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Catherine Hinds- A Legend in Aesthetics

Catherine Hinds- A Legend in Aesthetics

Jan/Feb 1990

If there is such a thing as destiny, then surely it has shaped the work of Catherine Hinds, names 1989 Women of the Year by New England Women Business Owners. Hinds' three-decade career has included founding a chain of salons in Boston and New York, establishing the Catherine Hinds Institute, the first free standing accredited school for estheticians in the U.S., and developing an extensive line of private label beauty products. This month, she once more literally makes a name for herself as she launches a new brand of skin care preparations bearing her name.

Destiny Calling

This seems quite appropriate for the great granddaughter of the man who created Hinds Honey and Almond Cream, a moisturizer found on the dressing tables of all genteel ladies at the turn of the century. Great Grandfather A.S. Hinds, of Portland Maine, sold his company to a largest firm at the height of his success and, according to family legend, promptly lost his fortune in the Depression. Not long after, the once-ubiquitous product disappeared from retailers' shelves.

A young idealist

Catherine Hinds today treasures faded advertisements and posters for Hinds Honey and Almond Cream. But as a young woman her mind was on other things. "I was an idealist--involved in all kinds of causes," she says. "Civil rights, women's rights, all kinds of rights."

After graduating from Skidmore College with a degree in philosophy and religion, she traveled to Germany with her new husband. While there, she felt a tug toward the profession that would one day make her the success she is today. "I remember being impressed by the way European women took care of their skin. Facials were commonplace over there and the women's complexions showed it."

Returning to the States, Hinds settled in Boston and got a job in the cosmetic department of Jordan Marsh, in the first suburban shopping center in the country.

"They hired me because I had a college degree. But the truth was I didn't know what I was doing so in a few months they fired me. But that was enough. I got hooked on the beauty industry. From there on, I decided to learn as much as I could."

A series of jobs followed and Hinds began to feel that she ultimately wanted to have her own business. In 1965 she opened the first salon in New England devoted exclusively to skin care on Boston's fashionable Newbury Street. "At the time, anything English was big. The salon carried the name Cyclax of London, a line made by a very fine old firm whose packaging bore the banner ‘By appointment to Her Majesty.' I was impressed by the quality of the products. The ingredients were old-fashioned and natural.

"When we opened, the Boston Brahmins flocked to the doors to snap up the products the Queen of England used. When the English thing began to fade I put my own name on the salon, and in 1974, I bought the Cyclax formulations.

Over the next decade, one salon became seven, including one on Madison Avenue in New York. "I was going crazy then," says Hinds. With the recession of the mid-seventies, the unraveling of her second marriage and the demands of two children, Hinds found herself stretched to the limit. The blizzard of '78 and the ensuing six weeks of frigid weather brought business to a virtual halt. "I closed all but the most successful salons. It was a very difficult period of my life. I knew there had to be a better way."

Vassar of skin care"

At about that time, Massachusetts became one of the first states in the nation to pass a law requiting licensing for estheticians. Hinds began training women to go into the profession and in the process, she says, "I fell in love with education. I wasn't particularly motivated by money. What I wanted was to create the Vassar of skin care." In 1982, her school was accredited by the National Association of Trade and Technical Schools and, for the next five years, the Catherine Hinds Institute was the only free-standing school for opticians in the U.S. to be granted accreditation.

Today, the Institute is one of the big satisfactions of Hinds' life. It allows her to combine a love of the profession with the social consciousness of her youth. "I'm a great believer in women's financial independence. I had to learn how to do it for myself and that's what I want to pass along."

"Especially today, financial independence for women is so important. The young women who come to the Institute sometimes face very tough problems. They au have had broken marriages. They may have been abused, or have run into difficulties involving alcohol or drugs. They need an acquire a means of supporting themselves in a short amount of time."

"We do a lot of counseling as well as passing along technical skills. I believe that a woman shouldn't need a man to make it in the world. She can buy her own house and her own car. The reason I was named Woman of the Year was not so much for my own success but because I've put over 300 women into business." (The handfuls of men who've attended the Institute have generally gone n to become make-up artists in the beauty and entertainment industry.)

"Being an esthetician is a ladylike profession," says Hinds. "It's manageable. The practitioner works one-on-one with the client. In this business, you need to understand people. You are giving nurturing and in doing so you get it back."

Training at the Institute combines the use of old-fashioned organic products with the latest technology. Hinds is enthusiastic about Electro Muscle Stimulation, an offshoot of the treatment used by the medical profession for rehabilitating injured muscles. It's physical benefits, she maintains, are matched by the psychological ones. "Used for facials or ‘body facials,' EMS is an excellent way to reduce stress and reverse signs of aging."

Retail is the key

Another of Kinds' key concepts taught to fledgling estheticians is that retail is fundamental to higher earnings. An esthetician's inventory is her time, but there are only so many houses in the day. "The livelihood is in the retail," Hinds says. The Catherine Hinds laboratory makes available to former students (and other professionals who qualify) a full line of professional-use products for packaging under their private label. Custom formulations prepared in small quantities are also available to the trade. "Private label is profitable," says Hinds. "Because they understand this, my students stay in business."

Back to the Future

The products that Hinds believes in are based on herbs, fine botanicals and essential oils. "These products contain benign ingredients that don't get in the way of the esthetician's work." Hinds calls this her "back to the future" philosophy of skin care. Some of the formulations were pieced together from recipes developed a century ago. She favors "cruelty free," old fashioned ingredients like aloe, azulene, camomile and comfrey-- things that were valued in folklore. She frowns upon some of the modern notions like oils taken from turtles or mink, PABA, hormones, "spackle" that purports to remove wrinkles, and unnecessary plastic surgery.

"Simple, straightforward products strengthen the esthetician's hand. They neutralize the bad chemicals in other products. After all, there are only four things we can do to the skin--" Hinds says, "clean, tone, exfoliate and protect."
Creating products to do just that are occupying much of her attention these days. Happily married now, the future for Hinds seems bright as she launches her new product line. Husband Milton Tanzer and stepson Michael run the laboratory as it gears up for production of seven new formulations that will be sold under the Catherine Hinds label. Daughter An Hinds has taken over the busy salon in a posh Boston suburb. "This is a F.O.B. -- family owned business," she says. In her plans for the future-- a book. "I didn't get my act together till I was 40," laughs Hinds. At 55, she is in peak form and just hitting her stride.