In honor of International Women’s Month, we would like to dedicate this blog to the women behind the beauty, spa, and med spa services industry. Thanks to some of history’s earliest female entrepreneurs – and their creativity, courage, and ambition (often against many odds) – the beauty and med spa services industry has become what it is today.
The History of Cosmetology
Civilizations have used cosmetics for centuries in religious rituals, to enhance beauty, and to promote good health. We can trace the use of beauty enhancing treatments and products back to 4000 BC – when Egyptians used kohl as eyeliner and berries, clay, spices and charcoal as makeup pigment. Early beauty treatments also utilized natural ingredients from plants and vegetables for scrubs, pastes, and exfoliates. The art and science of using local, natural ingredients and elements for beauty, healing, and wellness is common throughout all cultures. The healing benefits of these natural ingredients were typically discovered and developed by women.
Since women know the needs and desires of women, it’s not surprising that the majority of the creators and leaders in the beauty, spa, and med spa industry are women. In fact, one of the aspects that sets the beauty and medical spa – aka medical aesthetics – sector apart from other industries is that women are highly prevalent throughout.
Let’s learn more about the women who paved the way:
1. Martha Matilda Harper – Born in 1857, Martha Matilda Harper went from being a maidservant to a well-known businesswoman. She was an innovator in both beauty and business when she started her own hair salon The Harper Hair Parlour. Not only that, she was the first person – not to mention a woman of color – to start a franchise system! By the 1920s, there were over 500 Harper salons around the world!
2. Madam C. J. Walker – This African American trailblazer developed and marketed her own line of beauty and hair care products for black women in the early 1900s. She started out successfully selling her products door to door. Then she created a sales training program for women to become her “beauty culturists” i.e, sales rep. She did so by teaching them how to use her products to groom and style their hair. She ended up founding a business that included a factory, hair salon, beauty school, and sales training program. She supported other women by training them and promoting them to key management roles in her company.
3. Elizabeth Arden – Starting at the beginning of the 20th Century, Elizabeth Arden built a cosmetic brand that is still known all over the world. In addition to her internationally acclaimed line of cosmetics, she was the first woman to open a day spa in 1910, known as “Manhattan’s Red Door Salon”. This spa which originally offered manicures, pedicures, facials, and much more, more now serves clients across the United States in more than 30 locations.
“It is remarkable what a woman can accomplish with just a little ambition.” — Elizabeth Arden
4. Colleen Acunzo – Fast forward to the 1990s and the facial rejuvenation and wrinkle-reducing treatments offered at day spas are taken a step further when non-invasive medical treatments are developed to correct skin problems and reduce the signs of aging. This concept was developed in large part thanks to Colleen and Francis Acunzo, who heard about a new device that could “erase” brown spots from the back of hands. The device was invented by a company called Candela. Long story short, they collaborated with Candela in creating a beauty spa that also offers medical skin treatments: the world’s first medical spa. Since then, they have opened and operated over 75 med spas. Colleen helped develop many of the med spa treatments and products that are used today, and she continues to influence the industry through research and education.
5. Nicole Chiaramonte – She isn’t a doctor, nurse, injector, or even an aesthetician! Yet her success in the med spa services field has been tremendous. She’s essentially an entrepreneur who is helping to shape the industry on all levels from operations to medical aesthetics best practices. She also coaches women throughout the industry who need guidance on how to better run and grow their business.
6. Carrie Strom – The woman behind Botox – an injectable treatment that has transformed medical aesthetics, is among the most powerful women in the industry. To quote her:
“I started my career at Allergan working on Botox Therapeutic for urology and neurology, and that’s when I fell in love with the Botox molecule and the positive impact it has on patients’ lives,” Strom says. “Botox led me to the dynamic aesthetics market, where cutting-edge science meets beauty, and I can honestly say, I found my place!”
The list goes on and on of all the amazing women who are part of the evolution of this industry – from the development of skincare products to medical research and service, to business development, marketing, and management. They have set a precedence of knowledge, expertise, empathy, and mutual support that results in success for all involved. This post is dedicated to all those countless women who embody everyone and everything we love about the med spa industry!