American aesthetics owes a great deal to the work of the legendary Hans Koste, who provided the fledging industry with..... The Tools of Teaching
Just as the growth of this nation occurred as a result of the explorations and daring initiatives of early European settlers, the American skin care industry owes a debt to the European aestheticians and industry experts who settled here in the 1960s and ‘70s and laid a solid foundation for this multi-million dollar business.
Hans Koste was one of these pioneers. Like those early settlers, he was a trader. His stock was skin care machines and furniture and like his forbearers, he immediately ran into a host of problems.
Language was the first problem he had to heal with. There was no vocabulary to describe professional skin care. Cosmetology like it was practiced in Europe was unheard of, in this country. At the time cosmetology consisted of basic hair treatments and, with the exception of New York City, cosmetology machines were unheard of. Terms like interferential current and iontophoresis drew blank stares. When Hans displayed his machines at conventions, people looked at them as if the equipment was from outer space.
Koste soon realized that to sell his wares, he would first have to sell the entire concept of professional treatments. He's had the same experiences in Europe and Japan and knew that cosmetologists had to be made to think in new directions. To accomplish this, he started conducting seminars all over the country.
His message was that professional skin care represented a bright, new world in terms of profitability and professionalism. He emphasized that machines made skin care treatments more effective and that without them, skin care was not professional.
This was his credo, and those who attended his lectures and seminars believed him. They recognized in him a witness, someone who had been present at the very beginnings of professional skin care in Europe. When he told them the business in Europe had also gotten off to a slow start but soon blossomed into a thriving industry, they accepted it. Koste instilled in his listeners the confidence they needed to venture into this new field of aesthetics.
Koste was best known for his talks on electricity used in skin care machines. These seminars played packed houses, especially in the early ‘70s. But the idea of using electricity to treat skin frightened many cosmetologists. They feared electrocuting their clients and becoming involved in mammoth law suits. Beauty schools did not teach this subject, and textbooks describing the various types of electrical current were either nonexistent or extremely spotty.
Outside of going to New York or Europe, there was no place a cosmetologist could turn if he or she wanted to get into professional skin care. Koste seminars helped fill that vacuum. He removed the mystery, dispelled the fears and hesitations. He demonstrated how safe the machines were and how effective and profitable their use in treatments could become.
Theory was stressed as well as practice, for he felt that a professional was required to know the tools he or she was using. These lectures often removed the last barrier keeping a cosmetologist from buying machines and embracing professional skin care.
State Boards of Cosmetology, because they had no experience with skin care, would occasionally turn to him for advise. As a result, he was a consultant to the Massachusetts State Board when it wrote its first regulation providing separate licenses for aestheticians.
Koste also traveled the country helping private and vocational beauty schools prepare skin care programs, training their teachers as well. A precise figure would be hard to come by, but it would be safe to say that thousands of students have graduated form schools and colleges that used materials provided by Koste. He gave these freely and informally because he felt doing so was part of his job selling skin care machines and equipment.
His Life's Work
Koste's first job in skin care was with Cosmetiques Sans Soucis in Baden-Baden, Germany. Sans Soucis was - and still is- one of Europe's leading cosmetic lines. In 1962, sensing new opportunities involving machines, the company decided to bring out a line of equipment under the name Kosmetik Praxis.
This was the start of Koste's hectic journeys, criss-crossing the continent, setting up skin care associations and schools that offered one to three-year certificates, depending on the particular government's regulations.
Then in 1965, Kosmetik Praxis was merged into Deutsche Nemectron, and Koste was appointed director of sales for southern Germany. His assignments, however, took him to Belgium, Holland, England, Austria and Yugoslavia where he lectured on electricity and other phases of skin care. Nemectron, with Koste in a pivotal position, soon became the largest manufacturer of skin care machinery in the world.
In the summer of 1973 Nemectron decided on a bold marketing venture: introducing its machines in Japan. Its distributor there would be the Takara Company, one of the largest beauty companies in the country.
Since machines were unheard of in Japan at that time, Koste was chosen to lay the groundwork for this venture. He and his associate, Brigitta Fritsche, were dispatched to Tokyo. The crash courses they taught trained Takara's sales force of about 200 people on basic skin care and the theory and use of its equipment.
Koste says, "We started every day at eight a.m. and fell totally exhausted into our hotel beds at midnight. Lunch and dinner were eaten in the classroom. In addition, there were important meetings with owners and operators of famous make-up salons interested in opening European-style skin care centers. We launched out program in the autumn of 1973 at Japan's major annual beauty congress, held in Tokyo. The results were tremendous. Having a powerhouse like Takara was an enormous advantage, but we were also helped by a great demand for corrective and preventative skin care, the results of excessive use of make-up by Japanese women."
So successful was this joint Nemectron-Takara venture in Japan that the two companies decided to go after the big prize: the United States, with its population of 200 million. This time they set up a new company called Nemectron-Belmont in New York City. Nemectron would supply the machines and equipment with Takara providing the administrative offices, warehouses and sales organization.
Koste and Fritsche once again were chosen to provide the training and marketing expertise needed to get the company off and flying. They did, and when they left the company after two years, Nemectron-Belmont was well on its way to becoming the leading supplier of skin care equipment in the United States.
Fritsche returned home to get married. Koste originally planned to return to West Germany but then changed his mind.
"I felt my technical knowledge could still be of some use in the States where professional skin care was still in its infancy. For a while I free-lanced, but in the back of my mind there was hope that I could team up with a company where I could spread my wings a little, in terms of education and training. I felt I had lots more to contribute to this industry."
When a position opened at Dynex International, he grasped the opportunity. He had already become acquainted with the company when he was in Germany. It was well-regarded by European suppliers, and he like the adherence to the European concepts of professional skin care, particularly as they involved the use of key apparatus. It was a happy union and in the decade that followed, he was able to expand that European approach and develop sound training programs for salons and schools.
At Dynex he was also able to indulge his long-held ambition to teach sell. Koste's former students are now teachers themselves and owners of successful skin care establishments. The affection they feel for him is best expressed by one of his favorite pupils.
"The industry is indebted to Hans Koste," says Denise Miller of Corpus Christi, Texas. "Without his tireless efforts teaching electricity, aestheticians throughout the United States would be much less than they are. It may take a number of years before his contributions are formally recognized, as it often happens with outstanding men and women. I feel indebted to him for his knowledge, patience and kindness. He has given more than he will ever receive from out industry. We all owe him a real American salute."
It would indeed be hard to find concrete evidences of Koste's conurbations to the industry, as Ms. Miller put it. Others like Christine Valmy have established aesthetics schools. Come, such as Joel Gersen, have written books. Still others are leaders of thriving skin care salons like Aida Grey and Georgette Klinger or are famous aestheticians seen regularly in the fashion press.
Koste spoke only from notes and hand-drawn diagrams. There are no textbooks, schools or salons bearing his name. His mark is in the minds and hears of the people who have heard him teach.