Karen Keady has always wanted to live and work in Sisters. photo by Jim Cornelius
Karen Keady has always wanted to live and work in Sisters. photo by Jim Cornelius

Karen Keady is bringing her hard-won expertise in skin care to a Sisters clientele - and opening Essentials Skincare, Spa & Boutique in Sisters is the fulfillment of a decades-old dream.

The former nurse and longtime esthetician could be in Mongolia right now - literally. After a career in nursing and owning her own skin care spa in Idaho, she had chased a Peace Corps assignment, looking for fulfilling work. But when it came, the reality of isolation and harsh living conditions gave her pause. On the advice of a returning Peace Corps volunteer, she decided to pass on the rigors of winter in Mongolia.

That left her a bit at loose ends. She'd always dreamed of living and working in Sisters, ever since she and her husband John bought a second home here 34 years ago.

"All of a sudden, I had an epiphany," she said. "It was time."

Keady has a formidable set of credentials in her field. Certified through the National Coalition of Estheticians and Associations, she has always pursued continuing education in the latest products and techniques for renewing and maintaining healthy skin.

"I study constantly, and I review," she said.

She graduated from cosmetology school in 1969 and worked in salons till she decided to go back to school to become a registered nurse. Nursing gave her deep insight into the medical aspect of skin care.

"My first job as an RN was for a dermatologist, which drew me into skin care," she explained. "That's probably the best schooling (I had) right there - learning from him."

She came to understand how skin problems are diagnosed, and that insight continues to inform her work to this day: She knows when a condition requires a referral to a dermatologist.

After a considerable stint as a hospital nurse, Keady became the caregiver for an elderly relative. Burned out after that experience, she was ready for something else.

"I thought, 'Well, I've always loved skin care; I'm going to go back,'" she said.

As is her wont, Keady pursued a rigorous hands-on course of study at the Seattle International Dermal Institute and also took classes in Las Vegas. She owned her own shop in Idaho for three and a half years.

When her husband was promoted to a new position in Spokane, Washington, she decided to make a change as well and gave the Peace Corps idea a shot. After she passed on that, she and her husband agreed on opening Essentials in Sisters. Karen says her husband's support, both moral and hands-on in getting the business location set up, has been crucial.

"He's such a great guy," she said. "He's been so supportive. I couldn't have done it without him."

The Sisters business community has also been welcoming and supportive, which Keady says she greatly appreciates.

Keady says her mission is to provide "affordable, quality skin care for men, women and teens."

With a deep level of education and experience, Keady is ready to help folks in Sisters maintain healthy skin and tackle their challenges. The new business owner radiates excitement and enthusiasm for her work, which she attributes to joy at being able to pursue her career in a place she always considered "home."

"Every morning when I wake up, I'm excited to start my day," she said.

Essentials is located at 492 E. Main Ave. To make an appointment, call 541-480-1412.