Dangene has been a trailblazer in the esthetics world for over two decades and has a client list of power brokers and celebrities to show for it. Circcell founder Maya Crothers caught up with her fellow beauty entrepreneur to talk inspiration, education and how to stay ahead of the game.
Dangene, you’ve had quite a career thus far. What inspired you to go into esthetics and become a celebrity esthetician?
When I was a little girl I wanted to be a doctor, but we didn’t have enough money in my family for me to go to college. I knew that I would have to find my own way and I have always loved beauty. When I graduated from high school, my dad suggested that I go to esthetics school, so that is what I did right out of high school. I pursued the broader cosmetology certification course and went back to take more detailed skin courses later.
“I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was preparing myself to run my own company.” - Dangene
Can you tell us about your path from small-town girl to one of the most recognized estheticians today?
When I graduated from esthetics school, John Peters hired me. John Peters is famous today for being a very successful Hollywood producer, but he started out as a hairdresser. This was a long time ago when he was still dating Barbara Streisand. So I did hair on some very famous people – Farrah Fawcett, Omar Sharif, Richard Dreyfuss, Valerie Perrine, and I used to go to their homes as an assistant to John Peter’s lead hairstylist, Sandy Web. I worked with Sandy for about a year until I realized that I didn’t really have the personality to work with celebrity hair. At the time I didn’t have the personality to be that tough. I was not raised that way and I was only 18 years old. I was very young and not worldly. The celebrities I was working with were very powerful and demanded a lot.
I left that world and began working for a bank in LA, working my way up from teller to lead teller, to high net worth individuals’ investments. After four years, I was invited to work at a brokerage house where I learned to be an assistant trader. After going through the beauty/hair period and then going through banking and learning about the brokerage business, I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was preparing myself to run my own company.
“The majority of what I’ve learned came from my own experience with skin issues, taking extra classes, and working directly with others.” - Dangene
So what instigated the switch over into esthetics, Dangene?
In my early 20s I got severe adult acne. I am very OCD and a perfectionist, and I became a picker. I went through six dermatologists and none of them could help me. They treated me with antibiotics and cortisone injections and products that were way too strong for my skin. After stumbling around for some time, I finally figured it out and was able to treat myself. I ended up giving myself extractions, which is very hard to do on yourself, but I learned how to do them the right way.
So often, extractions are performed incorrectly. It’s not the esthetician’s fault. They just are not taught the proper method and can end up doing more harm than good. But I perfected extractions and cured my own skin. The majority of what I’ve learned came from my own experience with skin issues, taking extra classes, and working directly with others. I’ve been studying with doctors for fifteen years so I have learned a lot through osmosis.
Being an entrepreneur is rarely a smooth path. What challenges and opportunities have shaped your own journey?
After working at the brokerage firm, I purchased a spa in California. The spa had 16 employees. I was in my early 30s and the employees were in their 50s and older. I did not have an authoritative-enough voice at the time to manage these women, so it did not work out. I offered the company to the employees for free but they did not want that. So I closed the business, sold the equipment, and helped some charities in my communities with some of the proceeds.
I then started working out of my car and treating people in their homes. As my business got bigger and my fame grew as a celebrity esthetician and I started practicing in various doctors’ offices.
Then I took my own space in the basement of a medical building in Beverly Hills. After three years, a prominent plastic surgeon in my building built out a large space on Sunset and he asked me to partner with him. He could have asked anyone in our medical building to partner with him, but he asked me. I was truly flattered. We worked together for some time. He was the medical side of the business and I was the beauty side and took care of our customers’ skin from head to toe.
Dangene, what took you from LA to New York?
I had always dreamed of living and working in New York. This was my ultimate idea of success. After some time working with the dermatologist on Sunset Blvd., I went to NYC on holiday. I decided then and there that I wanted to open an office in New York. I found a plastic surgeon on Park Avenue, explained what I had been doing in LA, and asked if I could work out of his office. He agreed and I became bi-coastal for three years, spending half my week in LA, and the other half in NYC. I eventually gave the LA business to my two LA associates that I had trained to take care of my customers whenever I was in New York.
I gave each associate half of the business, which they still have today. They split the clientele, created businesses of their own, and have done extremely well. I am so proud of them both. I’ve been living in NY permanently since 2009. Now I’m in a 6000 sq. ft. facility on the sixth floor of The CORE Club.
