Photo: Courtesy of The Institute Of Skinovation.
At age 22, Samantha Wright relocated to New York City from Kentucky to pursue a career in acting and dancing. But, to her horror, shortly after moving she had developed severe cystic acne. The only thing worse for her than the painful, swollen red pimples were the scars they left — deep, crater-like divots all over her cheeks. "People would say to me, 'You'd be so pretty if you had better skin,'" remembers Wright. "I thought I was going to be stuck like that forever. I thought no one would think I was beautiful." So, she made the decision to go on Accutane. But, two days before she was set to go on the prescription medication, Wright found herself in the office of skin-care legend Dangene on the recommendation of a coworker.
Dangene, founder of The Institute of Skinovation, is known for performing anti-aging miracles on the wealthy, but her passion is for curing people with severe acne. "She took me in, and she said she could fix my face," Wright says. "She said she'd give me skin like glass, and she said it with this conviction that made me believe her." Then and there, Wright decided not to go on Accutane and to put herself in Dangene's care instead. The pro worked on Wright's face for four hours that day, seeing her five days a week for the next six months.
Dangene became a sort of personal trainer for Wright's complexion, implementing a uniquely curated program of rigorous extractions, microdermabrasion, oxygen treatments, and peels. One of the most important elements of Wright's treatment was that she stopped picking at her pimples, which was making it worse. At the end of those six months, Wright did indeed have skin like glass, and she also had a new career goal: to become an aesthetician. "Having Dangene cure my acne was the most amazing gift I have ever gotten. I thought that if I could ever do that for someone else, there would be a purpose for me to be on this planet."
Of course, a true, permanent fix for acne has yet to be discovered, so saying that Dangene cured her acne is a bit of an overstatement. What Dangene actually does is purge the skin of acne-causing bacteria through a combination of aggressive exfoliation and rigorous, consistent extractions, and then puts clients on a strict product regimen to prevent future breakouts. It's effective as long as you follow the rules — which can be difficult. Wright, however, was motivated to do exactly as Dangene told her and experienced remarkable results. Inspired, she began working for Dangene while going to school to get her aesthetician's license. Now, several years later, she's one of Dangene's "Skinovators," the moniker for the experts working at the Institute. She estimates that, at this point, she's cleared up the skin of hundreds.
Dangene, on the other hand, has helped thousands of people with acne. She, too, developed severe acne in her 20s and, like Wright, also had a problem with picking at it. No prescription seemed to be effective. Eventually, she started working for a dermatologist and began to experiment on her own face with the chemicals and creams she found in the back of the office. She soon stumbled upon a combination of treatments that cleared up her skin. "I realized that if I could cure my own condition, I could help other people," she says. She became a licensed aesthetician and started her own business based on a guarantee. "I learned that I could say to people, 'I promise you that if you do what I tell you to, you will have flawless skin.'"
Photo: Courtesy of The Institute Of Skinovation.
Though it typically takes six weeks to a few months for someone to achieve that promised flawlessness, Dangene says she's done it in a week. A young woman from Israel with cystic acne flew out to Dangene's offices the week before getting married. Dangene worked on her for three hours every day, and her skin was acne-free by the time her big day rolled around — pink, yes, but clear. And, that's more than most dermatologists can say. In fact, Dangene's Institute of Skinovation is so highly respected in the industry that it now has dermatologists referring patients for its services, for those seemingly impossible cases when even doctors find themselves throwing their hands up in the air.
"Skin is a lot like an onion," says Wright, referring to the philosophy she learned from Dangene. "If you picture an onion, it's got all that brown, dry skin on the outside, but on the inside it's a beautiful, one-color milky orb...Acneic skin is infected just like that outer onion skin. So, you remove the infection. You peel off the outer layer." Which is how Dangene was able to clear up her breakouts and also remove her scars. "She evened out the geography of my face," Wright notes.
In addition to developing personalized, in-office treatment programs, Dangene also places her clients on strict product regimens, telling them exactly what they can and can't put on their faces. These skin-care regimens recommended by the institute are customized and minimalist. "Healthy, functioning skin doesn't need a lot of extra help," says Wright. "We want everyone to be using the bare minimum amount of products." One major thing clients have to say goodbye to? Foundation. "Foundation absolutely makes your skin worse," Dangene says. "The more coverage it gives you, the more it's clogging your pores." The only product she feels comfortable letting people use is Clinique's Even Better Compact, which has zinc and titanium dioxide. But, even then, she requires people use it just as a spot concealer, as sparingly as possible.
The big downside to being on a Skinovation treatment program is your face takes a beating — and looks like it. People getting the treatment experience extreme peeling, redness, blotchiness, and swelling. It's hard to cover all that up with just the Clinique compact, so looking nice or even presentable is hard to do. And, it's a huge time commitment. The process takes hours each day for multiple days a week. That's great for people with flexible schedules, but those with rigidly structured day jobs (like, um, most people) might find it hard to make it into the office enough times to fully benefit. Dangene says the institute can work with any schedule, but for many, even going once a week can be too much of a commitment.
As for how much all this costs, Dangene, whose offices are located on top of the infamously exclusive Core Club, operates on a sliding scale for her clients with acne. "We never let someone who comes to us with severe acne leave because they can't afford treatment," she says. "I don't care if they can only pay $100 for a complete program. I can't say no because I believe that people suffer from depression when they have horrible skin and can become suicidal. I need to take care of them." Often, she says she'll go out looking for people with severe acne and offer to treat them. "This is my philanthropy. Instead of giving money, I keep it in house and treat people who need us. We're changing lives."
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