Lydia Sarfati: “Never be afraid of going into the unknown territories”

Never be afraid of going into the unknown territories: You always have the opportunity of creating something that is unique, that’s different and will make a big difference in someone’s life. And I know we have created a big difference in many esthetician’s and beauty professionals life with seaweed and the Four-Layer Facial, then, now […]

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Never be afraid of going into the unknown territories: You always have the opportunity of creating something that is unique, that’s different and will make a big difference in someone’s life. And I know we have created a big difference in many esthetician’s and beauty professionals life with seaweed and the Four-Layer Facial, then, now and in the future.

As a part of our series about “Five Things You Need To Know To Succeed In The Modern Beauty Industry”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lydia Sarfati, Founder and CEO of Repêchage®.

Lydia Sarfati is an international industry leader, with over 46 years of experience as a spa owner, consultant, and esthetician. She is the Founder/CEO of Repêchage®, the first company to bring professional seaweed-based skincare treatments to the U.S market offered in over 50 countries around the world and is the President of CIDESCO Section U.S.A, the world’s major international beauty therapy association. She is the author of Success at Your Fingertips: How to Succeed in the Skin Care Business and has been featured in Vogue, and on CNN and Today.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I was born in Legnica, Poland. As a child I was interested in many things, including music, literature and chemistry. My aunt in Russia was a dermatologist. I was exposed to beauty treatments as a young girl, and it was natural for me to explore it. Every Friday I was privileged to see our kitchen turned into a beauty salon. My mother and her sister would have a cosmetician come to our home to perform facials, manicures, brow tinting, and more. I remember her being like a magician. She cooked up her own cream in the kitchen, and the aromas where enchanting. As soon as I was old enough, I would invite my friends and classmates to my home and lie them down on the floor and administer facials that I concocted in the kitchen like a chemist. Whatever I could find went into my formulas. Even caviar!

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

My company Repêchage was born from my travels in the 1970’s. In Israel, my attention was drawn to the flavors and smells of the country’s desert vegetables and fruits. I discovered the farming community was using seaweed as a bio stimulant and fertilizer. In a dry climate, farmers were able to produce an abundance of fruits and vegetables. After doing research, I found that seaweed has a great bioaffinity to the skin, perhaps greater than any other natural ingredients. The seaweed plant has no roots so it feeds through osmosis, absorbing minerals and vitamins from the seawater. Because of how it absorbs nutrients from seawater, seaweed becomes a dense concentration of vitamins, minerals, trace elements, macro elements, phytohormones and amino acids. I discovered two species, Laminaria digitata and Ascophyllum nodosum, which were both complete sources of nutrients, containing 42 trace elements and minerals, 18 amino acids, 12 vitamins, phyto hormones, and natural anti-oxidant material such as phlorotannins, sulfated polysaccharides, fucosterol and fucoxanthinsI. This was my “aha” moment. I then travelled to the source of seaweed on the Brittany Coast of France to negotiate the production of the first seaweed based skin care line.

I also found that the key for unlocking the benefits of seaweeds for use in skin care was to sustainably grow and harvest seaweed in a pure environment, and then to process the seaweed so that these important phyto-nutrients remain at their maximum potency. Most manufacturers of seaweed-based products used the oven drying method of processing, which method yields an extract that may be deficient in vitamins and amino acids that are heat sensitive. Together with my husband, David, we developed an exclusive proprietary method to create seaweed extract that retains the activity of all the rich nutrients.

Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Are there takeaways or lessons that others can learn from that?

In 1980, I launched the iconic Repêchage® Four-Layer Facial® an entirely new concept of unidose applications that assured the highest level of hygiene, quality control and consistent results. The launch of the new facial was held at the Pierre Hotel, with the good fortune of having Vogue Beauty Editor Andrea Robinson volunteer to be my demonstration model. Andrea loved the results, and wrote about us in the pages of her magazine. Soon after, I became the leading esthetician in the country, featured in major media such as Vogue, InStyle, Glamour, Elle, Allure, and the New York Times as well as on CNN, CBS, and FOX. Cosmopolitan UK has called the Four-Layer Facial® “the best facial of the century.”

