I am the owner of Circadia by Dr. Pugliese, Inc. and a licensed aesthetician in the state of Pennsylvania. When I took over the operation of Circadia, I was responsible for managing sales, customer service, vendor relationships, and educating myself about the practice of aesthetics and the responsibilities of a supplier of professional skin care products. I came in with the name recognition of Dr. Pugliese as a top educator, so I had an intensive learning curve to achieve competence in understanding skin science. Once I grasped the structure and function of skin and the effects a topical product could have, it became clear what my company could contribute to the industry and the client in a much bigger way. Over the years, I have learned so much from my grandfather and his peers, like Dr. Kligman and Dr. Fulton.I have an inherent desire for information and I worked to understand the industry and how the skin works. Doing things right matters to me. Knowing how ingredients work and how a formulation is developed fascinates me. Aestheticians go wrong when they do not fully understand and offer treatments and products without a good grasp of product function. If you put something on living tissue, you need to know what you are doing. In a spa, a well-educated staff is key. This means they are able to evaluate the client and understand the products well enough to speak about them. Not only the aestheticians, but also the receptionist and other staff need to know what the spa offers and the products used. I would advise someone planning to start a career in this field to learn as much as they can before spending a dime on a product. I give the same advice to clients: Never stop learning. I learn something new every day. Our industry is evolving faster than anyone can actually predict. Understand as much as you can as momentums shift. I constantly look for the lesson in the experience, good or bad.
What do you see are upcoming trends in the industry?
“Sadly, a trend I see is too many professional companies selling directly to consumers from their website. It is difficult to control online retailer diversion, but I see more evidence that the aestheticians will ultimately demand a higher level of protection from the suppliers who do not sell online. Without our professional distribution model, there is not an industry.”
Here’s more of our chat with Michael:
DERMASCOPE: How long have you been in the aesthetics industry?
Michael: I have been in the aesthetics industry for 10 years. Prior to taking ownership of Circadia, I worked in various jobs throughout the family businesses of contract manufacturing, including the production line, warehouse and shipping, customer service, and sales. I studied business management and marketing in college because I come from a family of entrepreneurs, although most of them never had formal education in business. It was my grandfather, Peter T. Pugliese, M.D., the founder of Circadia. who suggested this may be a good path for me. Little did I know, he was grooming me for the position I hold today.
DERMASCOPE: What various roles and positions have you held within this industry?
Michael: When I took over the operation of Circadia, I was responsible for managing sales, customer service, vendor relationships, and educating myself about the practice of aesthetics and the responsibilities of a supplier of professional skin care products. I came in with the name recognition of Dr. Pugliese as a top educator, so I had an intensive learning curve to achieve competence in understanding skin science. Once I grasped the structure and function of skin and the effects a topical product could have, it became clear what my company could contribute to the industry and the client in a much bigger way. We committed to exhibiting fully at the tradeshows and designed new advertisements. I directed new product development while I learned cosmetic chemistry, which led me to the Society of Cosmetic Chemists and the world of functional raw materials. My interest in the subject focused my energies on formulating and in the traditions of my grandfather, I began teaching aestheticians a higher level of product knowledge. We exhibit, and often sponsor, tradeshows, both Dr. Pugliese and I lecture at general sessions and manufacturer’s classrooms. We continue to contribute articles revealing the science of skin, which include references to the ongoing research of Dr. Pugliese for many of our industry publications.
DERMASCOPE: Which of these roles taught you the most or had the most impact on you and how?
Michael: The role that taught me the most was that of sales – it gets you interacting with people, finding the market, learning customer needs and peeves, and talking with aestheticians. Aestheticians are the industry. I have learned a great deal by listening to them and continue to benefit from their experience. We exhibit at most major events, so traveling the country to various shows also provides valuable access.
DERMASCOPE: Has there been a constant theme that has led you from one point to the next throughout your training and career (as in asking questions, reading certain material, et cetera)?
Michael: A constant theme in my career has been to trust your instincts.
DERMASCOPE: 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.” that you can share with the readers? Please explain.
Michael: I wish I had focused more on the sciences in college – biology, biochemistry, physics, anatomy, and physiology – along with my business curriculum. It would have saved me some time at the beginning of Circadia if I would had those principles firmly in my head because I was learning graduate level information from my grandfather at the same time.
DERMASCOPE: What adaptations have you made over the years to stay relevant in the industry?
Michael: A few years into my career, I understood that our anchor products, all developed by Dr. Pugliese, needed to be augmented with additional items – masks, mists, preventive care, and body. At the Society of Cosmetic Chemists supplier’s functions, I learned ingredient technologies, product performance, and fresh ideas, which I shared during my lectures. I found the aestheticians excitedly gravitating toward the opportunity to learn about performance ingredients and leaving with an understanding of how they work. I dedicate a lot of my time and energies into understanding cosmetic chemistry and new product development.
