Stella Barba’s beauty routine began as far back as she can remember, thanks to living with her mother and four sisters. She frequented dermatologist offices and her interest in skin care and hair removal grew throughout her college years, eventually manifesting into a successful career. Today, Stella is the Director of Aesthetic Services and a Hair Removal Specialist at Barba Skin Clinic in Miami, Florida, a company founded by her sister (and fellow Contessa!), Dr. Alicia Barba.
Stella’s hard work—an understatement, at best—and contagious work ethic are more than admirable. She graduated from San Diego State University with a degree in Latin American Studies, yet couldn’t shake her love for dermatological care. So when the opportunity presented itself, Stella joined Alicia at Barba Skin Care Clinic. As business boomed, the need to create more “Stella’s”—a phrase coined by her sister—provided an opportunity for the family business to flourish and cater to more clientele. Stella’s latest mission? To make Barba Skin Care a Miami household name.
Following our interview with Stella, she has become our new go-to guru when it comes to skin care trends, and we were thrilled to listen in as she shared her expertise, plus how it really feels to work with her sister. Read the full story below
EDITOR’S NOTE: In case you missed the companion piece to Stella’s interview, click back to Tuesday’s featured Contessa, Dr. Alicia Barba, Stella’s sister and owner of Barba Dermatology.
Her Starting Point
Many people find the transition between college and real life a bit daunting. Can you tell us about your journey between the two? What was your first job out of college?
I was lucky because I worked as an electrologist while attending San Diego State full-time. I worked with an established clinic in San Diego and had a small clinic out of my parents’ house, too. I got interested in permanent hair removal after numerous trips to a clinic to treat myself. I took an Electrolysis course one summer, thinking that I could treat myself for free and make extra money while in college. I remember a professor once asked me what my goals were for after college. I told her that I wanted a career in hair removal. She looked at me like I was crazy. It made me feel a bit insecure about my decision, but once I started work doing electrolysis and getting busy, I realized I was happy with my decision—both professionally and financially. I enjoy being in business for myself as I am able to control my own schedule.
When did your passion for skincare first begin, and what first steps did you take in order to establish yourself as a pro?
My passion for skincare came at a young age. One can only imagine growing up with four sisters and a mother who helped us deal with our acne and excess hair problems. We were luckily exposed to skincare professionals early on and were fortunate to see the best dermatologists (Dr. Obagi was our derm growing up). Dr. Barba is the oldest of the five Barba sisters (four of whom are in the skincare business) and it is she who really opened up another world for me when she was a dermatology resident. Reading her textbooks and trying out all of the skincare products that she would send to me in California piqued my interest. When she invited me to come to Miami and open up a hair removal business within her dermatology practice, I jumped at the chance to live in a new city and expand my career. It was in Miami that I continued my education and also became a clinical aesthetician. I remember my first facial. Dr. Barba basically threw me in a room with a patient and said, “Do her facial. Pretend she is you and do the treatment exactly as you would want it done.” This is what I have been doing every since.
My first step in establishing myself as a pro was to prepare myself well by attending seminars and reading every bit of literature related to dermatology and skincare. I also made sure to belong to the right associations for my credentials. I also am constantly tweaking facial protocols so that they deliver optimal results to our clients.
What do you feel is unique about your perspective on skincare, and has that perspective changed at all since you started?
Working with a dermatologist allows me to have a more clinical approach to skincare, and to think of the products based on the active ingredients and what they actually do to the skin. I think of skincare more like a dermatologist does and having derms in the office allows me to have access to a wealth of information and the latest techniques to improve the skin and to treat wrinkles. Being associated with dermatologists makes me a better aesthetician.
Although many people have heard the job title Aesthetician, only a few know exactly what the position entails. Could you give us a brief overview?
Aestheticians are licensed individuals who can perform various beauty procedures to improve the appearance of the skin and are well versed in skincare. At Barba Skin Clinic I use pharmaceutical-grade clinical skincare to do facials, peels, microdermabrasion and micro-needling for collagen stimulation. I develop and customize clinical skin care programs based on the clients’ skincare concerns and goals.