All of this was without any advertising or public relations budget. I didn’t even know what public relations was! People always think you need to be big to be successful, but I am proof that you can start off small and grow and be successful with hard work and dedication.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person to whom you are grateful who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I was very fortunate to meet a beauty editor named Felicia Milewicz, who became my good luck charm. I met her in 1977 when I was a young skin care center owner. She was a beauty editor for Mademoiselle magazine at the time, and was excited to learn my philosophy of skin care. It is because of her faith in me early on that I was discovered by the media world after my work appeared on the pages of her magazine. I believe she is responsible for my success in America, and for that I am eternally grateful to her.

Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. The global beauty industry today has grown to more than a half a trillion dollar business. Can you tell us about the innovations that you are bringing to the industry? How do you think that will help people?

40 years ago, I created the first uni-dose facial treatment with the introduction of the Four-Layer Facial. Uni-dose packaging avoids cross contamination or “double dipping,” creating a safe treatment for you and your clients. This was the first “facial in a box” with uni-dose packets to provide consistent and perfect results each time, featuring four layers to provide deep cleansing, hydration, renewing and lifting, based on pure, rich seaweed filtrate. When I initially conceived of this treatment, I had three objectives. Number one, very often people overused the product or underused the product. Two was inventory control: you really never knew if you had control over what is your cost of goods. Three was hygiene. It prevented cross-contamination, and maintained the freshness and purity of the product. These factors are even more important today. That is why all Repêchage signature facial treatments come in safe, hygienic, premeasured packets. We have also implemented this type of system in many at-home products, including our award-winning Rapidex® Marine Exfoliator With Phyto-Marine Actives, a safe and effective uni–dose at-home peel program based on phyto-marine extracts and natural fruit acids that will gently exfoliate the skin, helping the skin to appear more even in tone and texture, feel softer and smoother. I created this product to provide a controlled application process because I observed that clients were over-exfoliating their skin, whether with microdermabrasion, chemical and acid peels or laser resurfacing procedures. Rapidex®’s unique uni–dose packaging is pre-measured, stays fresh, and provides a large, pre-saturated cotton swab soaked in our exclusive formula that is safe and effective. I truly believe these systems, in combination with sustainably-harvested seaweed, are the most important factors for the future of skin care.

Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the modern beauty industry?

1. Sustainability: The beauty about seaweed is that it has no roots, and it has a tremendous quick regrowth rate. Five years ago, we found a wild source of Laminaria digitata and Ascophyllum nodosum seaweeds off the coast of Maine, because it requires a certain temperature of water. So as long as the seaweed is sustainably harvested, as ours is, and at a particular time period, always in spring and summer, we should be blessed to have this natural source for thousands of years more.

2. Facial tools to enhance facial treatments in the salon and at home: The recent events have enhanced the symbiotic relationship between skin care professionals and their clients at home, in that treatments can be used both at home and at the salon. Technological devices that are multi-use, such as the Repêchage® LED Radio Frequency and EMS Skin Tightening Machine, the Repêchage® Ultrasonic Skin Spatula For Micro Exfoliation and Deep Cleansing and the Repêchage® Kansa Wand can be used both in the spa and salon and at home to create professional results. These types of developments are ongoing, and will help continue to foster the relationship between professional and client.

3. New ingredients: I’m very excited and motivated by new raw materials, by new ingredients. For me it’s my passion to always look for new ingredients and new possibilities, and listen to our clients. When I was in Croatia recently, someone mentioned charcoal wax, so I came back and started to work on one in the lab.

I was in South Africa in 2000, I came upon rooibos tea and I came back and I said we’ve got to research this ingredient. From this, we created Hydra Soleil® Deep Relief Tea Gel with rooibos tea, perfect for sun burns because it’s very soothing and reduces the appearance of redness. I am always inspired by the environment as well. In Thailand, the fragrant Thai kitchen had lemongrass, so we made our One-Minute Exfoliating Mask and Hydra Refine® Cleansing Mousse with this refreshing ingredient.

