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!