Aesthetician Bella Schneider may regularly rub elbows with the rich and celebrated—her clients include Michelle Pfeiffer, Maria Shriver, and Gayle King—but her beginnings were much more humble. At the tender age of 14, she began apprenticing as an aesthetician in Europe to help her struggling family. When she was 21, she immigrated to the US to attend UC Berkeley with the help of a scholarship and received a BA in economics. Yet her love of skincare beckoned and in 1976 she opened the first LaBelle Salon in San Francisco, one of the first full-service salons offering European style deep skincare, a Russian pedicure, and European style waxing. The LaBelle skincare line followed in 1992.
Today, there are three northern California LaBelle Day Spas & Salons locations: San Francisco, Palo Alto, and Stanford. The spas offer a full range of clinical skincare and spa services such as specialized facials and body treatments, nail and hair salons, and makeup. Here, Bella shares her expertise in paramedical esthetics with Beautyinthebag.
Tell us a bit about your background. How did a UC Berkeley graduate move from economics to aesthetics?
This Berkeley graduate has never moved from one to the other. I’ve always been in aesthetics supporting myself since the age of 14—working in skincare and at beauty counters, so that I could afford to move to the US. I then went to Berkeley to pursue higher education because nothing is more important than an education, and I never thought I would make a living in makeup, beauty, and skincare. But, I just couldn’t stop the growth of my business once it started. I knew that this industry was my calling and my passion.
If there were one step you wish all American women would adopt in their skincare routines, what would it be?
I always say, start with the proper cleanser. It’s how you start your routine that’s going to determine the end results. Cleanse and exfoliate!
Your salons in Northern California offer European style deep skincare. What is that?
The European approach to skincare has three steps that every aesthetician must know: proper skin analysis, proper extraction techniques, and proper product application (including massage). There is an art to the European approach to skincare, an etiquette, that’s hard to find now a days. Most new estheticians come to me and don’t have the basic knowledge for extractions, massage, and applying product correctly. Yes, they know about microdermabrasion, acid peels, and other aggressive advancements, but everybody’s skin is different and each technique should be modified according to the specific skin type. I like to merge the European style with the technological American approach to modify and improve the skin.
What three questions should a new customer always ask her facialist?
Before you book an appointment, ask friends and colleagues for a recommendation or at least do a Google search to check reviews of the aesthetician you are considering. But, assuming that you go to a spa that is new to you, you want to ask:
- What’s your background and experience?
- Can you please give me a skin analysis?
- Given my specific skin type, what facial do you recommend? And, what does it consist of?
Trust your instinct based on these answers. If all of this sounds good, get your facial.
What inspired you to create your new Bella Schneider Beauty line?
I wanted to come up with a line that is very retail friendly and universal—a line that encompasses all of the amazing ingredients and technology that is available to us today, that wasn’t accessible before. Throughout my decades of industry experience, I’ve seen that over the years, a lot of products have evolved, and now one product is able to address many issues successfully. I wanted to be able to be an aesthetician to all women, without them having to come into my spa.
If stranded on a desert island, what beauty product would you bring with you, and why?
Sunscreen. Well, I can’t age—I’m still hoping to get off that island one day! I would make sure that my sunscreen has many things in it, and even though it’s just one product, I would want it to give me moisture, sun protection, provide a physical block, and manage my skin well by not being over oily. In short, my desert island product would be a sun protection