Can you share 3 things that most concern you about the industry? If you had the ability to implement 3 ways to improve the industry, what would you suggest?

1. Create the right atmosphere for selling at the salon: Granted, the prospect of competing against large cosmetic corporations can seem daunting. These companies can afford to hire celebrity spokespeople and take out full-page ads in Vogue. So how can we win? I have realized long ago that I can’t possibly compete with a multimilion-dollar advertising budget, but what I can do is create an atmosphere in my salon that is inviting and professional — an atmosphere in which I can recommend and sell my products effectively. As an industry, it is our professional responsibility to provide retail recommendations to our clients.

2. Create excitement about facial services: In my travels throughout the past two decades, I personally have discovered that in a hotel spa, almost 70% of revenue is generated by massage, with the remaining 20%-30% obtained from other services, such as facials and body treatments. However, in day spas, approximately 80% of revenue comes from hair services and products. Why? Here is what I have observed. There is not enough promotion and awareness being placed on facial services. This creates a snowball effect, resulting in low retail revenue. This is why I created the Facial Bar and Glow and Go concepts, which allow people to enjoy real, efficacious, express facial services and facial massage suited to their skin types and skin concern in a fun environment.

3. Higher standards of esthetic education: In our field, it is imperative that we elevate state board standards and make more information available to esthetics and cosmetology instructors. In the end, too many schools are teaching only the bare minimum to enable students to pass the state exam. It is vital that schools begin teaching not only technique, but also instilling the intangibles of business know-how and imparting the essentials for succeeding after graduation. Over the last couple of years I’ve been working with schools to help future professionals become successful. In addition to sharing skin histology, anatomy and physiognomy, I want them to have the skills that will help them to be job ready. As President of CIDESCO Section USA, I am working with schools across the country and the globe to do just that. CIDESCO is the world’s major international beauty therapy association, and a CIDESCO diploma or certification is considered the highest qualification in the esthetics industry. However, this certification program has not been available in the US until January 2019 when the CIDESCO certification first became available at the Bellus Academy in San Diego, California. CIDESCO certification programs are now becoming more and more available at qualifying schools across the country to provide aspiring and established estheticians the highest level of education and certification to advance their careers by providing them with great credentials for employment.

You are an expert about beauty. Can you share a few ideas that anyone can use “to feel beautiful”?

My routine every morning is to do at least 40–45 minutes of exercise and stretching. Then I have a light breakfast then take a bath (not a shower!). I follow with a good body cream, such as my Vita Cura® Triple Action Body Contour Cream with seaweed and Chinese Herbs, Caffeine, and Coenzyme infused with fragrant essential oils of Grapefruit, Basil and Mint.

It is impossible to say one facial product is my favorite, but right now, these products are helping promote beautiful skin while providing a relaxing start to my day:

– Triple Action Peptide Mask For All Skin Types: I use this every single day with the Triple Action Peptide Serum. I apply the Serum twice a day, but during my bath, I then apply the Peptide Serum Sheet Mask.

– On top of these, I use the Ionto Massager. This device helps with the absorption of the four peptides and Laminaria Digitata Seaweed filtrate, as well as the other potent botanical ingredients. As you know, the main seaweed that we use is Laminaria Digitata, our proprietary extract that is very rich in minerals, vitamins, amino acids, phlorotannins, phyto-hormones, — really everything your skin needs.

You know that old saying “beauty sleep?” Beauty sleep is very important and if we don’t sleep well we get dark circles, puffy eyes, and ashy and gray skin. I have created a wonderful wellness routine that people and clients can do at home in the evening. You may think you are too busy if you have small children, but it’s essential to take time for yourself.

– I start with a wonderful dry brushing with Signature Repechage® Dry Brush to get your circulation going and provide a great exfoliation.

– Then I take Sea Spa Glow, which has Peppermint, Spearmint, and Seaweed extracts and Dead Sea Salts, and I massage the whole body with it. It’s very invigorating and very refreshing. I rinse it all off and I then, I take a bath.

