I make 6 figures a year peeling people's skin for a living. I feel more fulfilled as an aesthetician than I did working in real estate.
- Nidah Barber-Raymond had her first chemical-skin peel in 2009 and was hooked on the process.
- She began making her own peels and left her job in real estate to become a full-time aesthetician.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with 47-year-old Nidah Barber-Raymond, the owner of The Peel Connection. Barber-Raymond's income has been verified with documentation by Insider. The following has been edited for length and clarity.
In 2009, I was getting a facial and I felt a light sting on my face. I asked the aesthetician what she was using, and she told me it was acid that would boost my skin's collagen production.
I was sold on my first peel. Now, I'm an aesthetician making six figures in revenue a year peeling people's skin.
A chemical peel exfoliates the top layer of skin to shed all the dead cells, revealing smoother skin underneath.
After my first peel in 2009, I became obsessed with the process. I would order chemicals online, mix them, and then apply them to myself before applying them to friends, family, and neighbors.
I experimented for about a year and would always test the mixes on myself first. I only burnt myself once in this process. My parents stressed to me to do everything by the book so I didn't harm myself.
I quit my nine-to-five in property management to go all in on skin peels
At the time, I was a property manager, but it didn't excite me. I left the industry in 2010 to focus on becoming an aesthetician. Using some residual income from the rentals I was managing, I had the financial flexibility to start training. The six-month course to become a licensed aesthetician cost $4,000.
The moment I got my license, I became a full-time aesthetician focused on chemical peels for the face and body. I took on family, friends, and neighbors as my first clients, and they gave me a lot of referrals.
I also posted ads on Yahoo's local directory to help people with extreme cases of hyperpigmentation or acne in exchange for pictures and honest reviews — free of charge. Specializing in peels gave me a good niche to market myself.
I would approach people on the street and offer them free chemical peels.
I got mixed responses. Some people agreed, and it worked really well, but for others, I didn't get such a great reaction. I would see people with acne or hyperpigmentation that I knew one session would help, but the question was: How do you approach that conversation? I had to start holding myself back.
After my maternity leave, I returned to skin peels with a vengeance
I ran that business for about a year under the name Nidah Skincare until I got pregnant in 2013. I took a two-year break from 2014 until the end of 2016. I am lucky that my husband is a fairly established real-estate developer and investor, so I was able to take this time off to stay at home with our kids.
Once I returned to work, I rebranded my company to The Peel Connection in January 2017 — my business took off from there.
I became number one on Google and Yelp for chemical peels in LA, which helped me get a lot of organic clients. I did some standard SEO optimization, and I was only specializing in chemical peels, so all my clients' reviews prompted Google and Yelp to rank my business as No. 1. I also went from doing three peels a day to seven, which got the word out more and grew my following.
In 2020, I had a couple of publications come in and record videos of me doing my peels. Both of them wanted me to show feet peels — apparently, they're very popular, which surprised me!
I pivoted quickly during COVID-19 to at-home peels and hit six figures in annual income
My business was going great, but then COVID hit, and I had to shut my studio. I pivoted quickly to home peels.
By that point, I'd done over 30,000 peels and collected data on each one. I was in a good place to figure out the correct ingredients for a safe at-home peel kit that the clients could apply themselves.
It helped me scale my business because I was able to sell to people all over the world — rather than just within a 30-mile radius of my studio. I hit six figures in yearly revenue for the first time during COVID.
As restrictions eased, there were still customers who wanted to come into the studio and get me to peel them. And I haven't lost many clients due to offering at-home peels.
The average face peel costs $225, and the home peels cost $100 for one, $150 for two, and $200 for three.
In the studio, I can offer more uncommon areas to peel, such as what I call the "baby-bump peel," which is the bum, full-body peels, and peels on more sensitive areas.
I have one client that flew all the way from Germany to have a full-body peel — and I mean everywhere. It cost $3,000 because he was fairly large, and obviously, the more area I cover, the more it's going to cost.
Skin peels can be life-changing for people, and it's so fulfilling to see
My favorite area to peel is the back. I get clients who have had back acne for half of their life and never believed they could fix it. This can be a guy who doesn't take his shirt off at the pool, or a bride who feels limited on what wedding dress she can buy. I love these peels because it's really emotional and, sometimes, life-changing for these people.
All of my clients love the peeling process.
It feeds into that same feeling those pimple-popping videos do — that feeling of being out with the old, it's cathartic. You peel and are left with baby-fresh skin. I love doing it to myself!
The best part of the job, though, is seeing results from clients and how shocked they can be. I know it sounds corny, but it really makes me feel like I'm making a difference.
That's what I was missing in my previous career. I just didn't feel fulfilled, and it didn't light me up the way chemical peels do.
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