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Skin Care Professional on Path to Success

Denise Dubois

By: Cathy Christensen
Posted: July 30, 2012, from the August 2012 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

“From the beginning, I would never have dreamed I would be where I am today,” says Denise Dubois, president and owner of Complexions Spa for Beauty and Wellness in Albany, New York. And each measured step Dubois has taken since her first foray into makeup artistry—along with her hunger for education, love of skin science and entrepreneurial spirit—has led her down a path to success. “I wanted to be a makeup artist and, in the early 1980s in New York, you had to have a cosmetology license to be a makeup artist, so I went to cosmetology school,” explains Dubois, who graduated from Europa School of Cosmetology in Schenectady, New York, in 1983. After landing a job at a small, family owned hair salon in Schenectady, Dubois decided to take the next step in her education, studying makeup artistry at Christine Valmy in Manhattan. “The course I took was esthetics and makeup, so that’s where I was first introduced to real skin care,” she says. After earning her certification in skin care and makeup, Dubois decided she wanted to be fully licensed, so she attended the Catherine Hinds Institute of Esthetics in Woburn, Massachusetts, where she graduated with the highest honor in the class, receiving her license in 1984.

When she finished her esthetics training, the salon she was working for in 1985 offered her the opportunity to open a single skin care room. During her experience at the salon, Dubois said, she learned the fundamentals of business success. “The people I worked for had strong work ethics, and it was a great experience for me. They were very good at customer service; the quality of service they delivered to clients was exceptional. They were really good role models,” says Dubois.

Her next step, in 1987, was with a skin care franchise that offered her a position in which she opened a location in the area. That step only lasted for a few months. “It wasn’t how in envisioned myself working in the skin care industry,” she says and, later that year, opened the doors to her own business—Complexions Professional Skin Care, a 1,500-square foot location in a strip mall. “When I opened my business, there were no freestanding skin care centers in my area. There were only a handful of places that were hair salons just starting to offer skin care services. It was an emerging industry,” Dubois explains. “From the get-go, I focused on educating clients and combining that with retail, making sure what they used at home complemented the professional treatments.” During this time, Dubois was moonlighting in a plastic surgery center, as well, learning about the medical spa side of the industry. Complexions’ first location lasted six years.

When the opportunity presented itself to move into a 4,200-square foot location across the street, Dubois snagged it, convincing a renowned yoga center in the area to move into the adjacent space, providing a full-service wellness facility. Ten years later, says Dubois, the business was bursting at the seams. When the time came to renew her lease, Dubois said she didn’t have a good feeling about it and had her eye on a space on a major area street that was occupied by a fabric store. After approaching the owner about her interest in the location, the owner said she wasn’t ready to leave. However, right before the lease on her current location was due, Dubois received a phone call. “One day, she just calls me and said she was ready to sell. It was the best phone call!” says Dubois, who purchased the 8,000-square foot location—only to level the building. “I wanted to build a green facility, and I just knew it was a complement to the spa industry to be able to offer services in an environment that supported the wellness philosophy,” she says. With much planning, Dubois was able to build the facility in a way that allowed it to be awarded Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold Certification for new construction from the U.S. Green Building Council. When asked whether this was a profitable decision for the spa, Dubois explained that going green catapulted her business to the next level, attracting employees and clients drawn to an environmental lifestyle, as well as reducing utility bills by $10,000 per month and receiving a variety of lucrative incentives for going green.

Now known as Complexions Spa for Beauty and Wellness—which uses skin care brands Footlogix, Obagi Medical, PCA Skin, SkinCeuticals, YonKa and Ytsara—the business combines a green philosophy, as well as medical spa services, lending to Dubois’ constant progression in the skin care industry. What’s her next step? “I’m at a point in my business that I’ve made almost all the mistakes you can make! I love what I do, I love my business; it doesn’t feel like going to work. I would like to do more education and consulting, and would love to open another location,” says Dubois, who is taking the next step on her path this October, sharing her knowledge about aging skin during the Advanced Education Conference Program at Face & Body® Northern Californiain San Jose, October 6–8, 2012.