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Dedicated to Wellness

Abby Penning April 2009 issue of Skin Inc. magazine
Denise Dubois

Denise Dubois has always been the type of business owner who keeps her eyes on the prize. “I’ve never been the kind of person who focuses on the ‘what ifs,’ ” she says. “I always try to figure out what we need to do, make a plan and then do it. I still function that way.”

Now the owner of Complexions Spa for Beauty and Wellness in Albany, New York, Dubois started out her skin care career in the early 1980s focusing on makeup artistry. After taking a cosmetics course at the Christine Valmy International School in New York, she became more intrigued with the skin care aspect and started attending esthetic shows. It was then that her love for esthetics was stoked. “I’ve always had a very strong focus on wellness for the skin,” Dubois explains.

Because New York state laws at the time dictated that she would need a cosmetology license to practice skin care, Dubois next studied at the Europa School of Cosmetology near Albany, then moved on to further education at Catherine Hinds Institute of Esthetics in Woburn, Massachusetts, developing a dedication and style in her techniques and attitudes about skin care.

After completing her schooling in 1984, Dubois began working at salons and skin care centers offering facials and healthy skin treatments, but found the work wasn’t what she expected. “I knew I wanted to be in an environment that focused more on taking care of the skin, and the place I was working at just wasn’t practicing the way I envisioned it to be,” she explains. “So in 1987, I opened Complexions Professional Skin Care.”

At the time, the spas and skin care centers that were around her mainly focused on pampering, Dubois says, so she played to her skin care strengths—wellness and education—in order to start building a client base. “I felt that if I could at least get people in the door and introduce them to the services and the wellness focus, they would come back. My goal was to educate them about proper skin care and help them understand the partnership between proper home care and professional treatments,” she notes. “I really encouraged people to prebook their next appointment, and offered discounted service packages as an incentive. With the focus always about educating them, the clients understood how the treatments were really acting as maintenance.”

Creating and maintaining a healthy business, Dubois developed signature offerings and services that grew from facials and massage to hydrotherapy, manicures and pedicures, hair and barber services, body treatments and more. Having also noticed a growing movement of combining medical services with esthetic offerings, she cultivated relationships with plastic surgeons, dermatologists and the local medical community to develop pre- and post-operative skin care treatments, as well as the What’s Right for You program. “It’s a fun, educational program that focuses on how your skin works,” Dubois says. “We introduce clients to all the different modalities available—skin care, laser, chemical peels, microdermabrasion and dermal fillers. When they understand how the skin functions and how the procedures work, they can make a more educated choice about what’s right for them.”

Meanwhile, Dubois also watched her business jump in size from 1,200 square feet to 2,000 to 4,200, and, just in May 2008, to a new location of 8,450 square feet. The new location is not only larger, but it’s also eco-friendly, powered by wind and water, and uses recycled materials and Energy Star appliances. Renaming the facility Complexions Spa for Wellness and Beauty, she says, “The wellness philosophy continues to be strengthened by our new green facility. It’s a huge commitment to our clients and employees to be able to offer services in an environment that supports the entire wellness concept.”

That commitment to her clients’ wellness is something that has always held true for Dubois, and she stays in the mix as much as possible, working with clients for consistent, satisfying results. However, Dubois has also built a dedicated team of employees that helps achieve the spa’s successes. “I do enjoy motivating our staff and working with a great team,” she says. “It’s funny, when you ask me what is the most frustrating and most rewarding thing about the business, I would have to say it would be working with employees.” And though she admits it can be a challenge at times, she explains, “I am very proud of the professionals who work at Complexions, and I love to see them successful and growing in their careers.”

Through it all, this spa owner has kept her message and intentions consistent—quality wellness care for the skin—and that focused view keeps her business flying high. Describing her outlook on the future, Dubois says, “I don’t want to focus on the negative state of the economy. I want to be progressive in our planning and figure what we can do to make the business better. De-stressing our clients during this time should be our most important goal to keep them coming back.”

“I feel very passionate about my work, and I enjoy going in every day,” says Dubois. “I honestly don’t think I would change anything.”

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