Deedee Carlson: Getting people to look good, feel better inside 

For the 600 students who have graduated from the San Francisco Institute of Esthetics and Cosmetology, a Paul Mitchell Partner School, clipping the hair on Barbie dolls has turned from childhood passion to profession.

Deedee Carlson, 33, president and owner, opened the institute in 2002 so she could create "the Harvard of esthetics schools." Carlson calls her students artists, scientists and kinesthetic learners. Rather than "students," she says they are "future professionals;" instead of "teaching," she says "coaching." To Carlson, esthetics and cosmetology are a "craft." This positive-speak infiltrates every aspect of the school. Students aren’t admitted unless they want to be "daymakers."

"People look at it as being a superficial part of our lives," Carlson said, "but when people look good, they feel better inside. They have better relationships and they do better at work. If someone has really bad acne, maybe they won’t leave the house or will have really bad depression. If we can get rid of that, that’s huge.

"We live in a community where no one’s touching each other," Carlson said. "We get to touch people in a way they aren’t normally touched. We can touch people nobody else will. And I don’t mean in a sexual way."

The institute donates free services to teenage mothers with the TAP program on Mother’s Day, the On-Lok San Francisco seniors’ program and A Woman’s Place Women in Transition program. To Carlson, it is a way of instilling confidence and camaraderie.

If an institute student wants to become a licensed esthetician it takes 600 hours over 17 weeks. A cosmetology license takes 1,600 hours over 44 weeks and a nail technology license takes 400 hours over 12 weeks. In addition to clocking hours, licensees must pass an on-site practical and written test. All this costs between $4,587.50 and $20,927.50 depending on the license sought. Loans are available.

Carlson is a licensed esthetician. Before opening the institute, she worked at Nob Hill Spa in San Francisco, as a corporate trainer for BABOR Cosmetics, Kinko’s and at a thoroughbred racetrack in Seattle. Carlson graduated with a bachelor’s degree in communications from Washington State University.

She serves on the editorial advisory board of Skin Inc. Magazine and as VP of San Francisco’s South of Market Business Association. She is a partner appraisal leader for Paul Mitchell, a member of WISE, Women in Salon Executive Positions, and a member of TSA, The Salon Association. Carlson hopes to open a second school in San Jose in the summer or fall.

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