Located on Oak Street, near Chicago’s Magnificent Mile, Face & Facial Beauty Therapy Clinic was the perfect choice for Skin Inc. magazine’s first “Salon Profile” in 1988. Today, 34 years after the clinic opened, clients still refer to owner Mila Bravi as “Chicago’s Skin Care Institution.”
Her journey began in Russia. She attended the Medical Institute of Odessa for three years before deciding to change schools to become an esthetician. Bravi studied esthetics for three more years, and worked as an esthetician for 16 years before emigrating to the United States with her husband Mark and their daughter Katherine in 1975.
Upon her arrival in Florida, she worked with a translator to attain her cosmetology license. Shortly after, she moved to Chicago, studied for her Illinois cosmetology license and worked at The Face Place until it unexpectedly closed in 1978. For Bravi, it was time to make a decision. With hope and help from her husband, she opened Face & Facial in 1979 at 70 E. Oak Street. As luck would have it, one of Bravi’s first clients was a writer for a local magazine who featured her clinic in an article. Bravi never advertised, but subsequent articles in top area newspapers and magazines, as well as reputable word-of-mouth, resulted in more and more clients coming to her clinic. This led to a move to a larger location a few doors down the street in 1982.
In its heyday, Bravi’s spa clientele included Oprah Winfrey, Goldie Hawn, Cindy Crawford and ballerina Natalia Makarova; world-renowned photographer Victor Skrebneski sent his subjects to her, and she worked with top Chicago-area modeling agencies. The 60-minute facial on her service menu, at $50, included a skin analysis and product recommendations. “I worked with the best cosmetic chemists as well to develop my own skin care products,” she says.
Relationships with physicians were not the best for estheticians in the late ’80s, though Bravi worked with two plastic surgeons, teaching makeup application to patients recovering from reconstructive surgery. “Physicians felt that after finishing several months of beauty school, estheticians were not very well-prepared to work in the dermatology field,” says Bravi. “But when the doctors and estheticians bring together their individual skills, it’s the best situation for skin care.”
Bravi was licensed in New York and Texas also, in case her business would have expanded to these states. It never did, but she opened a second Chicago location—Bravi on Dearborn—in 1987. It was managed by her daughter for two years before the building was sold and it closed.
For more than 33 years, Bravi practiced esthetics in Chicago. On July 29, 2012, she closed her doors at 104 E. Oak Street and planned to retire. Clients, however, had other ideas. “Clients told me they don’t need fancy palaces, crystal chandeliers or marble floors. All they need is a single clean room with white walls, clean sheets, my professional knowledge and my hands,” says Bravi. “When a client herself found me the ideal location and offered to help with the design, I just couldn’t say no.” Bravi now sees clients by appointment only at her Streeterville Center location on Erie Street.
“The ingredients of my success were my education and practical experience, understanding of basic dermatology and product ingredients, and being able to use those to provide my clients with very specific skin care education. In addition, every client received a home-care regimen,” says Bravi.
“Estheticians need to have a bit of psychologist within them to help clients leave their rooms in a better state of mind than when they came in for a treatment,” she says. In addition, Bravi promotes the study of advanced industry courses; and attendance at industry events for networking and education with peers, cosmetic chemists and industry leaders. “Love what you do, have patience with your clients and create an atmosphere of rest, positive energy and peace in your rooms.
“There is no fame or money that can compare to making people happy with their skin care. Clients who first saw me in their early 20s are still seeing me at 55 and 60, and are bringing their children and their grandchildren to me to learn about good facial hygiene and acne prevention. This, in my view, is the greatest reward I’ve received. And this is why, though I thought I’d be retired, I still have my hands in skin care and I’m still enjoying it!”
Award-winning writer Lois Hince has been with Allured Business Media for 20 years and currently is the company’s corporate managing editor.