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More With Marti Dunne

By: Cathy Christensen
Posted: June 27, 2008, from the July 2008 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

Following are the personal recollections of Marti Dunne, principal therapist and head esthetician at The West Maui Wellness Center in Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii, Skin Inc. magazine's Face to Face subject for July 2008.

When I was 17 years old, I was enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. I left my Las Vegas home with luggage, an iron and $40. With luck and determination, I was assigned to oceanside barracks in Okinawa, Japan. I immediately resonated with the Asian culture. I remember the serene Buddist temples, the Zen like ponds, waterfalls in gardens, the food, the music and the smells. These nuances and many more carved indelible warm spots in my psyche. I always claimed to have a vivacious personality, I was average looking and had a type of dyslexia called discalqua. I am unable to understand numbers, forms, machines and sequences. So me and my personality took jobs with the public. I was a flight attendant, a tour director and most lucratively a Nevada cocktail waitress during the Sinatra years. I was dressed like a fairy princess and gave away free drinks for big tips. I used this money to finish my college education (a fine arts degree) build a three-story home in the mountains behind Lake Tahoe and travel abroad. I met my best friend and former husband in the casinos and had my first skin care lesson there. My feisty redheaded supervisor pulled me aside during a shift and asked me why I had so much thick makeup on my face. I told her I thought it made me look pretty. She told me I had nice skin and to change the way I think and show up for the next shift with out the pancake! I began taking an interest in the way my skin looked and have rarely used facial makeup since.

Eventually, working day and night (tour-guiding days, casinos nights) with the mass public took its toll on me; my nerves were shot. I decided to take a short massage class in 1984, then attended formal school at Harbin Hot Springs school of Massage and Shiatsu/Watsu near Calistoga, California. I had an emotional epiphany there in that beautiful, ancient healing place. I realized there was something in me that could be used to help others feel better. I transfered from the Hyatt Lake Tahoe Casino to the health club in the basement. "Spa" was not a well-known term. I was teased for being a massage girl or working in a massage parlor. However, I loved the work and continued my education. Several years later, I met an "esthetician." My severely sundamaged skin had become a great concern for me, and she assured me, as with her, the damage could be reversed. A year later, I entered esthetic school at the Carson City Beauty Academy in Carson City, Nevada. In those days, there were very few estheticians, nevermind teachers of esthetics, so we had a beautician instructor come in one or two hours a week, and we were pretty much self-taught. I loved the environment and watched the "cosmos" dye hair and the "mannys" do nails. Despite the commute to Carson City in the snow and working my job, it was one of the most fun times in my life. I was in comfortable enviroment where my dyslexia disappeared and the right, creative side of my brain thrived. I was coming home!

In 1994, it was common knowledge that when you graduated from esthetic school, you were to go out and learn about skin care. Educate, educate, educate. I was fortunate to have Flora Spa's Dr. Christian Pascal (formerly of Mennen products) come to The Hyatt and teach our therapists medicinal aromatherapy and its application to skin care. One month after graduation, I was extremely graced to experience one of the most inspiring occasions of my new career. My only esthetics friend, Peggy and I drove to San Francisco and took the first of two intimate skin care sessions taught by Dr. Howard Murad. I was mesmerized by this kind man. The love, humor,intelligence, devotion, pure intention he imparted to us has stayed with me all these years. Glycolic acids were just peeping out then and Dr. Murad was one of the frontrunners in this lasting anti-aging treatment method. It worked for me. I quit going out in the sun completely and began my life-long regimen of rejuvenating and beautifying my skin, and the results encouraged me to help others, as well.

I returned to the Hyatt and implored management to add facials to our meager spa menu. With my job and reputation almost on the line, as I remember it, management razed a small sauna and turned it into a facial room. We were successful, and soon a lovely atrium office nearby was changed into the garden room facial salon! I was happy as a daisy and facials/spa treatments were popular and there to stay. I understand there is a magnificent Lakeside Spa on that property now; several of my former cocktail waitresses/coworkers are now estheticians there as we speak