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People • Inspiration

Behind the Look: Kate Somerville Is Hollywood's Secret Weapon for Flawless Skin

From Hollywood stars to the girl next door, Kate Somerville aims to make everyone feel comfortable in their own skin

When 20-year-old Kate Somerville enrolled in esthetician school, she had no idea that her dream of providing high-quality skin care would eventually bring her a roster of A-list clients including Jessica Alba, Olivia Wilde, Kirsten Dunst, and many more. In the nearly three decades since, Kate has established herself as one of the world’s leading facialists with her own skin care line and clinics in Los Angeles and New York.

So how did Boulevard customer and esthetician to the stars Kate Somerville build a multi-million-dollar skin care business? It all started with a “fierce determination to succeed.”

A personal journey

These days, Kate — like her clients — has glowing, flawless skin, but that wasn’t always the case. As a teenager, she suffered from eczema flare-ups due to the stress of her home life, which were exacerbated by physical activity like volleyball and track. “I always had these embarrassing patches,” she said in an interview with Cosmetics Magazine.

That firsthand experience fueled Kate’s passion for skin care and her decision to become a licensed esthetician. Her determination, combined with an entrepreneurial spirit, gave her the drive to attend school while “basically waitressing at three jobs,” she told The Skincare Edit. From there, she developed a business plan and “threw myself into learning as much as I could through seminars” in order to stand out from the crowd.

The Kate Somerville brand was born when she rented office space at a local medical office near her hometown of San Luis Obispo, California. This was an unusual move for the time; “Most estheticians were facialists working in a spa,” Kate said in a 2019 interview. The timing turned out to be especially shrewd, as it coincided with lasers arriving on the dermatology scene to tackle fine lines and wrinkles, which could leave skin sensitive. “That really pushed me to start developing my skin care line,” she said. “Before, I was using two products from this line, three products from that line. I was mixing and matching. I realized how much those products were my tools.”

Finding the holy grail

To further develop her own line of products using powerful active ingredients, Kate teamed up with a chemist and eventually partnered with Unilever. In the meantime, she sold her San Luis Obispo-based business and opened a new location in Los Angeles in 2004. According to Kate, “My goal was to deliver the same results you could get in a doctor’s office, in a comfortable, beautiful environment. I wanted to open a place that would not only change my client’s skin, but also empower them to take control of their lives.” Before long, her clinic had developed a reputation for being trustworthy and effective, which earned her a roster of celebrity clients.  When one of those clients asked Kate to bottle her signature clinic facial, ExfoliKate Intensive — which her website describes as her “holy grail product” — was born.

Technology is always at the forefront of the product development process, as she shared in 2020 with the launch of the HydraKate line. Building on the brand’s signature micro-channeling therapy treatment, “I wanted to take this clinical innovation and find a way to bottle it up for our consumers to use daily at home.” The solution: AquaPort Technology, a version of the Nobel Prize-winning Aquaporin Technology, which allows ingredients like hyaluronic acid to penetrate the skin faster and more deeply. 

Skin care for every body

After moving to LA, Kate worked with a plastic surgeon who introduced her to the celebrity circuit. Unfortunately, there was such a stigma around plastic surgery that Hollywood types wouldn’t even come to the office for skin care because of the paparazzi camped outside. She began seeing clients at their homes before opening her own shop on Melrose Place. Her reputation preceded her, and it wasn’t long before some of the world’s most famous faces sought her help in the quest for eternal youth.

These days, Kate and her team have a set of skin care protocols for every age, ethnicity, and skin type. She also makes it a point to give back, particularly when it comes to supporting foster children who are on the verge of aging out of the system. As someone who came from humble beginnings, Kate knows that a simple opportunity can be life-changing, so her business provides professional training, workshops, and scholarships in partnership with non-profits like Foster Nation and Beauty Changes Lives.

From a small town in California to celebrity clientele and a global skin care line, Kate Somerville has come a long way. Throughout her journey, she kept her mantra for success in mind: “From a business perspective, it’s not to lose sight of what you’re trying to do. A business will take you over — the sales, the cash flow, etc. If you lose sight of why you’re doing it, it’s not fun anymore. For me, it’s important to connect with clients and stay close to what motivated me to start this — to heal people.”

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