Can you tell us about your skincare philosophy Dangene? Your spa is not typical, in that you focus on the entire body rather than just the face, and create ambitious goals for your clientele.
When I was young, I recognized that people were spending too much time attending to their face, neck and hands, and not enough time on their chest, shoulders, tummies, rear ends, legs or feet. You notice as they get older, their face and hands are spot free, but from the neck down these people were covered with imperfections. This skin awareness comes from my extensive background with dermatologists even though I’ve worked with plastic surgeons too. Plastic surgeons always want to correct using surgery and they are not as willing to do liquid facelifts and other less invasive methods to improve the skin. Dermatologists focus on the skin. The typical treatment menu 20 years ago consisted of a massage or facial, but no treatment for the body. I started doing microdermabrasion for the whole body, washing the body with glycolic acid and treating the entire body…not just the face.
I also recognized LED early on. I was one of the first celebrity estheticians to get medical grade LED machines around 20 years ago, and I knew then that there would eventually be hand held LED, at-home technology. I wanted to be different and special. I did this by creating my own intellectual property and offering more.
I was also one of the first to layer treatments. Twenty years ago, layering didn’t exist. I would layer microderm with O2 treatments and a peel. Every other operator was only offering one treatment at a time, and only for the face…and I was layering it all in one treatment for the entire body, not just the face and hands. I also offered a series of treatments and packages. No one was offering packages back then.
“Our motto is “never let a wrinkle come,” meaning we focus heavily on prevention.” - Dangene
Describe a typical intake and protocol as a celebrity esthetician.
Every client gets a head-to-toe consultation and a customized plan. We look at your body and try to imagine how you looked in your teens and twenties – and try to get you back there. Our motto is “never let a wrinkle come,” meaning we focus heavily on prevention. We micro-manage every inch of your skin to eradicate anything brown, red, bumpy or veiny. We treat and eliminate every imperfection. We take into account your social schedule, skin type, goals, and lifestyle when laying out your treatment plan. Our facility has a collection of treatment lasers, LEDs, O2 machines, multiple micro derm modalities, and hair removal machines. Our practice includes nurses, laser technicians, medical estheticians, and vein specialists.
You’ve been a skin care pioneer and experienced great success. What would you say has been the key to it all?
I am an entrepreneur and I’m wired in a certain way. I don’t have fear. My friends tell me I’m like a bumblebee. A bumblebee’s wingspan is too short to fly. It should be impossible, yet somehow the bee flies. When I moved to NYC, I didn’t have any clients. I asked everyone I knew to introduce me to friends and family. I cold called everyone on that list. I have never been afraid of the future – even in the face of uncertainty.
As a celebrity esthetician, you work with some of the most successful and recognized women in the world. How do you manage these kinds of client relationships, Dangene?
These are the most powerful people in the world. They are very smart and know what they are looking for. We listen intently, answer intelligently, and communicate explicitly how we can confidently accomplish their goals. This requires exacting communication skills. With this clientele, you have to be 100% on your game the entire time.
What’s your advice for young estheticians just starting out in their careers?
What I want young estheticians to know is that if you have fear, then work with someone else for a while. Learning esthetics is like getting a driver’s license. You learn what you learn in driving class, but you still have to get out there and drive. You learn by doing. I learn something new every day. Don’t stop learning. Practicing esthetics is like being an artist. The skin is extremely sensitive to any manipulation. Look at what little pressure it takes to get a paper cut. Skin is truly fascinating, like working with clay.
“I love [Circcell’s product] Dew. I put it on everywhere – chest, shoulders, arms, elbows, and I rub the leftover residue into my hands.” - Dangene
We’re honored that you use Circcell products. What are some of your favorites?
I love Dew. I put it on everywhere – chest, shoulders, arms, elbows, and I rub the leftover residue into my hands. I also love the ABO products – they are super cool. Your products are clean and not overbearing. I love the packaging, the colors, and the delivery mechanism. Your products are what they are, you don’t manipulate them with unnecessary fragrances or texturizers. I love the natural simplicity, yet they are still effective.
Thank you Dangene for being such an inspiration. We’re looking forward to seeing which innovations you come up with next.