– Sometimes I use different sheet masks while in the bath, depending on my skin condition. There are Repêchage sheet masks for all skin concerns, including dry, sensitive, dull, uneven and mature skin. One great option for every skin type is the Lamina Lift™ Hydrating Seaweed Mask For All Skin Types This mask contains Laminaria Digitata Seaweed, Orange Water and Aloe extracts and Hyaluronic Acid for real moisturizing benefits.

– This is also a time for relaxing, beneficial facial massage. You can use a tool such as our new Kansa Wand for massaging, or, if you need extra help around the eye area, to address signs of fatigue or puffiness, I use the Silver Ball Massager. This is a stainless steel ball that I massage gently around the eye area to help reduce the appearance of puffiness.

– Finish with a nice hot cup of chamomile tea and slip between the sheets! You will sleep much better.

Here is the main question for our discussion. Based on your experience and success, Can you please share “Five Things You Need To Know To Succeed In The Modern Beauty Industry”. Please share a story or an example, for each.

1. Everything is an opportunity: Manhattan now is very much like Manhattan in 1977. Everyone was leaving. We were in the middle of a recession, and women were not allowed to sign for a business loan. But I persevered, and created my own business. I opened my first spa on 5th Ave and 53rd street in 1977 because the rents were cheap. In good times I probably could never afford to do it. So I have learned over the time of the decades to not despair when things go bad. You look at it as an opportunity. I never give up, never take no for answer.

2. Take time to connect: We all have so many things that come in front of us, but sometimes we don’t connect to it. Especially today with technology, we don’t take enough time to reflect because we are running onto the next thing. Barry Eichner from Lipgloss and Aftershave says I did to seaweed what Heinz did to tomatoes. It’s really true. Some people thought seaweed was just ugly weeds, but I saw treasure. I saw what they did for agriculture and dry desert arid earth, and I thought, my goodness, if that’s what happens to earth, what is it going to do to skin? Why is there a co-relation? So I understood back then that seaweed is going to retain the beautiful moisture in the skin forever.

3. Never be afraid of going into the unknown territories: You always have the opportunity of creating something that is unique, that’s different and will make a big difference in someone’s life. And I know we have created a big difference in many esthetician’s and beauty professionals life with seaweed and the Four-Layer Facial, then, now and in the future.

4. Love what you do: If you really find in life something that you love to do, then you will never work a day in your life. I think it’s important to do a job well but I think it’s important to enjoy it, and never take short cuts.

5. Build a strong team: I think you have to rely on yourself, but you have to be able to build a strong team around you, to inspire people around you to do well, and to rise to the occasion. But if you don’t rely on yourself first, you will come short-handed in sending this message to your team members that they have to raise the bar, and that they have to do better. I have to inspire them, but they have to aspire to be the very best, and this is why I show them how to do it, and I help them to be the very best in what they do.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Even though the field of esthetics has grown tremendously, estheticians in many parts of the country still face challenges when it comes to making ends meet. Although a select few earn enough money to enjoy a very comfortable standard of living. According to ZipRecruiter, annual salaries can be as high as 66,908 dollars and as low as 18,647 dollars depending upon geographic location and level of experience, with the great majority are at the lower end of this salary range. Consequently, these estheticians remain in the profession for only two years before looking for a higher-paying job. This lack of financial stability is destabilizing the spa industry. Whether it is in a spa, salon or medical spa setting, skin care professionals need to be paid a regular wage, not expected to come in for “gigs” only, and expect pay increases as sales and services become more successful for the business overall.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life? You know, this is something I have learned decades ago.

“Proper prior planning prevents poor performance.”

People often ask me how did I create a global business and raise a family? Have a plan and write it down.

It doesn’t take an MBA to write a business plan. Just know what it is you want. You’ve got to be specific. You always start with the five questions: Why are you going to do what you want to do, what you are going to do, how you are going to do it, where you are going to do it, which is very important — location, location, location — and who you are going to do it with? If you can answer these five things, you can have a business.

How can our readers follow you online?


Lydia’s blog:

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