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More With Lydia Sarfati

Cathy Christensen October 2008 issue of Skin Inc. magazine

Read the word for word interview with this industry leader.

You are so well-know in the beauty industry for your product line, but do you consider yourself to be more a businesswoman or more an esthetician at heart?

In Vegas, I was in the elevator, a young lady was there and says to her husband, “Oh my goodness, this is Lydia Sarfati, the best esthetician in the world.” “It’s funny how you are still an esthetician to them,” says David. Certainly I am the CEO and the big cheese and a product developer, but, in my heart, I still think of myself as an esthetician. Her verbalizing it in such a way, in my heart, I am an esthetician. In my head I am the CEO.

What is your favorite part of your job?

There are so many facets to what I do and what I enjoy the most. I love developing the products, I love being inspired. I recently was in Baden-Baden, Germany, for a meeting and it is a resort town and a centuries-old mecca for wellness. I was taking early morning walks in the Black Forest, and I was just inspired by the forest and the earth and found out there’s this delicious pine honey from the forest, and I’m thinking that my next body scrub needs to be the Black Forest scrub. I am inspired and bringing in things, creating, developing, places and people always inspire me. I really got back into doing treatments during the past two years, going back into the spas and created an appearance called “Up Close and Personal” and I do consultations with clients. I love being with clients, putting on masks, having 15 people in line and wanting to talk to me and making a difference. I have a fan base. I love sticking my fingers in the mud and seeing the seaweed on them. I love the firsthand reaction from satisfied clients. I come back and am exhausted, but my head is still going and I love teaching. I get so much pleasure and satisfaction, sharing the knowledge, talking to estheticians worldwide, seeing the sparkle in their eye because they are inspired by me, and I give them the opportunity to know that if you are disciplined and willing to work hard, you will be successful. That gives them the inspiration to continue. I love doing that, and I come off the trade show floor and my body says stop and my head says go. These are the things I really, really love. I love negotiations. I get my juices really going when I sit across from vendor or a banker and really negotiate a good deal. I think being an entrepreneur allows me not to be boxed in to one particular section of the business. I can have my input and listen to others at the same time.

When you were growing up, would you have ever imagined your life would turn out the way it has?

In 1994, David and I went back to Poland. I met my teacher and she said to me that she remembered the essay that I wrote when I was not more than 16-years-old and the essay was about where do you see yourself in the year 2000. What she had said that I wrote was that I was going to be a very important person and that I would have a global company and that I would be very successful and have two beautiful children and a wonderful husband. In business, when I first started in 1977 when I first opened my skin care spa in Manhattan, back then there were really only two big skin care people in Manhattan, Georgette Klinger and Christine Valmy, and I was opening up right around the corner and dared to charge more for a facial than Ms. Klinger. On the Daily News cover, they asked who these women are with so much hutzpah. I wanted to most fabulous skin care spa in Manhattan. I dreamed of delivering a wonderful experience to clients and I would come early in the morning before the cleaning lady would come and I would clean the place so she could make coffee and tea sandwiches. I wanted to make sure clients left with beautiful skin and a memorable experience. Back then, that was my aim and goal. When I started the company, I wanted to make a product that makes a difference. If you use this, this is what will happen to your skin. It was always about integrity and not really sparing anything when it came to delivering the best.

You are so busy with your company and your profession ... what do you do in your downtime?

It may sound really lame, but what I do doesn’t feel to me like work. Let’s say I’m not doing facials or talking to clients or writing formulations, I love walking. I walk every day in the mornings. When I’m on vacation, I like to walk in the woods. I love to swim and I love reading—I devour books. I like history books; I love to read and just finished 1776. I love learning or novels based on historical fact.

What advice would you give to spa owners who are struggling to make ends meet in this economy?

I was thrown my way few unpleasant curves. Instead of saying, “Now I’m homeless and I don’t have citizenship” I say “What can I do? I’ve got lemon now, what do I do? Do I make lemonade? Sell on corner? Add water to the juice.” Your loyal clients are going to come to you. If you have a regular client, why don’t you bring them in for a 30-minute treatment. Try to do little things rather than big things. Get them in more often. Instead of the main course, why don’t we do snacks and appetizers. Let’s give them just a mask or just a massage or just one element of a facial; make it more accessible, make it more fun. That’s what I’ve been doing for a lot of the salons … the facial bar concept. They feel better, a hand massage, you earn service dollars, the client will always buy something retail. Instead of six full-hour treatments, you might do 20 clients today with 15 minute treatments.

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