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Thursday, Feb 2, 2023

That Glow

Sonya Dakar was treating acne, scarring, discoloration and irritation at her home before setting up her skin care business on Beverly Boulevard, where she operated for 14 years and developed a celebrity clientele that she says includes Gwyneth Paltrow, Debra Messing and Cameron Diaz. Born in Israel, where she attended aesthetician school, she is about to open a five-level clinic in Beverly Hills, with a location in New York to follow. Her products are also sold in about 100 spas and are being introduced in hotels. Dakar, who works closely with her husband and four kids, envisions clinics popping up across the country.

Question: What do people come to you for?


Anti-aging today is the most screaming thing, maybe even more than acne. The people in their 20s are worried about the first few lines. I have a 20-year-old musician, huge, famous. He said Sonya, “I don’t like the frown here.” They are concerned today. They see the moms who used to be sitting on the beach with a reflector and baby oil. It used to be the St. Tropez look, Bridget Bardot to look tan is wealthy, beautiful. Today, it is the opposite.

Q: So what’s it like to get a treatment from Sonya Dakar?


You come to me, and you fill a form just like you are going into a doctor’s office. What products you are using, what kind of medication. I am very, very detail oriented. I will do a skin analysis. I will get you the products you need and give you a regimen. That is my partnership with you. I will take photos. I document all the skin conditions before you start the treatment.

Q: Doesn’t sound like the pampering approach normally associated with Beverly Hills.


I am not going to be sweet with you because you are going to love me. No, I will tell you everything. The treatment is basically a boot camp.

Q: Yet you’ve managed to attract several celebrity clients.

A: My celebrity clients look for what all my other clients come to me for results. They do not mind the boot camp approach because it works. They do not come to me for pampering. They come for good skin.

Q: Who was your first celebrity client?


Cameron Diaz. She wasn’t very famous at the time. We kind of grew together. It was like Cameron is getting here, and I am getting there and all these things are happening.

Q: The fashion and skin care world thrives on celebrity endorsements. What do you think of them?


Celebrities are pushing certain brands even though they are not necessarily using them. Everything is about money. It’s business and that is why they endorse a product, not necessarily that they use them or believe in them.

Q: Still, wouldn’t you want your own?


I have actually had celebrities offer this to me many times. I always told them that when the time is right and budgets allow, I will take them up on it.

Q: Don’t you think we’re too obsessed with looks and beauty?


I have mixed feelings. Los Angeles may be known for being obsessed with beauty because the entertainment industry is based here and their face is their business card. Celebrities have no choice but to look good. That is part of their job. It spills into society because we read and watch these people all day long and feel inspired to look like them. My business is not about covering up your natural beauty, it is about being a natural beauty.

Q: You’re not cheap.


$220, $225 (a session). The first time takes an hour and a half. The rest of the treatments would be like 30 minutes.

Q: Do people wince at the cost of your treatments/products?


My products are an upscale solution to corrective skin care. They deliver results and everybody wants results. People everywhere want good skin, no matter where they live.

Q: Did Botox take away some of your business?


Not at all. Botox can do anything for your forehead, but the whole face is not just a forehead. We have a lot more. When we age, the pores become enlarged, the texture is not the same. Botox is really a small part of the whole need.

Q: Why aren’t you selling widely in stores?


My product really is about everything customized. I couldn’t visualize a saleswoman analyzing someone’s skin.

Q: How did you raise your profile?


In the last six or eight years, the company got a lot of media. The more they started writing, people started calling. People started flying to me from all over, from South Africa, from Australia “Make a vacation to Sonya Dakar.” I had people flying from New York for 24 hours.

Q: Do you actually develop your own products?


It takes a year, up to two years. My husband is like the controller. We have three chemists working all the time. I get all the information, I research it, I judge it, I dissect it, I analyze it. I give a sample to my clients. We keep a log on it. I want to see how is the elasticity of the skin or how is the discoloration coming. We want to see it long term.

Q: What about your skin care products?


One of the most well known is the drying potion. Men know about it for in-grown hair, and teen-agers know about it for breakouts. That sells for $25 for the small bottle, $45 for the big one.

Q: That doesn’t sound mass market.


Believe it or not, we sell products to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Dubai, Australia, all over the world.

Q: What made you want to go into this field?


I remember when I was really like a few years old, women went for a facial. When I was 15, I followed my mom one time to her aesthetician. She opened a clinic in her home. When I went there, I was fascinated by the idea. It was a very inviting, very calming atmosphere. I was thinking, “Wow, this is something that would be interesting.” I decided that this is going to be my future.

Q: How did you get started?


At (aesthetics) school, you learn how to mix lotion, how to make anti-bacterial solutions. I decided to do my own products. I was 18 to 19. I started making cleanser. My cleanser was extremely soft. Today, everybody says to stay away from harsh products; I was thinking about it then. My products started selling out. I opened my own clinic when I was 21, in Israel at my house. Shy is not my second name or my first name. I would go to every single teacher conference, supermarket, everywhere. I started to really develop my clientele.

Q: What is your new Beverly Hills clinic going to be like?


It is going to be a whole Sonya Dakar building A to Z with everything in it. This one is about 15,000 square feet. The concept of mine is to have acupuncturists, a dietitian. I would like to have yoga. We are going to open a mini restaurant with vegetarian food. We might even have dermatologist here. If I see skin cancer, I want to treat it here. We want to make it like one stop.

Q: And you have even bigger plans to open a clinic in New York.


We are going to open toward the end of 2006. That is part of my major dream. I believe my brand in the U.S. cannot be complete without Beverly Hills and Manhattan. The rest of it will be branches, so a woman in Arkansas or anywhere in the country can have a touch of Sonya Dakar.

Q: Did you have bad skin growing up?


I had really great skin all my life. I never went into this business because my skin was interrupted and acned. I was just fascinated by the science and the results of it.

Q: Are you saying you never had a pimple?


Of course, I get a pimple from time to time. Today I laugh when I get a little pimple because it makes me feel like I am a teen-ager. I joke with my clients and tell them that I am still young.

Sonya Dakar




Sonya Dakar Skin Clinic


Tel Aviv, Israel


Vitzo School of Esthetics, Tel Aviv

Career Turning Point:

First article profiling her business in Elle magazine

Most Admired People:

Oprah Winfrey, Barbara Walters and Martha Stewart


Painting, yoga and spending time with children and grandchildren


Married, four children and three grandchildren


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