Shani Darden’s journey from spa receptionist to celebrity beautician

Welcome to Big Break, where some of the most influential people in the beauty industry reflect on the moments that shaped them – from good to bad and everything in between. Here, Shani Darden, celebrity esthetician – whose clients include Jessica Alba, Chrissy Teigen and Shay Mitchell to name a few – and founder of Shani Darden Skin Care shares her journey from her early days as a spa receptionist. until building an epic celebrity following and a successful skincare line.

Shani Darden loved skincare from a young age. “My mom was really aware of the importance of taking care of her skin,” she told POPSUGAR. Having breakout-prone skin made her all the more interested in learning more about the world of beauty. But even though her love ran deep, she didn’t know she wanted to be a beautician at first. “We didn’t even have a beautician where I grew up, so it wasn’t something I knew I wanted to do,” she says. It wasn’t until Darden moved to Los Angeles that a friend suggested he work at a spa. “I had worked as a receptionist at a few spas and really enjoyed it,” she says. “So I first went to school to become a massage therapist and then a beautician afterwards.”

Almost immediately after enrolling in school, Darden knew that being a beautician was exactly what she wanted to do. “I was really lucky to get really good jobs right out of school,” Darden says. “I worked at a very high-end spa, and I worked there as a receptionist hoping that they would hire me afterwards to be a beautician, which they didn’t,” she says. . Instead, they helped her find a job at a dermatology practice. There, Darden worked alongside renowned Los Angeles-based dermatologist Erma Benitez, MD, where she learned all about different skin types and conditions. “I bounced around in different places – I literally worked everywhere, in every hotel, plastic surgeon’s office, etc. – until I came out on my own.”

“I see some of the biggest celebrities, and I’m always like, ‘How did I get here?’

Although she liked what she was doing, there was one aspect that she didn’t like. “A lot of times, being an esthetician at a spa isn’t a place where you’re going to make a lot of money unless you’re pushing the product,” she says. And that’s exactly what Darden didn’t want to do. “[It] was really hard for me because I didn’t necessarily believe in all of them, and also not everyone can afford to leave a place and spend that much money every time.” Darden was even fired from school. one of the places she worked because her sales were “Not all product lines were even suitable for everyone’s skin types, so I knew working for a spa was definitely not for me in this meaning.” So while Darden says opening his own clinic wasn’t necessarily a “goal,” it ultimately happened naturally by following his philosophy of trying to give his patients the best care.

Darden’s success continued to grow, and the catalyst was thanks to his now friend Jessica Alba. At the time, Darden was working in a clinic with mostly celebrity clients. “They were still seeing the owner, but I ended up seeing Jessica this time, and we just hit it off, and then later became friends,” Darden said. “It definitely changed everything for me.

Alba was Darden’s first celebrity client to talk about seeing her publicly. “She mentioned me in Allure magazine, and that’s how it started,” she says. “That’s when a lot of makeup artists started coming to see me, and then they referred their clients.” From there, clients ended up going straight to Darden in his home office and it wasn’t long before Darden had an epic list of celebrity clients.

She remembers when she rented a house and worked in the back room, but she didn’t have a bathroom in the clinic space. “I had this little house, and there were really big celebrities coming through my house to use the bathroom while my kids were hiding in the bedroom,” she says.

“Big celebrities would walk through my house to go to the bathroom while my kids hid in the bedroom,” she says.

Following his success at the clinic, it was a natural progression for Darden to release his own line of products, which started with just one product: retinol. “Because I worked for a dermatologist, I worked a lot with patients who were taking a retinol, Retin-A, or Tazorac,” she says. “I was so in love with the ingredient, but knew there were downtimes with using a prescription retinol.” She was inspired to create a product that anyone could use and “went from there”.

Since then, Shani Darden Skin Care has expanded to include a cleanser, oil-free moisturizer, sculpting wand and lactic acid serum, with more to come.

When it comes to pinch moments, Darden unsurprisingly had a few. “I see some of the biggest celebrities, and I’m always like, ‘How did I get here?'” she says. With his work, Darden is always working towards one thing. “My goal is to always make people feel confident and get them on the right track – that’s all I really care about.”

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