Interview with Debbie Wolf – A Cosmetics Revolution in the Chareidi Sector

More than Skin Deep

 From a small private practice out of her bedroom in Bnei Brak, Debbie Wolf has built a revolutionary empire in the field of cosmetics and cosmetic treatments with three flourishing treatment centers. The Debbie Wolf Institute of Aesthetic Medicine offers a wide range of aesthetic treatments for clients in the ultra-Orthodox sector who are not ashamed to say they want to look and feel beautiful. The Institute draws on the expertise of highly trained professionals and top-of-the-line technology, with cutting-edge equipment and a full staff of physicians, consultants and technicians.

How did you get involved in the field of aesthetic medicine?
In 1990, my husband was studying in the Ponevezh Yeshiva, and I had just given birth to our first child. We had traveled to England to stay with my parents, and the Gulf War broke out. We were stuck in England for six months because of the war, and I decided to find something to do during that time. I’ve always been interested in aesthetics and cosmetics; I feel strongly that just because you are a religious women, it doesn’t mean that you have to neglect your appearance. Modesty is not at odds with investing in your looks. The Torah requires scholars to look respectable and presentable, and the Midrash teaches us that women making themselves attractive to their husbands is credited with no less than the salvation of the Jewish People from Egypt! So I decided to study cosmetics and give other women the gift of beauty and self-esteem. After the war, we came back to Israel and my husband returned to yeshiva. I began to work with clients here, from one of the bedrooms in our home.

How has your business developed since its establishment?
We went from a one-woman show in my private home to a distinguished institute with multiple branches and a full staff of highly-trained doctors, consultants, cosmeticians and technicians. In 2007, I acquired my first laser treatment machine, and we were the first center to offer laser treatments in Bnei Brak to the ultra-Orthodox community. In 2011, we opened our first center on Rabbi Akiva Street in Bnei Brak, and a year and a half ago we opened a small branch in Kiryat Sefer, which currently offers only hair removal—but will soon offer the full range of cosmetic services. Just after Chanukah last year, we put ourselves on the Jerusalem map with our newest and largest branch.

What services do you offer?
Our services include a cosmetic treatments department, which offers classic facials, cosmetics and hair removal, and a medical department. We use the most advanced laser technology for skin conditions and blemishes, as well as hair removal; effective, safe acne treatments; Botox injections and other anti-aging treatments; professional makeup and hair services; manicures and pedicures; medical massage and reflexology; and electrolysis and wax. We are also launching our own line of cosmetic products. One of our founding principles is that we offer attractive prices but never compromise on quality and professionalism.

Can laser treatment be used for facial hair removal?
For facial hair removal, we combine laser and electrolysis treatments. We’ve found that this combination is most effective, and we have developed our own procedure that produces optimal results.

In what ways has the technology of laser treatments advanced in recent years?
Early lasers were very good, but their successors are much more accurate and safe, and produce better results. The technology is based on the same principles but does the job faster and more efficiently.

Due to these advances the cost has been slashed by around 50%. Laser treatments used to be seen as a premium luxury service; nowadays anyone can afford them.

Do you work with kupot cholim?
In Bnei Brak we have an arrangement with Maccabi, which offers its members up to 2,000 NIS in rebates. We’re working on achieving that arrangement for our Jerusalem branch as well.

Do you ever recommend a client go elsewhere for treatments?
Certainly. Our doctors specialize in certain types of treatment, and sometimes we meet a client who needs a type of treatment that isn’t one of our expertise. So we refer the client elsewhere where they’ll receive the best treatment for their particular needs. Sometimes we refer clients to a medical specialist. For example, if we notice a suspicious spot or a mole, we’ll send the client to get a biopsy.

Are most treatments aesthetic or medical?
I would say about 90% of our focus is on aesthetics. The medical side is less central to what we do, but as mentioned, we are staffed with experts who can deal with the medical aspect and can refer a client on if necessary.

What makes your service unique?
We’re 101% professional. Our Institute is state-of-the-art and we use the equipment preferred by leading cosmetic centers around the world. I am also chareidi and cater primarily to chareidi clients, so our services are tailored to the sensitivities and needs of that community. Aside from one male dermatologist, the entire staff is female. Our clinics are not street-front—they’re all on the second floor. So we don’t compromise one iota on discretion and modesty. We once asked Rabbi Kanievsky for a bracha, and his question was “Is it in a tzanua location?” We were pleased to be able to answer affirmatively.

Now that we’ve expanded, we have the market stability and power of a growing company, which enables us to offer the best equipment while keeping prices low. At the same time, we maintain the personal touch of a boutique service. Our practice is not a factory; each client is seen and treated as an individual.

How do you determine the right treatment for each client?
Every client comes in for a thorough consultation. A consultant helps us build a treatment program, and we only begin treatment after exploring every relevant aspect of what she needs. It’s very important to us that clients see that we’re not just running a business. We want them to trust us, and know that we’re looking out for them and their best interests.

How is your staff trained?
In addition to official qualifications—as doctors, nurses, cosmeticians or technicians—we send our staff members for a full training course at the biggest center for laser treatment training in the country, located in Yokneam. But a certificate isn’t enough. We require each staff members to shadow one of our veteran technicians for a week or two to ensure that they are fully proficient before we approve them for independent treatments.

What’s your current role in the company and where do you spend your time?
I mainly oversee operations, but I still have my faithful clients in Bnei Brak who won’t settle for anyone else and I still enjoy doing treatments. In Jerusalem I’m also available for consultations. I split my time more or less equally between our three branches.

Does a client’s age affect your treatment approach?
Definitely. As we age, the kinds of skin problems we contend with change. Younger women tend to have more hormone-related problems—oily skin, acne, and the like. With older women we focus more on preventing and treating fine lines and dry skin.

When is the best time to begin Botox treatments?
The earlier, the better. This applies to all wrinkle treatments in general—the deeper they are, the harder they are to treat. So I recommend starting Botox as soon as you begin to notice lines that you’d rather not have.

Tell us about your product line.
It’s a relatively new enterprise and we’re rolling it out slowly and carefully, because—in line with our general approach—we want to make sure every product is tried, tested and proven effective before approving it and moving on to the next one. We’re focusing primarily on skin care products, but we do sell makeup as well.

What is your vision for the future of your business?
Our immediate goal is to add the full range of cosmetic services to our Kiryat Sefer branch, which currently only offers hair removal. We are also hoping to expand to one or two more cities within the next six months. Our vision is to provide a full range of health, wellness and beauty treatments and top-quality, affordable products to the religious population throughout Israel.

 The Debbie Wolf Institute of Aesthetic Medicine offers a full range of aesthetic services including cutting-edge laser treatments, professional medical consultations, and a line of high-quality, affordable cosmetic products. The Institute is currently operating through three branches (in Bnei Brak, Kiryat Sefer and Jerusalem), and is hoping to expand to more locations in the near future.

The Debbie Wolf Institute can be reached at 1-700-00-401 or through their website

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