Despite a busy schedule, Dara Levy makes time to be thankful.
The now beauty expert first became preoccupied with perfect skin as a 20-something with acne. Ultimately, she joined the fray herself, opening her own high-end medi-spa in Chicago.
But it was one specific treatment on their extensive menu that ultimately transformed Levy from a spa owner into an innovator: She realized that their popular exfoliating Dermaflash treatment would make a game-changing at-home product.
Now, her creation—launched only months ago—is selling out at the country’s top beauty counters. Here, Levy explains why even personal tragedy can become an inspiration for spreading positivity in the world:
Live The Process: How did your personal experience with your skin impact your life trajectory?
Dara Levy: I have been on the quest for perfect skin for as long as I can remember. Initially, I fought average teenage acne and began going to spas for facials at 14 years old. In my twenties, I developed cystic acne. It was devastating. I was put on first generation Accutane and developed blood blisters all over my face. Talk about a confidence killer. I was dabbling in modeling at the time; suffice it to say, my acne killed that potential career quickly.
LTP: What inspired you to open your own medi-spa?
DL: I got tired of running around to various places for a variety of services. It seemed silly to me to go to the back of a beauty salon for a facial, a plastic surgeon’s office for Botox and a dermatologist’s office for derma-planing. So, I set out to create the best of the best under one roof.
My spa was my baby. We offered cutting edge services, and I had the most wonderful aestheticians. My girls were the best at what they did and were like my children. The spa itself was gorgeous: clean, clinical and sophisticated.
LTP: What inspired you to created an at-home dermaplaning product?
DL: I have been dermaplaning religiously for over fifteen years. A friend swore dermaplaning was responsible for her perfect skin. I tried it and was hooked after my first treatment.
When I opened my spa, I decided that dermaplaning was going to be our foundation treatment. (We actually called our in spa treatment Dermaflash like our eventual product.) I was working on developing my own skincare line with my then spa director and now sales and education director, Rich Campbell. One day, about three years ago, I was in the shower and had the proverbial, “aha! moment.” I screamed out loud, “Oh my God! It’s Dermaflash!” We had sold over 5,000 Dermaflash treatments at that time, and I realized that an at-home solution literally did not exist. I immediately set out to create it.
Dermaflash is an exfoliating device painstakingly created for the delicate skin on a woman’s face. It removes dead skin cells and built up debris from the skin’s surface, while also getting rid of the peach fuzz on a woman’s face, revealing smooth radiant skin.
Our skin cells turn over every 28 days. If we do not exfoliate, those cells build up and lead to a dull complexion. This buildup impedes our skincare from doing its work and pesky peach fuzz gets in the way of makeup and powder. When we remove the buildup on our faces, we reveal the soft, smooth, luminous skin waiting beneath. I always say, “Feeling is believing.”
We officially launched on Sephora.com during the last week in December and in all Sephora stores in North America in January. The response has been absolutely amazing! We are now also at Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus. I was fortunate enough to be invited to present on QVC for the first time on February 2nd too—and we sold out in minutes! I am so grateful to have the opportunity to introduce this revolutionary product to the women of the world.
LTP: How and when did philanthropy become so important to you?
DL: I lost my first husband after a four-and-a-half-year battle with colon cancer. When he died, my girls were 9 and 11. I was completely devastated, especially because I never believed we would not win the battle against his disease. I had to figure out how to go on with life and had no real support system for my kids.
I got involved with Camp Kesem four years ago. This amazing organization provides a safe, nurturing environment for children who have a parent who is fighting cancer or has succumbed to the disease. Camp Kesem allows kids to be with other kids who can relate to their unique situation. What’s equally amazing is that volunteer students run all the camps from individual college campuses around the country. Had a resource like this existed when my husband was sick, I am certain it would have changed my kids’ lives.
I have been truly blessed in life and am now married to an amazing man. Because of his open heart and incredible generosity, together we have helped Camp Kesem grow from 37 to 73 chapters. Thousands of children’s lives have been impacted. And we have been fortunate enough to sponsor a camp at Cornell University in my late husband’s memory.
I am also a huge believer that you are what you eat. I am a pescatarian and try to eat only organic, fresh, healthy foods. I am well aware that healthy food is a gift that’s not attainable for everyone. So, our latest exciting cause is the non-profit Gardeneers. This life-altering, immersive program goes into Chicago’s low-income, food desert communities, where residents do not have convenient or affordable access to fresh, healthy foods. Gardeneers builds organic gardens in schools and teaches curriculum around nutrition, community and the environment. This exposure to healthy alternatives has a profound impact on in-class behavior, at-home nutrition and, hopefully, mindset about food. We are currently putting together a program, where a portion of all Dermaflash profits will be dedicated to Gardeneers.
LTP: What does happiness look like to you?
DL: In a perfect world, we would all be happy all the time. We were not born to be unhappy. Happiness is elusive, yet, eventually, always attainable. It’s an attitude you have to actively choose.
Life can be hard and frustrating and sad and terrible. When I find myself mired down in sadness, anger or frustration, I try to remember: “This too shall pass.” Because it will. Regardless of whatever personal success and internal peace, I truly believe you are only as happy as your least happy child, so it can be challenging.
LTP: What does it mean to you to “Live The Process” and how can we all do that more each day?
DL: I think there is a master plan already in place for us all. I know that I am right where I belong at any given moment. Everything is a life lesson and, if you view your experiences with an open mind, they prepare you for what is coming next.
I fervently believe that your energy, attitude and “what you put out there” determines what you ultimately get back in life. Every morning, before getting out of bed, I thank the Universe for the amazing day I am about to have. Before falling asleep every single night, I thank the Universe for the health, happiness and safety of my children and husband.
Since my girls are now 23 and 26, I have recently added on thanking the Universe for the amazing love the girls will find, as well. I think it is incredibly important to be aware of all the good in your life and to celebrate your successes. If you’re constantly working for “the next thing,” you really miss out on life’s sweetness.