Location: Los Angeles, CA
Marital Status: Married
Education: Degree in esthetics from Fresno State.
Kate Somerville is renowned for having transformed the skin of dozens of celebrities, male and female—a record which has earned her the title “guru of glow.”
But many people who know her by name probably don’t realize that Kate became a skin care professional for the most personal reason; growing up, she suffered from severe eczema, and felt, firsthand, the toll skin trouble can take on a person’s self-worth. Determined to help anyone who knew that kind of distress, Kate developed her own skin care methodology, combining the best of the dermatological and cosmetological worlds. We chatted with Kate about her childhood, her skin care doctrine, and why a better moniker for her might be the “czar of confidence.”
When did your interest in skin care begin?
Having battled a variety of skin concerns including psoriasis, eczema, and hives—and really struggling with my own complexion growing up, I always had a special affinity for skin care. When I was a child, my parents’ marital problems caused me emotional distress. It manifested itself as a severe rash which flared up without warning. I broke out with eczema from head to toe. So, I’ve long had a deep-seated desire to provide relief to other people who, like me, don’t always feel comfortable in their own skin. In my early 20s, I had a good friend who was a dermatologist. She and I would talk endlessly about my eczema and all of the effort I put into healing myself. She suggested that I get a degree in esthetics.
Why did you want to work for yourself? How did you accomplish it?
As far back as college, I knew I wanted to work side by side with doctors, to complement their services. This was unusual at the time, as most estheticians were facialists employed by spas. So I put together a business plan geared toward my way of thinking, and shortly after graduation I opened my own clinic inside a cosmetic surgeon’s office south of Cambria, in San Luis Obispo. I didn’t know anything about running a business and was scared to death! But I overcame my fear and just did it. In the beginning, I was like a sponge, absorbing all I could about skincare from the staff, and from observing surgeries. I was fascinated by what was possible.
You’ve said that you “developed a complete line of products to address the needs of real people.” What do you mean by real people and how does your line address them?
The truth is that many companies that create beauty products are really just marketing firms. They get formulas from a faraway lab and slap their labels on them. I truly believe this is what separates my brand, my products, and what my team and I do from all the rest of the stuff out there. My products don’t get on the shelves unless they can fill certain needs of my clients and been tested by real people at my clinic. We only create products that my clients can trust, and that I personally believe in.
How does skin affect confidence?
Having a skin issue can be like wearing a mask all the time—the face that the world sees simply isn’t you. I’ve witnessed how powerful changes in skin not only transforms faces, but change lives. It’s amazing to watch the physical changes in someone, and then feel, in your heart, his or her personal transformation. To see someone regain their confidence because their outer self better matches their inner self.
Cathi’s before and after photos illustrate how Kate’s skin treatments transform the skin.
What is a medi-skin clinic?
At my medi-skin clinic, we work with the doctors who prepare clients’ skin for surgery and laser treatments and then, help take care of them after their procedures. We create custom regimens for people whose skin can’t handle everyday products, and we monitor the transformation of their skin.
On your website, you present testimonials from several celebrities. How did they find you?
Not long after we opened on Melrose Place in Los Angeles, word spread throughout the entertainment industry that we could solve skin issues and be trusted. Within a year, we had a list of celebrity clients; we caught the attention of the media, and before I knew it, I was the “guru of glow.”
Is it tough at all to treat skin when so many fashion pictures are airbrushed and otherwise doctored? Do women get unrealistic expectations for what good skin looks like?
For my book Complexion Perfection, we had people from all walks of life volunteer for their own complexion transformation, each with his or her unique skin challenges. The one thing all of these clients had in common was that they weren’t satisfied with the present state of their skin, and they couldn’t figure out how to fix it. Why they were dissatisfied was less important. Transforming skin is what gives me my mojo, and I love a challenge.
How long do you typically work with a new client?
For clients with serious concerns, my clinicians and I spend anywhere from six months to a year working on their skin. The client comes in at least twice a week, and they stick to their product regimens at home. Thanks to my team at the clinic and to the clients’ desire and commitment, we’ve witnessed powerful transformations. If I can say one thing to those struggling with skin issues, it’s that you really can have beautiful skin. Sometimes it takes work, but it’s so very possible.
Can you tell us a few skin tips for our community—some things that most women might not do or might be doing in a less than ideal way?
It’s best to create a balanced and beautiful ecosystem for your skin. You should follow a daily skincare routine, consisting of five steps: cleanse, exfoliate, treat, hydrate/moisturize and protect. Hydration follows protection in the pyramid, and I love to talk about this topic. Sadly, despite its crucial importance, I find that so many of my clients are missing this step. They know to moisturize their skin and to drink water—both of which are important—but they aren’t hydrating their skin, which is something totally different. Hydration means getting water into the skin cells; moisturizing means locking it there by applying a cream or lotion on top of the hydrated skin. Both hydration and moisturization are truly necessary because more-hydrated cells are healthier cells; they look and function better. Regular monthly facials are also crucial, whether at a skin-care salon or at home, because they’re a way for you and your skin-care professional to keep tabs on changes in your skin health. The more you know about how your skin works, the better you can care for your skin. Most important, I want to stress that it’s never too late to start taking care of your skin, nor are you ever too old to gain benefits from the wonderful products and treatments available today. The whole gamut of treatments is still available to you.
Who inspires you?
Barbara Wells: She was my college boyfriend’s mother and remains the most inspirational woman I have ever known. She was loving and supportive and taught me that I didn’t have to live in chaos. I was in control of my life, and I had the power to change whatever it was I didn’t like. I could be whatever I wanted to be, have whatever I wanted to have and achieve whatever I wanted to achieve. After having battled cancer for ten years, she died from the disease when I was about 20. But her message continues to guide me, personally and professionally.
Do you have a secret favorite place in LA?
I am really obsessed with the Stephen Webster store on Rodeo Drive. His pieces perfectly combine an upscale, spiritual, and rock-and-roll vibe. It is difficult walking in there because I want everything! Every time I visit Mimi & Hy on Ventura in Studio City, I find the coolest, most original gifts. They have things you know you won’t find elsewhere. It’s run by sisters and has a cool family vibe. When I have the need for comfort food, I immediately go to my favorite restaurant, Al Dente in Studio City.
How do you rejuvenate?
I love to hike and bike in the canyons and rollerblade on the boardwalk.
Images courtesy of Kate Somerville