Michelle Calvarese, owner of and esthetician at Truth Skin Care in Clovis, California, is a skin care professional and a professor who seeks truth and dispels skin care myths.
The 42-year-old has worked as a professor at California State University, Fresno, for 13 years, focusing on medical geography, which examines why disease occurs, where it spreads and how it gets from point A to point B. A couple of years ago, Calvarese developed a course that examines global approaches to integrative health, wellness and beauty. At that time, her interest in skin care was piqued. “I became more interested in beauty and wellness, so my career transitioned from infectious disease. Now, my focus is more on the larger category of holistic health, wellness and beauty,” she says.
The licensed esthetician’s scholarly background includes a bachelor’s degree in geography from Villanova University in Villanova, Pennsylvania; a master’s degree in geography from West Chester University in West Chester, Pennsylvania; and a doctorate in medical geography at Texas A&M. After field work in Uganda, Africa, she began to focus on global beauty. Calvarese eventually stretched her reach further to other regions, such as Kenya, Tanzania, Japan and Taiwan. In addition to her academic field work, she also spoke with spa owners and dermatologists in those countries.
“I was always interested in identifying the popular surgeries in the areas and what their expectation of beauty were, what were the gender norms, what was considered beautiful ... and they just varied so much,” she says.
In 2005, she decided to shift her focus. After being tenured at Fresno State, the Philadelphia native decided to go to esthetics school. Calvarese received her license in 2006 from Paul Mitchell Skin Academy in Fresno. Following that, she worked as an independent contractor for two salons in the Fresno area before opening her own facility.
What Calvarese finds most compelling about her work are the types of myths and misconceptions surrounding beauty, and the dangerous things women do worldwide that put their health in peril for aesthetic purposes. For this reason, the esthetics center that she runs is one-woman-show called Truth Skin Care.
Although her specialty is highly focused anti-aging treatments and chemical peels, her main goal is to teach clients about how to maintain healthy skin, rather than reverting to Botox injections as a quick fix.
“You can have a client who is 60 without a wrinkle,” she says. “I’m trying to get clients to understand that if your skin is healthy, that is what makes it look youthful.”
As a result, Calvarese focuses on collective skin care and promoting elastin production through dermafiling and microdermabrasion. In addition, she regularly evaluates her skin care service menu by generating client comments on Facebook. “One of the biggest things is to listen to clients, and offer the services and products that they want ... not what you want.” Her success in this is evident in that approximately 70% of service clients buy her retail, as well. Calvarese uses the lines Circadia by Dr. Pugliese, Mark Lees Skin Care and Murad.
Another valuable lesson this professor has learned is that clients just want a good value—and that doesn’t mean the least expensive service. “I’m focusing on referrals—that has worked better. Those are the people who have been coming to me regularly, and they are in the same demographic, rather than a discount client coming from another side of town,” she says.
Word-of-mouth works; however, you have to be credible. “You have to follow through. You have to be accessible and give your number to clients. It’s good to be the go-to source,” Calvarese adds.
For the months ahead, she is continuing to balance her brilliant trifecta: working with the university; treating her solid list of clientele, with a database of 400; and developing her own skin care line. “You have to be organized,” she advises. Although she has her sights set on getting a bigger facility, she adds: “I want that growth to happen slowly.”
Nicole Urbanowicz is a contributor to Skin Inc. magazine, and is the associate editor of Perfumer & Flavorist magazine. Her articles have also appeared in various media outlets, including The Wall Street Journal, the Associated Press and WWD Accessories.