In Memoriam: Christine Valmy

Remembering Christine Valmy, a pioneer in the field of esthetics, who passed away in January at 88

Even after all these years, Joel Gerson, one of the top authorities on skincare, still refers to Christine Valmy as Miss Valmy. In 1966 Gerson was working as a makeup artist for the famous House of Revlon—“I was doing all kinds of celebrities in those days, including Barbra Streisand,” he says—when he learned that Valmy had opened an esthetics school in New York City. “It was the first school of its kind in the United States,” says Gerson, who went to see Valmy in order to offer his services as an instructor. “She was wearing red lipstick and red nail polish when I met her,” he says wistfully before adding, “I’m so tired of all the blue nail polish, aren’t you?”

Valmy was impressed enough to offer him a job managing her facial salon in Manhattan, and he began teaching skincare classes at her school in the evenings. In 1974 he was promoted to vice president of education. “You have to understand that there was no separate license for estheticians in those days because there was no textbook for estheticians on which to base the state exam,” says Gerson, who remedied the situation in the ’70s by writing The Standard Textbook for Estheticians for Milady. “You had to go to cosmetology school where you might get 25 hours of skincare education, and in those days teachers knew very little about the subject.” That all changed when Valmy took a booth at IBS New York. “No one had ever seen a facial being done on a trade show floor,” says Gerson. “She brought all these machines over from Europe. She introduced skincare products that weren’t even on the market here. If you’re an esthetician, if you’re a company that sells facial equipment, if you sell cosmetology textbooks, if you’re the manager of a skincare salon, you have Miss Valmy to thank.”

Lydia Sarfati, founder of Repêchage, started working as an esthetician in New York in the ’70s, but she didn’t meet Valmy until 1982 at CIDESCO’s annual Congress and Exhibition. Founded more than 65 years ago, CIDESCO is the world’s premier spa and beauty certification authority. “I found her to be beautiful, elegant and poised,” says Sarfati. “She exemplified everything I believed a skincare professional should be.” Sarfati’s last encounter with the skincare legend was at a CIDESCO board meeting in Baden-Baden, Germany, in 2008. “She still had her fierce personality and charm,” she says. “She is an icon who will be missed by so many of us who are grateful not only for the contributions she made to esthetic education but also to our industry.” ✂ —Marianne Dougherty