Conversation with Violet Johnson, Global Skincare Expert and Owner of Violet J Spa in San Jose California


Violet Johnson speaks to Paola Bassanese about her experience as a spa owner and ethnic skincare expert. Violet has an incredible story and an impressive background – she has a PhD in Psychology and is a nurse, midwife and therapist.


Q: How did you decide to set up Violet Spa?

A: I got my love of spas from my family: my grandmother, a herbalist, would give us ginger tea, syrusy tea, very famous in the Caribbean, and she also would heat special stones and wrap them to place in the bed. When we had colds she would give us a warm coconut oil body massage and in a few days our colds would be gone – we were also lucky to be living in the Caribbean at that time.

My mother took me to a women’s spa in Birmingham England when I was nine: what an amazing experience! We were scrubbed, dipped in warm and cool plunges, painted with scented mud, received scalp massages… My dad dropped us off at the spa and picked us up, I remember this haze of wonderful smells and that I slept until midday the next day. I decided that when I would start my travels around the world my first avenue would be to seek out local spas whether it was India, Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi, Paris, England or Asia.

Q: You specialise in global skin, can you tell us more about your research in the field?

A: I decided to start a day spa after moving from Saudi Arabia and arriving in the USA with my new husband who I met while working in the Middle East, a retired air force pilot who is part Cherokee and had learnt massage in China and Thailand. He introduced me to sweat lodges and we took two years off travelling and learning skin care in Paris, London and the USA, plus massage in Thailand.

I then obtained my cosmetology license, massage and health practitioner certification, became an infant massage practitioner, hypnotherapist,public speaker and started my spa.

Global skins is really multi ethnic skins and the ability to care for each e.g. Asian, Spanish, Caucasian, Arabic, African, mixed races like my daughter who is part English-Irish and African, she is absolutely gorgeous!

Caring for multi ethnic skins means gentle handling of these skins. Aggressive extractions especially on acne skin can create dark spots pigmentation which are not only unsightly but also hard to remove [in 1975 Dr Fitzpatrick, a Harvard dermatologist, came up with the Fitzpatrick scale which measures genetics, reaction to sun and tanning habits]. Sometimes clients feel that because their skin tone is darker they have more in built protection against the sun and minimize the importance of using sun protection. The reverse has been my experience: more pale skins react more quickly to the rays of the sun by turning pink almost at once, darker skin tones have more melanin which allows the skin to not show that same reaction so more sun damage can occur.

In the Fitzpatrick scale:

1 is light pale white that always burns never tans;

2 is white fair usually burns never tans;

3 is medium white to light brown that sometimes gets a mild burn but gradually tans to a light brown;

4 is olive, a moderate brown that rarely burns and tans with ease to a moderate brown;

5 is brown to dark brown, very rarely burns and tans easily:

6 is black/very dark brown to black, never burns and tans easily because the skin is deeply pigmented.

It is very important for estheticians to be educated in different skins to ensure clients get the best result and this starts with adequate education getting away from the cookie cutter, one-size-fits-all approach. When we look at manufacturing of skin care products it mainly seems to cater to white skins and that includes make up too.

This is now gradually changing but a huge market is being left out. For example, I recently had a facial at a very upscale spa and the finishing moisturizer that was applied to my skin was heavy and opaque which left a ashy look to my skin. I had to rinse my skin off and apply my stand by gel moisturizer which absorbs into the skin leaves it soft and hydrated.

Q: You are passionate about health and well-being, how do you keep healthy and fit?

A: I am passionate about my health until recently when I focused on my partner who has heart disease and literarlly forgot about myself, when a visit to the doctor showed an abnormal EKG it was a wake up call. A follow up cardiac catheterization test proved negative but I am never going to take my health for granted again.

I have started walking eating properly and trying to lose weight: I have set a goal by the end of the year when I hit my target I am getting new clothes and going on holiday. Being a nurse I know there is a higher incidence of heart disease in women than cancer so I haved signed up with the heart association Go Red and will be having the cardiologist Dr Noir of Elcamino Hospital here in California to come to the spa and speak to my clients.

I swim daily which helps to relieve my stress; I would also like to do stretching and meditation. For now I do self hypnosis – my motto now is “health and wellness are your best asset”.

Mrs. Johnson
Q: You have a PhD in Psychology and you are an educator as well as a practitioner of massage therapy, hypnotherapy, cosmetology and a background in nursing. What are your plans for the future?

A: My future plans are to incorporate more emphasis on pregnancy pre and post natal body wellness, lymph drainage, pre- and post surgery patients geriatric massage, affiliate with pediatricians, doulas, ob-gyns, nutritionists and sell hypnotherapy tapes on line. I would also like to have my own product line, become an international educator, expand the staff acquiring with more staff and some day I would love to own my own building.

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