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Rayda Ireifej, The Brow & Skin Studio, Huntington Beach, California
By Cathy Christensen
Posted: April 14, 2008, from the November 2007 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.
Fate, intuition, a higher calling—many have pondered the role these play in a person’s life. Rayda Ireifej, however, doesn’t wonder—she is certain that along with dedication and hard work, something bigger has led her to her present status as a happy, successful spa professional.
The current owner of The Brow & Skin Studio in Huntington Beach, California, Ireifej was born in the Middle Eastern country of Jordan. Inspired by the her mother, Jamileh Saleman, who was a highly sought after holistic healer, she decided at the tender age of eight that she was going to help make people beautiful. At the time, a variety of skin issues experienced by family members caught her attention—her aunt and brother both suffered from terrible acne and her maternal grandmother, who was in her 80s, suffered from severe wrinkling. “I decided that I needed to take acne and wrinkles out of people’s faces, and started dreaming about going to college and becoming a doctor,” says Ireifej.
As life went on, she married, had four children and, in 1971, moved to California. Eventually, her focus reverted back to wanting a career in the health care profession … or so she thought. Ireifej spoke to a counselor at Golden West College in Huntington Beach, explaining that she wanted to be a nurse for the skin. “The counselor told me that I wanted to be an esthetician,” she says.
“I was in class for a month and panicked. I didn’t think I could do it because my English wasn’t good,” she explains. Luckily, with the support and guidance of her beloved instructor Nina Wallace at Golden West, Ireifej went on to excel as a top student and, as fate would have it, catch the eye of James Fulton, MD, a renowned acne specialist. He hired her as an assistant esthetician even before she finished her license, and promoted her to full esthetician after she obtained it in 1989.
Deciding to spread her wings, Ireifej rented a room in a salon. Unfortunately, she didn’t own any equipment to use in it. Fate continued to be on her side, however, when she came across a garage sale, from the son of an esthetician who had recently passed away, featuring items perfect for her business. “I took all the esthetic equipment there. The son said that his mother was always happy and successful as an esthetician. It was almost as if he passed all of her success on to me,” she says.
After renting for a while, Ireifej went on to open the R.I. Skin Care and Body Center in Huntington Beach in 1995. She built her business solely on the word-of-mouth of her results-driven, clinical treatments, and welcomed clients from as far away as Palm Springs and San Diego. Always what she terms “a knowledge junkie,” Ireifej obtained all the education she could while running R.I. Skin Care, and soon came to the conclusion that its purpose in her life was to act as her school. This insatiable thirst for knowledge brought her to meet Terry Everitt, a well-known Australian esthetician and instructor who introduced her to CIDESCO. “Terry would sit and go over materials for eight hours a day, three days straight with me to help me become a diplomate, and I thank him,” she says. In 1996, after much hard work, Ireifej was able to add this prestigious title to her business card.
During all this time, her family didn’t take a back seat to her career; they lived it. “They ate, drank and slept with skin care. They always told me that when they were falling asleep, they were hearing about the layers of the dermis instead of a lullaby,” she explains. “Skin care is what we breathed in that little house.”
Three of her children now are involved in skin care themselves. Her oldest son, Joe, is an internal medicine physician working with a practice in Orange County where the lead doctor—fatefully—focuses on acne as well as internal medicine. Her daughter, Sylvia, who used to act as her model when she practiced new skin care techniques, wanted to be an esthetician immediately after finishing high school. Ireifej consented to her daughter obtaining her license as long as she completed a four-year degree as well, which Sylvia did—in business. Her second daughter, Rowena, received her degree in advertising and was working as a magazine advertising executive when she decided that Ireifej and Sylvia were having too much fun without her at R.I. Skin Care, so she got her esthetician’s license as well. “This completed the cycle to me,” Ireifej explains. With pride, she declares that the clients who experience Rowena’s touch often don’t return to Ireifej—they stick with Rowena.
Together, Ireifej, Sylvia and Rowena opened The Brow & Skin Studio in Huntington Beach in December 2004. This unique operation mixes beauty, esthetics and holistics, and focuses on providing experiences, not just services. “People see each other in airports and know that their eyebrows were done by Rayda,” she laughs.
Ireifej has truly come a long way from Jordan, but, ultimately, her path has led her back to her roots. Family, skin care and holistic approaches have always been a mainstay in her life, and now they all exist under one roof at The Brow & Skin Studio. “It’s the American dream,” she says.