Specialising in skin treatment with over 30 years’ experience, beauty therapist, Flavia Spaccavento revealed words of wisdom to Ashleigh Sharman at her home studio.
Entering Flavia Spaccavento’s home and beauty sanctuary in Sydney’s leafy Bellevue Hill you are immediately at ease. Light streams through the window, the décor is calming and there is incense burning as Flavia greets you with nourishing coconut water. Such is her beauty philosophy and practise that now consolidates her wisdom.
Flavia’s journey with beauty began at age 19, when a family trip to Italy, and subsequent facial, connected her with her future. “Instantly I knew!” she exclaims. “When I got home I immediately did a course with Madame Korner, ‘the’ place to train at the time. They hired me; I did my second course and began work as a trainer.”
And so, to Flavia’s surprise, began a lifelong journey with beauty. In between, she has had children, worked solo, worked for others and opened a salon. Yet she admits things were very different upon completing her first course in 1974 — a luxurious simplicity pervaded everything a beauty therapist did — and it is this idea Flavia holds on to most dearly.
“Some women feel that, if they do have laser, or filler or surgery, they don’t need to see their beauty therapist any more. This is where skin health is very important as those treatments don’t address the skin day-to-day or month-to-month; it is a singular, results-based focus. You also need to supplement this with good skincare that not only treats and corrects but also nourishes. Healthy skin is beautiful yet it is no surprise to anyone that we are ageing. But it is how we age, our acceptance of it and the attitude we have towards it.”
Talking skincare with Flavia, it is evident her attitude towards life directly reflects her attitude towards beauty. Despite no religious patronage she admits to a Buddhist mentality — everything peaceful and harmonious, in balance and equilibrium.
“If you look at life that way, you also look at skincare and skin treatments that way. In the beginning we had very few tools, very basic things, but I was always interested in what else I could do. I love how the industry has gone 360 degrees and is back to nurturing the client. Even if it’s an acid treatment, you need balance to ensure the most pleasant experience possible.
“I come with a holistic approach and so you might have a plan, but you need to observe the client from skin to emotional wellbeing. And that plan might need to be adjusted. It is about trust. You need to get the feeling from the client without even looking at the skin.”
It is important to ask clients lots of questions; to be inquisitive, watch, observe, research, and never stop learning so that you can see the emotional pain in those who suffer from acne or the inflamed state of stress in those who arrive at their appointment flustered. Beauty therapy, in so far as Flavia believes, has the power to restore equilibrium in the body.
“We’re busier; life is stressful and there are a lot of demands on ourselves from society, our environment. People are stressed and it is affecting everything from allergies to hormones. So we need to go back to the internal ‘you’ — that is the key. About 80 per cent of our ageing is environment and lifestyle, not genetics, so it is a reflection on how we are coping with life. But that is good news, for it means it is within our power to change it!” she says.
Drawn to health stores from a young age, Flavia has clearly developed an intrinsic understanding that inner health equalled outer health. And so we arrive back to the concept of balance. Not only that the skin and digestion are linked, but that clients do not always have a clear understanding of their inner selves; as Flavia puts its ‘they are always outside of themselves’.
“The older I get — and this may seem cliché — I understand how important it is to love yourself, to truly know that you are worth it. I remember going to a yoga retreat, and on the bathroom door, where all wisdom lies, was the quote ‘If I don’t look after this body, where else am I going to live?’ It comes back to ‘what does my body need to be in balance?’ We all lose ourselves, we all run away from ourselves at some point in our lives but that is where meditation comes in. Sit quietly. Just be. Go back into yourself and find balance. It has been the spirit of my whole life journey,” says Flavia who is now delivering skincare wisdom to second-generation clients.
Very much settled into her home studio, she stresses the key to such a set-up is professionalism. To be consistently brilliant in everything you do as a home therapist alongside the best of the best when it comes to skincare. Flavia’s ranges include AHAVA, Anna Lotan and Christina, all distributed by Skin Factors — a company with whom she shares her philosophy, her attitude and her level of integrity — her ‘Greek sisters’.
“One the best people I have ever met is Matoyla Kollaras, director at Skin Factors. I remember meeting Matoyla and her sister Anthea at a trade show some 18 years ago as I was working in Bondi Junction and looking for two ranges. I was immediately attracted to AHAVA, which means ‘love’ in Hebrew, but our journey truly started by helping with training manuals.
“As we went along we noticed gaps in what AHAVA could offer clients and so began looking. Matoyla brought Anna Lotan and then she found Christina. What a moment that was! I love being part of this family. We were on the same page back then and we have grown together.”
It will then come as no surprise that Flavia does not believe in retirement. She will consider reducing the amount of days she works but her passion will never completely stop her doing beauty therapy. And why would anyone want her to, for she embraces all that is true in the very words ‘beauty therapy’.
“I love it. You have to love what you do. If you are not present, you are doing yourself and your client a disservice. You have a duty of care. You need to bring in the love, and enjoy and experience the journey. You need to look at your skin and yourself; that is the ultimate connection.”
Flavia Spaccavento is based in Sydney’s Bellevue Hill.