DERMASCOPE: What has surprised you most during your professional journey?
Michael: I was most surprised by how competitive the industry has become in going after accounts. I looked at the number of companies that folded and observed those that thrived during the economic downturn just a couple of years after I took over the company. The last one, in 2008, was bad. I am also incredulous at times with the endless requirement of pure physical stamina and mental energy that must be expended to do this job.
DERMASCOPE: What are the greatest pressures, strains, or anxieties in the work?
Michael: That is a long list! But as I said, the big picture matters, and in our case, “the economy” means we are impacted by a consumer’s ability to spend money on skin care. Historically, cosmetics was a recession-proof business, but in aesthetics, an elective service still seen by most Americans as a luxury, we are aware that if the economy takes a downturn, we are all potentially out of business. My greatest struggle is managing my time, our resources, my commitment to travel, and satisfying the constant needs of customers.
DERMASCOPE: How did you decide that your current career is the right one for you?
Michael: I decided this career was right for me when I saw an opportunity that several before me had and not taken much interest in. I knew that the components were all there to develop it fully if one person could commit everything to it. We had a great reputation through Dr. Pugliese, but we had no leadership in the company at that time.
DERMASCOPE: How and where do you find inspiration?
Michael: Obviously, my grandfather is very inspiring to me. He is 89 years old and has accomplished so much in his fascinating life, and he still gets up and works every day. His work ethic, need to do better, give more, appreciate more, learn more – it is part of who he is. We talk often about applying evolving scientific discoveries to new concepts, and finding new applications for classic ingredients. His understanding of so many things at so many levels gives us a constant source of topics to discuss. He is truly an amazing person.
DERMASCOPE: Why do you think people come to a particular spa?
Michael: There are many reasons to choose a spa, but ultimately it comes down to convenience and confidence: the client getting what they want easily, regularly, and consistently from someone they trust.
DERMASCOPE: Is there a particular ingredient that you feel is a “super” ingredient? If so, why?
Michael: Categorically, peptides are driving innovations in product development. There are so many to choose from and new ones are being developed all the time. But, if you ask which one super ingredient I would choose, it has to be vitamin C. Even though it has been around for years, there are many forms available for specific formulation needs (water soluble or oil soluble). Vitamin C does so many good things – scavenges free radicals, functions as a skin lightener, protects, and repairs.
DERMASCOPE: Do you have a signature treatment or technique that your clients love – a classic of sorts?
Michael: Our SWiCH Dermal Rejuvenation Treatment is loved because it is a chemical peel alternative without damage downtime of conventional beta and hydroxy acids. The results of SWiCH are fantastic. Based on natural repair mechanisms that work in harmony with cell turnover cycles, it is classic Dr. Pugliese and remains our best-selling treatment.
DERMASCOPE: What tool(s) would your treatment room (or business) not be complete without and why?
Michael: One tool my business would not be complete without is a good CRM (customer relationship management) program. It allows us stay in constant connection with our clients, monitor account progress, and better serve clients.
DERMASCOPE: Do you or your company support any particular causes or charitable organizations? If so, who and why?
Michael: My grandmother, Joanne Pugliese, died of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) four years ago, so our family contributions are directed to the ALS Greater Philadelphia Chapter to increase home care support for the patient and their families. It was great to see the ice bucket challenge bring so much attention to ALS this summer.
DERMASCOPE: You wear so many hats in this industry. What is your secret to keeping life in balance and enjoying the journey?
Michael: I have not discovered how to keep life in balance, not yet, but I am enjoying the journey. All through the history of business, the most successful entrepreneurs spent the time I have, in my 20s and 30s, nearly working themselves to death. I believe everyone should surround themselves with good people that they enjoy working with. That is very important.
DERMASCOPE: What are your hobbies when not working?
Michael: When not working, my hobbies are snowboarding and deep sea fishing.
DERMASCOPE: Do you have a company or personal motto by which you live by?
Michael: I am always cautious about sharing propriety information. My motto is to understand that not everyone you work with will always have your best interests in mind. My own goals for this industry and what I might contribute to it will be impacted by many unforeseen changes in our society that will be experienced by this generation and the next one.
DERMASCOPE: Can you share something most people would not know about you?
Michael: Most people do not know I am deathly afraid of snakes.
DERMASCOPE: Other than your products, what are the greatest assets and strengths your company offers?
Michael: We are defined by our people and our history – The greatest assets and strengths my company offers is an incredibly dedicated staff and good business partners.
DERMASCOPE: What is the toughest decision you have had to make at your company?
Michael: Firing a friend was the toughest decision of my career.
DERMASCOPE: How did you decide that your current career is the right one for you?
Michael: I think there comes a moment when you come through the door after a long trip and see your family and home, and it becomes very clear why you do what you do out there.