Why I Left The Spa Industry And How It Changed My Life (Our Holistic Esthetician Spills All)

I know, you’ve most likely heard it before – all I’ve ever wanted since I was 11 years old was to be a part of the beauty industry. I even started a salon in my basement and charged the neighbor girls $6 for full spa days (back in the day, that was big bucks!).

But what you may not know, is that by the time I reached my mid-twenties, received licenses in both cosmetology + esthetics, and worked full-time in spas for several years, I hit a wall.

Okay, you could call it a breaking point.

After being an esthetician for an international beauty brand for years, I came to a place where I realized I needed to reevaluate and reprioritize the products, the approach and the perspectives I wanted to have as an esthetician.

Over the years as I dove deeper into the industry, I discovered that the majority of facial services available proved to be overindulgent or under delivering, reserved only for special occasions or seen as superficial, or solely focusing on the face and fixing flaws rather than on the whole person and celebrating everyone’s individual beauty.

Because of this wall I hit (aka breaking point), I was willing to walk away from an industry I deeply loved – and had wanted to be a part of since I was little – because I believed there had to be more.

You guys, the struggle was real.

At one point I was seriously considering joining Greenpeace. Their volunteers stood outside the spa where I was working and would persistently (and passionately!) recruit shoppers passing by. And while most people would walk by without giving them the time of day, I would eagerly chat with them on my breaks or in between facial guests. I was tempted to leave the spa behind right then and there, aching to be a part of something bigger.

In that season of my life, the salon walls were suffocating.

Beauty had always been my passion, but I needed purpose – and I wasn’t finding it in the industry I had given my life to. Surprisingly, as a skincare professional, I didn’t find my purpose inside of the treatment room. For me, I found it when I left it all behind.

I took a step back from the spa industry to pursue something greater – connecting with myself, connecting with communities + cultures all around the world, and most importantly, connecting with my Creator.

The past 10 years have been a bit of a whirlwind, but the most beautiful kind. I worked as an esthetician in spas across the country and served as a full-time volunteer overseas (and no, not with Greenpeace 😉 ). A few years here, a few years there. And while I wasn’t technically working in a treatment room full-time for the last decade, the spa and all it stood for was still very much a part of me and I took it with me wherever I went.

To rooftops in the largest red light district in Asia, to safe homes for survivors of human trafficking in South Africa, to brothels disguised as massage parlors in Perth. I brought my passion for beauty, healing, and wholeness – along with my little toolkit of skincare products – to care for women in a way they had never experienced before. To offer them a different kind of touch, one that’s gentle, loving and life-giving. To provide a safe space to rest their minds and bodies. To remind them of their worth, value and identity.

Working with women across different countries and cultures, from diverse backgrounds and brokenness, I discovered something. They all held the same desires, the same needs – to experience true connection, to receive healing touch, to be told they’re beautiful (inside and out), and to deeply believe it.

That became my why.
That became my purpose.

And that’s the point – at least, that’s supposed to be the point in this industry of “refresh, renew, restore.” Right?

Sadly, I feel like on some level that’s been lost. And that’s why I left. Somewhere behind the overindulgent spa menus, extravagant treatment prices, and rushed services, it seems like the richness, the healing, and the depth has been diluted.

This industry holds so much power – for good, globally, within us and around us. My hope is to help reawaken that reality within the spa industry, the women who walk through our doors, and the world we’re called to practically and powerfully love.

Although the years I’ve traveled abroad and have been away from the treatment room may seem like “lost” or “wasted” time professionally, I believe it’s only propelled me forward.

My time outside of the treatment room has translated into more intention and purpose inside of the treatment room. My experiences away from the spa have given me a deeper appreciation for the power it holds for healing, restoration and eternal beauty.

What could easily look like a sacrifice or a setback – stepping away from the spa industry, my career and my calling, to pursue a different path – was actually one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever been given.

My breaking point, the wall, the awakening (whatever you want to call it!) led to a deeper understanding of beauty and instilled within me a deeper desire to positively impact the skin and, even more importantly, the lives of the guests I get to see. To me, it’s not just about treat yo’ self or superficial beauty. I strongly believe that the time in the treatment room is meant to influence how we live and how we love ourselves + others outside of the spa.

Just a few years ago I returned to Southern California after several years of serving + volunteering overseas and was ready to pursue the spa industry with a renewed spirit. It was then that I discovered Primally Pure and eagerly joined the small, growing team that was creating a skincare line and lifestyle (and holistic spa!) I felt aligned with.

Today, I’m back in the beauty world and touching faces again (finally 🙂 ) and am filled with gratitude for the path God has led me on over the last decade. While it doesn’t look like a typical esthetician’s journey, it’s the one I’ve had the privilege of taking – and I trust it’s for a better, more beautiful, abundant purpose.

And The Spa at Primally Pure is just the beginning.

I hope to share more of my story, and hear yours, at The Spa at Primally Pure. You can book your Holistic Skin Treatment with me here!


Our Holistic Esthetician didn't take the typical journey in her skincare career. This is why she left the spa industry + here's how it changed her life! | Primally Pure Skincare

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Courtney O’Connor

Courtney Joy O’Connor is Primally Pure’s In-House Holistic Esthetician and Content Curator. Being in the beauty industry for over a decade, her experience + expertise with pure products, the healing power of touch and holistic skincare rituals are at the core of all she creates. She has trained extensively with industry experts across the country to offer her community the most educational content and transformative treatments. Courtney lives at the beach with her plant babies and loves road tripping, blending superfood bliss balls and exploring our big, beautiful world.