Confessions of an Esthetician

Don’t they say former fire setters become firemen? Recovered addicts become substance abuse counselors? And some of the craziest people become shrinks? Well, I’m an esthetician. So you won’t be surprised to learn that I have been obsessed with skincare and makeup since I was 12, when I got my first strawberry Bonnie Bell roll-on lip smackers.

Dawn in her natural habitat, a Deerfield Spa Treatment Room

My mother’s only condition when she gave me permission to start wearing make-up was that I wash it off at night. Before you could say Maybelline, I was more into cleansing and caring for my skin than dolling it up with icy blue eye shadow and bubble gum gloss. By the time I was 18, facials were my best friend, and when my daughter was born, it was only a few years before she became my favorite little practice doll for gently tracing lymphatic drainage routes around her bright baby face.

So believe me when I tell you that people neglecting, mishandling, and abusing their skin makes me more than nuts. It makes me sad for them. And as much as I want to take these people in my arms and console them, I can actually do one better – no, two better! Not only can I help fix things like wrinkles, sun spots, sagging skin, acne, enlarged pores, dark circles, breakouts, and more, I can teach my clients how to care for their own skin, so they themselves can help fix these things too. Sometimes I feel like I’m saving souls!

Deerfield Spa

This is not always easy, mind you. Though my clients want me to help them, they don’t always like hearing what I have to say about helping themselves, especially when it means getting rid of some of their favorite products. But here’s the deal: if it’s petroleum based, has lots of artificial colors, preservatives, and fragrances, and contains pore-clogging ingredients, it doesn’t belong in your repertoire! And believe me, I’ve nearly wrestled more than a couple of clients to the ground to excise the Pond’s cold cream from their lives. Gone to the mat to unclench an iron grip around a jar of Noxema. I know grandma used it and you love the smell because it brings back warm memories. No one should ever take that away from you. But instead of actually using the stuff, keep a jar by your bed and give it a whiff once in a while. Close your eyes, think of grandma’s sparkling laugh, her soft hands, how nice it was to hug her. Breathe in the memories. Breathe in the love. It’s a beautiful thing. Then put the jar down, walk away, and no one gets hurt.

Sometimes just telling a client they need to wash, tone, and moisturize every morning and night produces the kind of reactions I wish I had a camera to capture. From the dismissive disbelief of a hardened skeptic, to petulance worthy of a ticked-off sixteen year old, I’ve seen it all – and it cracks me up. I think, “If I only had pictures of this, it would make a great book!” Just imagine, chapter one: bravely facing exfoliation. Chapter two: mission hydration. Chapter three: epidermis interruptus, and so on…

But most of the people who come into my treatment room day in and day out are just happy to be here, happy to talk to someone who can help cut through the claims of the zillion lotions and potions that advertise everywhere we look. Happy to lie back and close their eyes and take a deep breath and enjoy the gentle, healing touch of an esthetician. Happy to know they’re doing something good by taking this time just for themselves. Heck, half of them are just happy they don’t have to clean up after themselves when they’re here! Knowing I can deliver the simplest of pleasures makes ME happy.

On the other hand, knowing I’m a master of some pretty high-impact technology is also pretty cool! Nowadays, being an esthetician is much more than buffing and fluffing. We get to use power tools! Like microcurrent and LED light machines. These things do everything from treating acne or rosacea to restoring youthful contours to aging faces. We get to use corundum crystals made from rubies and sapphires to reveal skin’s healthiest glow. We get to use ultrasound to increase the effectiveness of healing serums. But don’t worry. Before you think of me as totally techy and super sophisticated, bear in mind the other day I found myself using my breasts to balance and position my magnifying light in the right place because my hands were just not available at that moment. Sometimes the lowest-tech solutions work best for us estheticians. And when your hands are just not available, you do what you have to do. And I realized long ago that I would do just about anything for my passion, my love, and my work in skincare. I realized I could have worse obsessions, so this is OK. I also realized that every once and again, I can sneak out the ole Bonnie Bell strawberry and indulge in a roll-on, just for fun. But I won’t tell if you don’t. Let’s keep that one between us!

Dawn Butler is a licensed esthetician with Deerfield Spa, East Stroudsburg, PA. She is a member of the National Coalition of Estheticians and Associated Skin Care Professionals, with advanced training from the International Dermal Institute in galvanic and high frequency procedures, microdermabrasion, and glycolic and vitamin C peels. Her background also includes positions as a make-up artist and in retail management for Chanel, Christian Dior, and Borghese Cosmetics.

Deerfield Spa is the casual, friendly spa known for health over hype and laughs over luxe, offering a safe, homelike setting less than two hours from New York for weight loss and fitness, pampering spa treatments, and refueling with fresh air and fun.

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