Working in the beauty industry 17 years and owning several salons should count for something. But for Cyndi Williams, it meant time to step up her game.
The beauty entrepreneur turned to San Jacinto College to upskill.
"San Jacinto was the school I had seen produce the best candidates for my businesses," Williams said, "so I had decided that's where I wanted to go."
After finishing an eyelash extensions program, she enrolled in the facial specialist/esthetician program at the North Campus.
This April, Williams and other full-time esthetics students strutted their stuff during their finals projects, performing facials, microdermabrasion, makeup artistry, and brow henna on classmates-turned-models.
In the new North Campus Cosmetology and Culinary Center, the esthetics lab offers a real-world setting to practice skills.
For facials and other skin services, reclining chairs and sinks flank opposite sides of the room. In the center stands a row of back-to-back vanity mirrors and counters with salon chairs for makeup artistry.
While some students performed the services and others served as models, they collaborated on choosing their themes and creating digital portfolios for their finals projects.
Working near one of these mirrors, flooded in warm light, Williams transforms her model into a fairy ice queen. She uses fine brushstrokes to swipe shimmery, frost-blue eyeshadow across her lids. Then, to define the eyes, she traces black eyeliner above the model's lashes, curving up to sharp points at the outer edges.
"I wanted to stretch myself and do something a little outside of beauty and go more along the lines of fantasy," Williams said.
At another vanity mirror, Melba Smith creates a bold glam fantasy look to offset her model's soft-spoken personality.
Smith frames her eyes with metallic sky-blue shadow, accents with magenta above, and plumps her lashes with navy-blue mascara. The model wears a gold collar and hair styled in long, loose ringlets.
"I know that she is going through a treatment program with her skin, so we wanted to give her a bold, dramatic look," Smith said. "Esthetics is about concealing blemishes. So we were able to conceal those spots and give her a flawless application."
Also an eyelash extensions program graduate, Smith pursued esthetics classes to add facial and brow services to her business, Mysterious Lashes.
Across the room, another student performs a brow henna procedure, tinting the skin under her model's eyebrows to shape and define them.
In the next reclining chair-turned-table, another model gets a back treatment with a hot stone massage, exfoliation, steam, extraction, and hydrating and clarifying masks.
According to cosmetology professor Oletha Brown, these finals projects allow students to test-run their skills. Students worked in groups to create glam looks with fantasy or bridal makeup or to perform spa treatments.
"We have been working on this project for about two to three weeks, so they will be creating a portfolio, taking pictures, and just having fun," Brown said. "They will be describing the category, why they chose it, and how it coincides with skincare."
After creating the models' final looks, the future estheticians will present their projects using flipbooks, PowerPoints, and videos.
Checking the boxes
Brown and other esthetics instructors teach advanced techniques that are profitable in the salon and spa industry — from microdermabrasion, henna brow, and brow tint to lash tint and lifts.
Full-time students can finish the program in two semesters, and part-time evening students in three. After earning their certificates and taking the state licensing exam, students have a variety of skills to offer clients at salons or their own businesses.
"We like to make sure that when they are in the field they are well marketable," Brown said.
Williams has so enjoyed her experience learning advanced techniques that she plans to pursue the cosmetology instructor program next.
"I want to help develop the next generation of cosmetology professionals to excel and set themselves apart from the average graduate," she said.
Learn more about San Jac's cosmetology programs.