Those working with medical professionals have a more comprehensive clinical management skill mindset. They receive extensive training on pharmaceutical skincare and perform procedures such as microdermabrasion and physician-strength chemical peels.
Her Big Break
Two years ago, you and your sister Alicia opened up Barba Skin Clinic, an extension of the dermatology practice entirely dedicated to skin wellness. Can you tell us about your motivation to make this move?
As Dr. Barba stated, “There was a need to create more Stellas.” I worked closely with Dr. Barba at her clinic, observing and learning a derm’s approach to skincare. Initially I did not know medical skin care. I made sure to study and get my hands on every book or journal that could educate me on the skin care
issues she was dealing with in the practice (acne, hyperpigmentation, wrinkles, skin maintenance). I worked very hard, six days a week for eight years establishing myself. After I got so busy that patients were no longer able to book with me and not able to keep up with the demand, we hired and trained new aestheticians to work with the same clinical approach.
How do the two of you split up the responsibilities? Are you both involved in every aspect or have you divided and conquered?
Yes, we are both involved in every aspect of the business. Till this day, neither one of us is above herself to answer the phone and make an appointment!
When I began my career at Barba Dermatology, Dr. Barba and I worked closely together. Now with the two offices, we both have our spaces, however, we speak daily about what is going on in the clinics. We also discuss our clients’ skincare progress. This is fun! We love to know that “so-and-so” is looking “really great.” We have different skills and definitely different personalities, different educational backgrounds, but we share strong family values and a very strong work ethic.
If we had the chance to peek at your schedule what would your average day look like?
On an average day, I am booked from the moment I get into the office to the very end. I start at 10:00 a.m. and do not finish until 7:00 p.m. Most of the time, I skip lunch to accommodate a patient that needs to be seen or an international patient that is in Miami for a few days. I see an average of 10-14 patients per day.
Are there trends in skincare? If so, how have they evolved since you first broke into the industry? Where do you see skincare headed in the next five years?
Yes, there are trends in skincare. Patients are paying attention to active ingredients. Consumers are becoming savvier and are very health-conscious and question what goes into their bodies and on their skin. I have noticed patients wanting more natural and organic ingredients, which can sometimes be hard in a doctor’s office.
Also, we are very globalized and have better access to products and ingredients from abroad. I think that in the next five years skincare will be made up of several actives in one bottle. People want to multi-task.
We can imagine that drawing the line between your professional roles at the clinic and your relationship as sisters is tough. Do you ever disagree at work? If so, how do you arrive at a compromise?
Do we ever disagree at work? Yes. Dr. Barba tends to be very laid back whereas I, on the other hand, tend to be the feistier one. However, we both try to never let any emotion get in the way. I have to trust that her decision is the right choice and vice versa. We know that, at the end of the day, the success of the business is our top priority.
Translating passion into a career can be hard. What advice would you give to women trying to figure this out?
Don’t give up on your career path and stay away from the negative energy. Socialize within your field and find a mentor.
What if anything, do you wish you had known before you entered this occupation?
I didn’t know that managing employees would be so challenging! Everyone has different personalities and dealing with a large staff of smart women can definitely have its ups and downs.
And finally, what do you wake up looking forward to? What next for your career?
I wake up and look forward to seeing my patients’ skin health improve. Sometimes, one doesn’t always get the treatment or home care regimen right the first time. However, I find that when patients are consistent and compliant and come in regularly for treatments, a relationship of mutual trust develops that makes doing what I do fun. The best part is actually seeing the visible results and the icing on the cake is having patients acknowledge it.
Next for my career? Barba Skin Clinic is two years old now. My goal will be to grow Barba Skin Clinic into Miami’s go-to destination for quality clinical skincare. I want patients to see visible results and I want to keep making my fellow aestheticians/colleagues happy.