Esthetician Talk: Lexli interviews Sabrina Ehlis

We’re back today with another interview in our series that profiles leaders within the field of aesthetics. As you’ve seen, these discussions ask professionals for their take on industry trends, their top skin care recommendations and their advice for estheticians just entering their careers. Whether you’re a professional or a consumer interested in skin care, these interviews will certainly leave you with new ideas to make your skin - or that of your clients - healthier and more beautiful than ever.

Meet Sabrina Ehlis.

The owner of Sabrina Brow and Skin in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Sabrina spent much of her career in one of the Twin Cities’ premiere salons and spas. There, she trained and worked under two prominent board-certified plastic surgeons, which helped her to hone her craft and her reputation for excellence.

Since going out on her own several years ago, Sabrina has expanded her business prowess while continuing to utilize her master-level aesthetic skills Today she is also an educator, traveling frequently to share her expertise with others in the field.

L: So let’s start from the top. What led you to a career in aesthetics?

SE: Like so many estheticians, I had a personal experience that cultivated my interest in skin care. As a kid I suffered from acne and that fact led me to learning a lot about skin care. Over the years, skin care became something I was really interested in. Despite that, I didn’t initially go to school for aesthetics. Rather, I got a degree in textile marketing. I was pretty directionless after college and the only thing I did know was that my passion was skin care. I thought a good fit for that passion would be skin care sales and I joined a skin care multi-level marketing company.

As an independent sales representative for the company, I would go to meetings with other reps and think to myself, “We’re all selling these products but have no idea what we’re talking about.” It was a nagging thought that one day clicked. I knew I wanted to truly understand the science of the skin and, with that, I enrolled in aesthetics school.

L: Today you’re an entrepreneur. What has that experience been like and what was the biggest hurdle you had to overcome?

SE: I spent 13 years working at a wonderful Minneapolis salon and spa where I had a priceless opportunity to learn and grow while building my reputation. I eventually reached that point in my career where I realized I wanted to do things my way. That feeling, coupled with the support and encouragement of friends who had opened businesses of their own, propelled me forward. I was lucky, I didn’t encounter many challenges while getting my business off the ground. With that said, starting a new endeavor can be overwhelming. As someone in her early fifties who wasn’t born with a cell phone in her hand, social media was my biggest hurdle. It’s so essential to business today and I had to learn it from scratch. To help me get up to speed quickly, I invested in social media classes.

L: What is an average day like for you?

SE: I stay very busy. I get to work at least an hour early to get myself prepared for the day and to get in the right mindset. I spend some time on my business’s social media but then I focus my time exclusively on my clients until I leave.

L: What are some of the most important innovations or trends in the esthetics industry from your point of view?

SE: This is a hard question for me because I’m not typically a trend follower. There are already so many ingredients and treatments in our industry that are thoroughly “tried and true.” For example, we know that retinols and vitamin C work. Sunscreen is probably the most innovative technology ever brought to skin care.

Personally, I love microcurrent because the skin on our face is one of the few places on our body where the skin is directly attached to the muscle. If you stimulate that musculature on a regular basis, you can look exponentially better as you age.

L: To that point, if a client was limited by budget, what is the one professional treatment you would recommend?

SE: Hands down, I would recommend dermaplaning. No question about it. Almost every client’s skin reacts well to it. After not having it done for three months during Covid, I felt 10 years younger the first time I finally had it done again.

Many people assume that dermaplaning is no different than shaving your face. But when we dermaplane, we move at a certain angle with a modified surgical scalpel. As we move along the skin’s surface, we remove the hair and are scraping down layers of dead skin, which you cannot do with just a razor. This is a service that consumers often try to perform at home but the devices that are sold for at-home dermaplaning are inferior to those we use as professionals.

L: And what about between appointments? What do you advise your clients they do to keep their skin looking its best and as healthy as possible until they see you again?

SE: What a client does at home, compounded on a daily basis, is most important to maintaining the results they achieve in the treatment room. There are several products I recommend my clients consistently implement, beyond the basics of cleanser and moisturizer. These include a few different serums and retinol (assuming their skin can tolerate it). Once you apply a retinol, it typically takes 72 hours for those dead skin cells to come to the surface. Therefore, I also have them apply an exfoliator that uses a gentle acid to remove dead skin cells.

I typically have my clients do a rotation every three days. Skin care is like exercise - if you are using the same thing on your skin night after night, you stop seeing results. Therefore, I have them use a retinol the first night, a serum focused on their skin type on the second night, and a glycolic acid on the third. I have them rotate through serums at home to keep their skin guessing.

L: Throughout your years in the industry, you’ve seen many different types of skin. What would you say is the most important factor in ensuring healthy, beautiful skin?

SE: I have seen first-hand that beautiful skin happens when you address what is inside first. Your diet is very much a factor in the health of your skin.

When it comes to skin concerns, like acne, you also have to examine your lifestyle choices. Topicals can do a lot but they aren’t a magic bullet.

From an intangible standpoint, it’s also important to reevaluate how you see your skin. Everyone wants radiant skin but radiance comes from within. Becoming comfortable with yourself goes a long way. You can have the greatest skin care routine imaginable but if you aren’t happy or haven’t addressed your diet, water intake and sleep habits, it’s not going to result in beautiful skin.

L: What is your top piece of advice for new estheticians just entering their careers?

SE: Great question! For those just coming out of school, my best advice is to distinctly identify what you will be doing as a career, not a job. There is a big difference between a career and a job - a career means purpose, determination, commitment. A job is simply a paycheck. By making that distinction you will definitely be more successful.

L: We always love to get a peek at what a professional’s skin care routine looks like. What is yours?

SE: As you’d imagine, I’m very dedicated to my skin care routine. I always cleanse, tone and then use a three-day serum routine to keep my skin guessing, just as I advise my clients to do. I love my retinol, hyaluronic acid and glycolic acid. I complete my routine with a moisturizer that is right for my skin type and a sunscreen application every single morning.

Two products in my routine that I think are extremely essential, and that I use daily, are vitamin C and sunscreen. Vitamin C is like a turtle and retinol is like a rabbit. The daily use of vitamin C is compounded and, while you may not see results quickly, with consistency you will see solid improvement. While I like to try new things in my skin care routine, vitamin C is one of the things that I’ve always used and always will. Together with retinol (vitamin A), it’s a product that absolutely does what it claims to do.

L: Finally, what is your favorite skin care tip?

SE: I’ve worked with many working mothers and I know they get home at the end of the day and just don’t have the time or energy to implement a complex skin care routine. One of my favorite tips is one I have shared with many of my clients: the minute you walk into the house, take 5 or 10 minutes for yourself and run through your skin care routine. It seems hard to believe, but not washing your face at night ages your skin pretty quickly. If I can just get someone to wash their face and put on serums and retinol before they fall into bed, we’re going to make a lot of progress. My other tip? Exfoliation, exfoliation, exfoliation.

To learn more about Sabrina Ehlis, visit her website or follow her on Instagram or Facebook.