Interview: Christine Clais
Christine Clais is a French-born skin expert. She is regarded as one of the most respected and sought after facialists in the world. She has helped more than 30,000 women. Christine is based in Melbourne, Australia, where she treats clients at her boutique salon, ‘Le Petit Salon’.
Christine, where in France did you grow up?
I grew up in Saint-Omer, in northern France. It’s quite a picturesque town, but with not much to do! From an early age, I always felt quite independent and adventurous. So, I went to England as an au pair after I got my baccalauréat. That was the beginning of my journey.
If you were in Saint-Omer now, what would you most likely be doing?
There’s a fabulous market. Being near the coast, you can buy fish that were caught overnight. Everything is really fresh: cheeses, organic fruits, vegetables.
What influenced your decision to come to Australia?
Oh, a whole set of circumstances. I spent five years with Air France as a long haul flight attendant. That broadened my horizons. Otherwise, I probably would never have had the courage to come here 22 years ago.
Health, beauty and good nutrition – what drew you to working in this field?
I’ve always had a fascination with the skin. As a young child, the time I would spend with my paternal grandmother, my Bonne Maman, was very important. She had a fascination for creams and gave me her nearly empty jars of skin care products. Then, when I was a flight attendant, in my spare time, I was able to experience skin care treatments and spas all over the world.
When did you become a skin therapist?
Twenty years ago, I decided skin care would be a great thing for me to do. I became a mature age student here in Melbourne and thoroughly enjoyed it. I set the bar quite high, English being my second language. Having great results, I got work very easily.
I started in a lovely salon run by a lady called Marianne. We had wonderful clients, many from Europe. Also, Marianne treated a lot of transsexuals. So you’d have Peter coming in for electrolysis; then, he’d come back as Jane to have her nails done with me! It was a great salon, very accepting.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
I really enjoy helping clients feel good, making a difference in their lives. It’s amazing and humbling the way people trust and confide in you. I never take that for granted.
What is your philosophy on getting the best results for your clients?
My philosophy is consistency, education and support. People often want a quick fix. But, the skin is a living organ; quick fixes don’t work. It’s all the little things you do every day for the skin that make a great difference. Often too, there are emotional influences at work. I’m thinking now of one client who had a seriously bad habit of picking her skin. I could feel she had a high degree of shame, but I helped her relax and supported her in effecting a positive change. Although I’m not a counsellor, I think listening in an accepting and loving way is really important. Often, when people talk they actually start discovering their own answers. My clients have to choose to let me work with them, so I really get results.
Are men becoming more conscious of skin care?
Most of my clients are women, it’s true. Increasingly these days, there’s a real pressure for men in the workplace to look good. Socially too, it’s more accepted now. And more and more mass market products now cater for men. So, men are finally catching on!
You can double your market then!
Yes, maybe I’ll have to change my salon’s pink colour scheme!
Are you conscious of anything specifically French about how you work?
If I compare myself with my Australian colleagues, maybe there are things that are really French about the way I work. It probably comes from the French education that is very logical. Growing up, all my female role models had a skin care regime. From a young age, I cleansed my skin twice a day, exfoliated and used a mask. I guess that’s very French. And I don’t know if it’s really French, but the way you welcome a client will influence how much at ease they feel. It’s not always what you say during treatment, it’s body language, everything. So I’m not so sure if it’s French or if it’s me!
What are your plans for the future?
Many people can’t make it to Le Petit Salon; especially if they’re interstate or overseas. I want to reach people globally and am working on a website to do just that. My passion is to give people independent knowledge, to empower them to make their own skin care decisions.
How do you like to relax?
I like food; maybe that’s French! I love going out with my partner, Christophe, to enjoy a good dinner, a nice glass of wine. I like walking my two dogs in the park. Daydreaming, I adore daydreaming! And, I tend to favour the simple moments that don’t cost a lot but are really to be treasured.
For more about ‘Le Petit Salon’, you are welcome to visit Christine’s website