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Catherine Atzen, L.E., Cidesco, MBA, founder of ATZEN Superior to Organic® Skin Care, was born in France and grew up in a family of entrepreneurs. Her father, a creative risk-taker, built several enterprises in France and Australia and her mother, a bookkeeper by training, supervised the business' finances. At the same time, Atzen's grandparents educated her about the traits that prepared her for the life she chose; they taught her discipline, organizational skills, the value of continuous education, respect, compassion, and, above all, how to live a healthy, balanced life. Furthermore, Atzen's great-grandmother nurtured her social skills, giving her the joy of meeting people and being at ease in any environment. In turn, Atzen shares this knowledge with other professionals in order to elevate them.
A Passion for the Industry
Atzen starting suffering from skin problems in middle school and found inspiration to treat the skin at the age of 13 when an aesthetician transformed her acne-prone, dehydrated skin with regular facials. Since then, skin care has been her passion.
Although her parents wanted her to get a degree in hospitality and join the family business, Atzen decided to go into the skin care industry, supporting her studies by selling retail, modeling, and hostessing at trade events. When asked about her involvement in the aesthetics industry, Cathetine Atzen immediately recognizes that it was not just a job to her. "I am passionate about skin care; it is not just something I do – it is a way of life."
The DNA Breakthrough
As a result, Atzen met the research scientists from the laboratories that had developed this DNA, which had an unbroken structure and was used in the medical field to repair skin tissue. This ingredient, however, was used as a last resort when nothing else worked, due to its high cost and lengthy extraction time – up to a full 24 hours – which did not use heat or chemicals.
Published research on the ingredient supported a significant increase in fibroblast production, strong antioxidant capabilities, an ability to hydrate the skin at the cellular level, and a lack of side effects. Consequently, Atzen came up with the idea to use the DNA in a serum, if the scientists could stabilize the formula; no one before had used DNA in skin care products. After much trial and error, and help from researchers from the famed Institute Pasteur in Paris, the serum was stabilized. Atzen then decided to create a full line of professional products and a brand, Catherine Atzen®, which became ATZEN® in the early 2000s. With a team of formulators, she developed the first 11 formulas and was one of the first to use hyaluronic acid in creams and serums.
The Move to New York and the Success of ATZEN®
Atzen eventually moved to New York to launch her line in the United States and, in 1985, she opened the Catherine Atzen Day Spa on the upper east side of Manhattan. She owned the spa for 19 years before selling it.
This spa, in many ways, set the standards in the industry. Until then, products of average quality were sold in department stores and drugstores by employees that did not have any skin care training. Very few people had heard of aestheticians and facials were considered to be luxuries for the rich and famous.
Atzen's menu of services was about solving skin conditions, delivering outstanding customer service, and offering expert advice; her staff of 17 were very dedicated and enjoyed the full benefits of being part of a team of pioneers that generated high volume sales and customer retention. The spa also used ATZEN LymphMed®, a revolutionary device for lymphatic drainage, to elevate each facial to a detoxifying treatment. By the early 2000s, the spa employed acupuncturists and a doctor in Chinese medicine to combine facial acupuncture with the LymphMed massage in order to achieve facial lifting without invasive surgery.
As her product line became available to skin care professionals and popular with spas, Atzen traveled the world to train distributors in overseas markets; teach classes at tradeshows and medical conferences; and give television, magazine, and radio interviews in order to educate the public on the spa industry and the benefits offered by good skin care. "I get great satisfaction when I hear from people that my products helped to build their self-esteem or give them more confidence," said Atzen.
In the 1990s, Atzen moved her distribution office to San Jose, Calif. and co-owned a school and distribution office in Florida. She kept a heavy travel schedule, traveling to New York City every month and to numerous countries where her products were sold. "Ethical business practices and delivering quality beyond the customer's expectations are what I stand for."
Following tough times after the September 11 attacks, Atzen sold her distribution business to Universal Companies in 2004 and served as a consultant to Universal Companies and other businesses for seven years. During this time, her goal was to have more time to nurture her children, new husband, and step-daughter and achieve a long-held dream of going back to school to earn a Master of Business Administration, which she received from the University of California, Berkeley. She also received a second Master of Business Administration from Columbia University, N.Y.
A Fresh, New Look and Natural Formulations
Atzen now lives in the mountains separating Silicon Valley from the Pacific, a peaceful, unspoiled environment that she finds energizing and therapeutic. "I love living in the Bay Area because of its cultural diversity, business innovation, and climate. For leisure, I enjoy activities that bring me closer to nature, such as hiking, biking, camping, or gardening." She is happily married to Ken, a well-traveled and highly educated man who shares her interests and is very supportive. She is very proud of their three children, Celia, Sebastien, and Alyssa; they are well-rounded young adults that chose professions that reflect her family values and care for others, respect the environment, and engage the world at large. "I feel very fortunate to be multicultural. It has enriched my life in more ways than I could explain. I have embraced the American culture, learned the pragmatism that fits well into the business world, and still maintained the European love for taking care of self. I bring a French sense of understated elegance into my environment at home and work, as well as an appreciation for the fine things in life."
Atzen has earned 18 industry awards, including Aesthetician of the Year, Day Spa Person of the Year, and Medical Spa Person of the Year. She also holds a CIDESCO diploma and is recognized for having coined the term 'day spa.' She is also one of the most prolific educators in the industry, writing over 250 articles that have been published in trade magazines and medical journals, as well as lecturing around the world.