Down to Business

An interview with Joshua Maniscalco

This month, we sat down with an esthetician of over 18 years and skin care formulator Joshua Maniscalco. He is the founder of Agent Rx, a San Francisco-based next-level skincare studio that performs bespoke clinically driven services, intention-ally focused on healing and preserving the integrity of the skin. He also hosts the Good Skin Circle podcast with Ashley Curtis, where they share candid business and life advice for estheticians.

““It really is about estheticians supporting estheticians on the ground floor so we can make better decisions not only for our own businesses, but for the esthetics industry as a whole”

What inspired you to get started in the esthetics field?

It really was my mom who started it when she gave me a gift box of skincare. The kit was a cleanser, scrub, toner, moisturizer, and sunscreen, and I just fell in love with that process, and it became my obsession.

Flash forward 10 years to when I was 24 and in college, feeling lost and not knowing what I wanted to do. A friend suggested we go get a facial at this beauty school for only $20. I had never had a facial, and I had a 10 percent glycolic peel that is the reason I am here talking to you today. I didn’t know skincare could actually give this immediate result. I thought “This is it, this is what I want to do,” and I enrolled in school two weeks later.

Can you share a bit about your professional background?

I was so obsessed with skincare and thought I knew everything there was to know. I pushed my way into my first job at a spa owned by a brain surgeon who wanted to have a spa business. I was her first esthetician.

I really wanted to learn more about the science of skincare, and after that job, I went to an actual MedSpa that had lasers and needed an esthetician.

I then got an opportunity through a friend, who was a brand rep for Cosmedix, at a doctor’s office in Manhattan, which led to another opportunity, through another friend, in San Francisco. Things weren’t going well at the doctor’s office, so I came to San Francisco and have been here building my clientele for almost 16 years.

I started at Bella Pelle, a really successful studio, and I was just thrilled. I learned waxing, which I had never done before, leg waxing, Brazilians, and brows.

I finally opened my own practice in 2016, Skin Clinical SF. It was a super scary time in my life, but I was ready, and I did it. I was fully booked so I’m not sure what I was so afraid of. It was hugely successful and an incredible
time for me.

Can you describe the Aesthetician Revolution and the work you are doing in support of estheticians?

It ultimately boils down to an awareness and an awakening for solo estheticians, actually all estheticians. It’s bringing an awareness to what we are doing when we partner with certain brands, the behavior of brands in this industry, and how that is shaping the landscape for the next generation of estheticians.

It really is about estheticians supporting estheticians on the ground floor so we can make better decisions not only for our own businesses but for the esthetics industry as a whole.

Why is education such a crucial part of this industry?

Because it’s lacking! That’s the simple answer. We are trained for six months on compliance, with sanitation standards, and techniques, but don’t have any business skills, any understanding of margins, or negotiations – that is all led by brands. Non-biased, esthetician-led, and driven education is where you’ll find experienced estheticians helping the younger generation with no gatekeeping. That’s what I’m so passionate about.

Have you developed and launched esthetic products?

At my previous jobs, I was so interested in learning about formulations and worked with a lot of labs. I got to be part of their development process and learn from them.

I was the lead esthetician for the launch of Proven Skincare in 2019, which was an AI-powered skincare database that created kits for people based on science and data.

I started with private labeling from some great labs, but I feel like that part of the industry gets a bad rap. That’s why I launched my course on GoldenExperience Guide, “Create YourSignature Products,” to show young estheticians what that really is like.

Along the way I started formulating my own products like my Cryo-PeptideMask, launching to my clientele and other professionals. I’m working on more formulations as well.

How have you taken hardship in your life or career and turned it into a positive outcome?

In 2008, I was fired from my job. Long story short, I was doing it all, multiple jobs, and I made an administrative mistake. It was an excuse because it was 2008, everything had crashed, it was horrible. So I knew I was a sacrificial lamb, but that was a really hard wake up call.

I was so lost, I had just moved across the country, and everywhere I looked was disaster. A friend recognized what I was going through and sent me to a kind therapist who saw me for $20 a week.

I was determined not to move home, so I went to a beauty store in an upscale neighborhood with one treatment room in the back. They had an ad for an esthetician on Craigslist, I went and met with the owner and convinced her to hire me. I was determined to make a success of it by sticking to what I loved – skincare.

What is the key to accomplishing your goals in this industry?

I wouldn’t say there is one key, but absolute and utter commitment and determination. You need to know your“why” for doing this, why it lights you up and gives you joy. Life is going to happen, you will have massive setbacks you can’t predict. If you stick it out you will come out on top and be successful.

What advice would you give to estheticians just starting out who want to grow their business?

There are so many ways, the possibilities are endless. Knowing yourself and your strengths is important. Invest in getting to know who you are and how that can help you in business.

Make relationships, reach out and don’t stop reaching out. Put your fears aside and lean into your strengths. Also, adopt a growth mindset.

How would you forecast the future of the esthetics industry?

Technology is the future of all industries. Robots can’t give facials yet, but is already helping save so much time with ChatGPT helping to write marketing emails and social media captions. If you can get your thoughts down,you don’t have to worry about making it perfect. These tools will set the message and tone.

Also, helping each other and coming from a less selfish place. We are one a whole and this industry depends on all of us.

What is the most rewarding aspect of working in esthetics?

Seeing the growth and change that has occurred in myself by being so committed to one thing. We’re not just confined to the treatment room anymore and we’re learning new ways to do things because of our community, with so many resources available. Mentoring others using everything I’ve learned and seen over the years is the greatest reward.