The building blocks of the esthetics industry were forged by the educators that created the curriculum students know and study today. One of those notable educators, Rebecca Gadberry, former CEO of YG Laboratories has been developing and teaching skin care trends and sciences for more than 45 years. Now “half-retired” and working on product development for YG, Gadberry also spends her days as a mindfulness and meditation coach sharing her practices with seniors, esthetic professionals and the incarcerated. The esthetics trailblazer is considered a “cosmetic bioevangelist” for her work in disruptive biosciences, as well as a highly acclaimed educator, journalist and industry leader. Skin Inc. had the honor of chatting with Gadberry about what ignited her passion for esthetics, her contributions to the cosmetic sciences, and her legendary work in skin care development.
Skin Inc. (SI): How did you get started in the industry?
Rebecca Gadberry (RG): When I was 10, my mother became a Mary Kay ‘girl’ when the company started selling in California in 1964. She was one of the very first to sign up. She taught me how to do a facial the “Mary Kay way,” how to apply makeup, how to build a sale and how to close (ask for the order.) By the time I was 14, I was paying half the rent, half the utilities, had my own phone and was saving for college. When the cosmetician license, now called an esthetician license, was offered in California, I was in the first group to pass the tests. I think I’m the 13th licensed esthetician in California. Barbara Salomone, the founder of Bioelements, is the seventh. We met in beauty school, took our exams side by side and were like sisters the rest of our lives until she passed away a few years ago. That’s the way it is in this business—you make friends along the way, and many of them are friends for life.
SI: How did your interest in skin care develop?
RG: I read a book by Dr. Bedford Shelmire titled “The Art of Looking Younger” when it first came out in the early 1970s. I read it three times in a week, cover-to-cover. Although we didn’t know a lot about the skin at that point, what we did know was enough to get me going. At the time, I was on the road every week representing the company that later became YG Laboratories. Wherever I was, I always found time to check into the local public or university library to see what they had about the skin. Back then, you had to identify, then ask, for research papers and articles at a reference desk, wait for a while until they were brought to you, identify what you wanted to copy then pay ten cents a copy in order to keep it as a reference. I remember one day I spent close to one hundred dollars. I still have some of the research today, like the in-depth study I did about corneotherapy. What I learned then has influenced my concerns when developing a new product or facial protocol to this day. So many of the articles I wrote at the time came out of using that method. That’s how I met Dr. Peter Pugliese, probably the most important mentor of my life. He was always so generous with his time, information and insight into the skin and ingredients.