive at the beginning – choosing microdermabrasion, skin peels and aggressive treatments (including laser) since we thought that they were an answer to most skin conditions. Fast forward to 2012; some of the newer technologies and methods for skin correction may support a simpler treatment room. We now have learned that there is a great deal of “cell talk” occurring between keratinocytes, melanocytes and fibroblasts. We also do not want to promote excessive immune response through heat shock, stimulation of the wrong cell growth factors or remove too much of the epidermis. Approaching more aggressive treatments should be carefully assessed after you have helped repair the epidermis and acid mantle. The skin has an amazing ability to self-correct when given the correct remedies.

 

DERMASCOPE:

Is there a particular moment or procedure where most aestheticians go wrong? What could they alter for a better result? continued…

Alexandra:

… Yes, the client is gravely concerned about her skin and perhaps the pigmentation that showed up on her face. As a professional, study the melanogensis story and the lifecycle of a melanocyte. So many times, the poor melanocyte receives a destructive blow with little thought of the consequences. Education, education … education!

 

DERMASCOPE:

Realizing you are an educator: How does one cut through all the marketing to find the line(s) that are right for them?

Alexandra:

The health of the skin depends upon many things that go beyond beautiful packaging. When asked about what skin line to choose, my response is that the technologies have changed during the past few years. It is futile to place one line up against the other. Instead, I recommend that we acquire a better understanding of cosmetic ingredients and their relationship to the skin. There are advanced improvements of actives that are more stabilized and effective in supporting skin structures. New innovative delivery systems utilizing the nano and liposome technologies can effectively deliver ingredients without the use of some irritating emulsifiers that may be detrimental to sensitive skin. One should be mindful of several details including (1) gaining a clearer understanding of cell structures and systems, (2) what nutrients make up a cell membrane, and the function of the skin barrier – particularly the bilayers, (3) the importance of matching product composition to skin structure, and (4) what ingredients may be counterproductive to optimum skin health. We should become one with the keratinocyte … think like it … and understand what makes it healthy and what damages it. Additionally, when we grasp the innuendos of skin conditions, and how they are formed in the first place, we can transition into a more confident pathway for correction. Product choices will flow more comfortably. Honoring and protecting the epidermis at all times becomes a motto for success. When you understand the underlying causes (not symptoms) of skin conditions, then you will easily move into a product line that complements your work.

 

DERMASCOPE:

As an educator, what is your secret to keeping life in balance and enjoying the journey?

Alexandra:

After many years of working long hours in this profession, rushing to catch flights, returning home from late night airport parking lots, I made a decision in 2008 to return to the U.S. to restructure the rest of my personal and career life. I now work from a virtual office in rural America connected by Internet and telephone with an airport one hour away. Many of you may be just beginning your career. Develop positives habits to re-charge your mind and body. Eat nourishing food; take walks in nature; listen to beautiful music; do yoga; practice mindful meditation; explore spirituality … and so on. Do whatever it takes to give yourself a break. If you are in a busy urban environment, nurture a few potted patio plants; spend quality time with your loved ones. Surround yourself with those who are positive and supporting. Speak inspiration … live inspiration, and be mindful of thoughts and words.

 

DERMASCOPE:

It is obvious that education plays a significant role in your personal and professional life. Please elaborate on why you feel it is important for aestheticians to hold education in a high regard? continued…

Alexandra:

… Taking the time to attend a class will optimize your ability in becoming more mindful and responsible practitioners. If you are a teacher, advanced education promotes your effectiveness in the classroom.

 

DERMASCOPE:

Can you please elaborate on PASTICHE? The inspiration behind the company, what it is, what it does, and the significance it has for yourself and our industry?

Alexandra:

As a partner with Pastiche Resources in New Zealand, it is a privilege to sponsor an industry icon, Florence Barrett-Hill, who has spent 30 years in this industry. I first met Barrett-Hill in 2006 after reading her book, Advanced Skin Analysis and her later book, Cosmetic Chemistry, her work has profoundly benefited over a 3000+ individuals – aestheticians, physicians, nurses and also brand-specific companies. Her accolades can be found in the testimonials of her students. There are so many of us worldwide who have had the privilege of sitting in her classroom where she stretched our minds beyond what we thought could be possible. Many of us graduates repeat her classes each year since it re-enforces what we learned the previous year. It offers a continuous forum to listen with more experienced ears as well as hear the latest research. Barrett-Hill owned and directed clinics where she gained a passion for working with burn survivors and plastic surgery patients. She pioneered skin care modalities including the formulation of specialized skin care products, in order to support skin that had been so compromised. A talented industry practitioner, she intimately knows her subject. She has a passion to elevate the standards of professional beauty therapy and skin care. That is why she works diligently and persistently to research, write and teach so that future generations can excel in their profession with knowledge, skill, and respect. She travels internationally, including to the U.S., sharing her knowledge with individuals and groups who collectively enforce her philosophy that the future of professional skin care lies within a scientific foundation. Spending almost 30 hours of class with her can be a career-altering event!

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