Skinworks student Alisha Steward (left) gives her first facial to a Skinworks client.

Reciprocal Care: Skinworks School of Advanced Skincare


I remember the day I realized the pandemic was really happening. My partner and I had made plans for an afternoon visit to Skinworks School of Advanced Skincare, a local spa and esthetics school located near Liberty Park, to each receive luxury facials. Both of us were stressed and worried, and as a chronically anxious person, I had made a habit of booking times at the spa at least once a month after trying it on a lark years ago. The care I received that first time surprised me with just how calming and meditative skin and body care could be, rivaling my yoga practice for fulfilling my sense of the body and mind as a full circuit. That moment in March, when Skinworks called me and politely told me they would have to cancel mine and my partner’s appointments, was what it took to make the whole situation really sink in. I almost instantly felt a sense of longing for the genuine self-care Skinworks offers.

It is 2021 now, nearly a year after that day, and while many aspects of life still suck, I thank god that Skinworks is open again. The school and spa is, of course, still following strict guidelines, as set out by the Utah State Health Department—staggering appointments to minimize simultaneous traffic, requiring masks at all times (except at the point of service for customers where it would interfere) and discontinuing certain practices like couples treatments and the use of steamers.

You can get a wide range of skincare experiences at Skinworks, including those beyond the nail and facial care I have personally taken advantage of: Exfoliators, eyelash and brow work, chemical peels, waxing and body treatments like sugar scrubs and contour wraps, as well as even more advanced services like laser work, botox and tattoo removal are on the menu. Student treatments are assisted by licensed estheticians, who are teaching students the business of beauty.

“Skin is an incredibly personal thing.”

Skinworks employs both professionals and students, such as Alisha Steward, pictured above.
Photo: John Barkiple

Esthetics is the variant spelling of aesthetics used for the practice of skincare. Estheticians are those who see beauty in skin itself and train to care for our largest organ. Since 1995, Skinworks has been one part for-profit esthetics training, one part student spa. Students of the school perform high-end treatments at a low price as a trade-off for the experience of working with a student.

This setup is important: It creates a sort of reciprocal exchange of needs and care that defines Skinworks and sets it apart from other spa experiences. The inherently intimate experience of having someone dote on your face, arms, feet or wherever is all made more meaningful in your opportunity to speak with and give feedback to students who are training not just in the physical acts of care, but the ways in which a spa experience is improved by attending to your personal skincare needs; vocalizing mid-session what is happening as well as walking you through the esthetic process in layman’s terms.


“I honestly feel it has been a really long rollercoaster ride these past 15 years.”

Skinworks was created 25 years ago by a woman named Susan Tullis, and in 2005 Natalie Parkin—its current Owner, Operator and School President—bought Skinworks from Tullis, along with a close friend and her father as a silent partner. Parkin and her friend went separate ways early on, and with the passing of Parkin’s father in February, she is now the sole owner. The decision to buy the school was a deeply personal one, informed by her upbringing and the atmosphere of women in business during the dot-com era.

“I was a high school dropout myself—a teen mom, I guess you would say,” says Parkin. “Having a child at 17 and my second divorce at 22, I decided that I needed to get myself out of this situation I put myself in.”

Parkin enrolled at ITT Tech and ran a full schedule. After graduating, she worked selling bandwidth to places like universities, ISPs and call centers. But when she discovered Tullis’ intent to sell Skinworks, she jumped at the chance to own a business she felt could empower herself and other women.

“I honestly feel it has been a really long rollercoaster ride these past 15 years,” says Parkin. She recalls her mother’s salon as a child and the care she demonstrated early on. “I looked up to my mom greatly as a business owner,” says Parkin. “She ran her salon and created a family with her clients and operators. The beauty world offers so much to women that many other businesses cannot … This industry empowers women—no other way to put it.”

 The experience of care at Skinworks is not just about pampering, but learning about the kind of daily care appropriate for your skin.
Photo: John Barkiple

Skin is an incredibly personal thing. As I have neared my 30s and spent almost 15 years fussing over my skin, the experience of care at Skinworks is not just about pampering, but learning about the kind of daily care appropriate for your skin, which can change according to the environment and naturally over time. While you are being cared for, you are also offering yourself, your body and your time. Letting a student learn your particular needs prepares them for the process of care for the diversity of bodies that exist beyond yourself. You are paying for this reciprocation at Skinworks—it is what creates the atmosphere of genuine care.

To plan a visit, review COVID-19 safety precautions and locate more information on Skinworks, visit