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Choose Beauty: Lydia Sarfati

Anne Moratto | November 3, 2014 | 12:42 PM

Biggest change in skincare: When I first started here, I would say ‘esthetician’ and people thought I was saying ‘electrician.’ It was a foreign word to them but, today, people understand what it is and what it means. The growth of the licensed skincare professional has been tremendous. 

Wish for the industry: Stay true, stay correct, stay scientific. I believe estheticians need to get greater scientific knowledge so they won’t be fooled into something that is not right for them. There is a lot of hocus-pocus; when I walk through the trade shows, sometimes I just cringe.

In the New Year: In 2014, I was head and hands deep in the lab with fantastic new formulations for dark circles, wrinkles, puffiness and treatments for the body. In 2015, we will continue teaching salons how to provide excellent service so they will succeed.

What made her spa so special:

  • Our sheets were pressed, starched and ironed by me, myself and I!
  • You would walk into the salon and you could eat off the floor.
  • We brewed fresh tea in the samovar and served tea sandwiches and Perrier bottled water, a novelty at the time.

President and CEO of Repêchage, Lydia Sarfati, traces her passion for skincare to her childhood in Poland.

Her skincare methods are taught in schools all over the world. She opened the first day spa in Manhattan in 1977. She also brought seaweed-based skincare treatments and cosmetics to the U.S. market. President and CEO of Repêchage, Lydia Sarfati says all this innovation has its source in her mother’s kitchen.

“I grew up in Legnica, Poland and as a young girl I saw my mother getting facials, pedicures, manicures and her hair done, right in the kitchen,” says Sarfati. “She would have a cosmetician come and she would start cooking the creams and making the potions right there; it was magical to me. I loved the smells, how happy my mother was after and all I thought was, ‘When will I be able to get my hands on all that stuff?’

 “Later, I would imitate the cosmeticians and lay my friends down on the kitchen floor and put what I could find in the kitchen, including caviar, on their faces. My mother would come back and say, ‘Who ate all my caviar?’  And I would sneak into school with scissors and try cutting hair and nails. I was inspired by the beauty and the science and the wellness of it all. 

“My father thought it important to have a craft and to work with your hands so I took a medically-oriented skin care course. We arrived in the U.S. in 1970 and I become a makeup artist. At that time, we were custom- blending creams, powders and cosmetics in the back of the stores where we worked. This was well before FDA oversight and I’m sure it was full of bacteria but who knew?”

She earned her cosmetology license and practiced on celebrities and socialites until the day when she knew she wanted to see her vision of how a skincare center should function take shape. In 1977, she opened Klisar Skincare Center. “It was one of the worst economic times, with huge inflation and interest rates at 22 percent,” says Sarfati.  “Everyone was moving out of Manhattan.  But I was so determined and focused on delivering the very best that I wasn’t thinking of the negative.” 

As magazines began to run reviews of her magic methods and fabulous fingertips, “the phones never stopped ringing and I was working sixty hours a week. People started flying in from all over the United States to have a facial with me.” 

Sarfati eventually sold her spa business to concentrate on producing products that anyone could administer, without the need of equipment. The result was the Repêchage company and Sarfati’s signature four-layer facial.  “Within a year of presenting our products, I was in the top seventy salons in the U.S.,” she says.  “In 1982, I landed my first distributor in Japan. During the 80s and 90s, I spent a great deal of time in Asia—Taiwan, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore—and today it is still my number one continent.”

While she has moved out of the kitchen, Sarfati continues to share her passion for skincare through her writings, lectures and classes and Repêchage continues to innovate. 

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