Pampering on a Local Scale: Ex-Coty Exec Opens L.A. Spa

Anastasia C. Ayala's resume reads like a list of the world's top beauty companies.

Anastasia C. Ayala’s résumé reads like a list of the world’s top beauty companies: she’s held positions at Revlon, Max Factor, Procter & Gamble Co., the Estée Lauder Cos. and Coty, where she helped revamp Rimmel London as senior vice president of global brands.

Ayala’s latest effort is less global and more local. She’s left the corporate grind and returned to her native Los Angeles to open Pure Aesthetics/Pure Wellness, a 3,400-square-foot spa and wellness facility with 10 treatment rooms tucked away in an office building on the busy thoroughfare that connects the Westside to Sherman Oaks.

The office politics may have changed, but the strategic vision that propelled Ayala to the high ranks of the beauty industry has not. She studied the cramped spa market for two years before launching Pure Aesthetics/Pure Wellness, which officially opens next week, and asserts she’s carved out a unique niche: a one-stop beauty and health shop where outer and inner body concerns are addressed.

“There is a tremendous well of interest in connecting [beauty and health.] If you feel better, you are absolutely going to look better,” said Ayala. “I fit in [with] people who want to take their health and skin care to the next level. I worked hard to make the concept something I believe in and something that I didn’t see anywhere. That makes it stand out.”

Certainly, Ayala is not the first person to associate good skin with internal vigor. N.V. Perricone M.D., Dr. Brandt, Murad, Kinerase and Borba have all encouraged skin care shoppers to strengthen their beauty regimens with supplements. Ayala also developed a 10-item line of vitamins with nutritionist Ralph Sanchez and manufacturer Designs for Health that sells from $19 to $65. A seven-item therapeutic skin care line will be introduced next spring.

But Ayala differentiates Pure Aesthetics/Pure Wellness by tailoring services to people’s individual needs, rather than directing them to a single company’s solution. She retails nearly 20 different brands, including IS Clinical, Carita Paris, Decleor Paris, B. Kamins, Intraceuticals, Glo Therapeutics, Cellex-C, Benev, Kobido, Sircuit Skin, Neocutis, Skin Medica and Hymed, and picked eight for the professional back bar. To choose the right remedy, a Clarity Pro analysis takes about 15 minutes to assess customers’ pores, complexion, wrinkles and sun damage.

This story first appeared in the September 14, 2007 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

“When you go to most places, they will usually have about three brands. We didn’t find one brand that had stellar products for every condition. I want to be very inclusive,” said Ayala. “If you don’t take care of your clients and produce great results, you can pack up your bags.”

On the aesthetics end of the business, a $150 acne treatment called The Cure uses a vitamin-rich masque and blue-light therapy to combat pimples. A premium offering on the skin care menu is Pure Rejuvenation, which costs $375, lasts 90 minutes and features a pulsating facial massage that’s been in Japanese skin care company Kobido’s repertoire for centuries. An entry-level package is the $300 Fresh Start, a series of three 60-minute facials that cleans up the skin of first-timers or those preparing for a red-carpet event.

On the wellness end of the business, Dr. Alexander Rivkin, pioneer of the nonsurgical nose job, is Pure Aesthetics/Pure Wellness’ medical director and supervises on-site medical procedures. Nutritionists Sanchez and Philip Goglia maintain office hours to guide clients’ diets and physical fitness routines. A set of three visits that covers diagnostic tests, a complete medical work-up, and nutritional and fitness recommendations costs around $1,000.

Getting spa goers to care for their insides at the same place they rectify their outsides will take some work, acknowledged Ayala. For a month, she’s provided friends and family with private services at Pure Aesthetics/Pure Wellness to get a feel for the desired aesthetics-wellness balance. She noted that, even if they didn’t actually sign up for the wellness selections, about 50 percent of clients so far express an interest.

“We have a lot of people who get regular facials, but my only question is, ‘Can we get them to think about the other side to really optimize their skin care?'” Ayala said. She’s testing a few different techniques — placing dieticians at the reception desk to handle health inquiries is one — to assuage customers to try out the wellness program.

Ayala was pleased with early indicators showing she’s attracting males — half of the friends and family members that dropped by have been men — and a wide range of ages from teens to Baby Boomers and beyond. Pure Aesthetics/Pure Wellness’ design is androgynous to appeal to both sexes. The color palette is awash in cool hues such as eggshell, alabaster, pale blue and golden brown.

Curves suggest transition and renewal to Ayala. The dark Alder-wood front desk, which is topped with illuminated wood and glass retail shelves, winds its way through the reception area. Wavy modular art appears on the walls of a hallway and nearby treatment room. “The whole idea was to create an environment that people enjoyed being in, no matter what treatment they were getting, to be away from it all,” said Ayala.

It’s a far cry from skin care spa Vera’s Retreat In The Glen, a prior tenant that Ayala recalled bathed the Pure Aesthetics/Pure Wellness’ space in pink. In the Eighties and Nineties, the spa’s namesake, Vera Brown, gained a following among Los Angeles glitterati and even Ayala frequented the spa with her sister during her teen years. “It was the place to be,” she said.

In the current Los Angeles spa scene, celebrity pores carry the most cachet, and Ayala knows that matching the site’s former glory will require attracting clients with coveted IMDB profiles. “The entertainment industry is ‘the’ industry in Los Angeles, just like the fashion, beauty and financial industries are in New York,” she said. “You have to make sure you have great outreach to them.”

Ayala projected that Pure Aesthetics/Pure Wellness would be operationally profitable in three months, but doesn’t expect to see a substantial return on her investment for two to three years. Industry sources estimate the facility will generate first-year revenues of $2 million.