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Friday, June 17, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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High-tech avenue for skin care in Bellevue

Seattle Times technology reporter

From the private-label bottles of water to the light blond wood floors and trendy blue and white interior design, Calidora may look and feel like a day spa.

But stay for an appointment and you quickly learn the clinic goes beyond the typical moisturizers by using heavy machinery to analyze, zap, scrub and numb the way to better skin.

Calidora's first skin clinic opened in Bellevue this month to target the fastest growing segment of the $17 billion cosmetics industry — facial rejuvenation. The market includes an array of popular services, including Botox, peels and laser treatments.

The clinic is holding its grand opening today from 1 to 8 p.m. at 10708 Main St., Suite 310.

Most of the clinics that fall into this category are called "MediSpas" because they fuse medical and spa environments.

But Colette Courtion, Calidora's founder and chief executive, said her business is different because it doesn't offer traditional services such as manicures and massages.

Before starting Calidora, Courtion honed her business skills at Starbucks and Maveron, a Seattle venture-capital company started by Starbucks' Howard Schultz. At Starbucks, she headed customer-loyalty programs, such as the pre-paid Starbucks card, and she caught the entrepreneurial bug while helping out other businesses during her stint at Maveron.

The Starbucks experiences have given Calidora a coffee flavor. Courtion raised $3 million, primarily from people connected to Starbucks. Schultz has personally invested, as have Scott Greenburg, a partner at Preston, Gates & Ellis and early Starbucks investor, and Panos Marinopoulos, a Greek Starbucks investor.

Greenburg, who has also invested in Seattle-based InSpa, said he noticed Calidora has adopted a lot of the Starbucks culture by creating an experience where the customers are educated about the quality of service.

"I really believe part of the Starbucks magic is how they told [the customer] about the coffee, how to appreciate the coffee and did not try to make it a commodity," he said. "People aren't commodities. Their skin is not all the same."

That approach is reflected in Calidora's focus on advanced treatments through a three-step maintenance plan consisting of an analysis, an in-clinic treatment and an at-home regimen.

First, the evaluation is done with the Visia Complexion Analysis system, a machine that takes a photo of the client's skin. The photo is analyzed by a computer to evaluate the skin's pores, wrinkles, evenness, bacteria buildup and ultraviolet damage. The process also involves a physical analysis using laser to determine the moisture and oiliness of the skin.

The second step uses this information to determine what treatments are necessary. Some of the options are microdermabrasion, various peels, sun- and age-spot removal, Botox, or even the most costly — the Titan procedure — which lifts sagging skin by heating the skin's collagen.

The final step includes a regimen from cleansers to moisturizers to be used at home.

The whole experience can be pricey. Some services may require multiple visits and, because they are considered cosmetic procedures, they are not covered by health insurance. The initial analysis costs $100; follow-up treatments can range from $75 to $700.

Courtion said Calidora, which means the "gift of beauty" in Greek, is designed to provide a comfortable experience rather than a medical setting. It also differs from spas by making evaluations rather than relying on what a client says she wants.

Courtion hasn't skimped on the details. The Bellevue location is full of machinery that ranges from $75,000 to $100,000 each. The beauty-product lines and services are also the most-talked-about in magazines and on television.

The Bellevue clinic has about 10 to 12 employees with a plastic surgeon supervising. Courtion expects to open a second location in University Village later this year that will be twice as big.

Yesterday, a client at the clinic named Chris (she declined to give her last name) said she has already visited Calidora three times since it opened June 1 to receive the initial evaluation, a lip enhancement, Botox and the Titan procedure.

"I'm trying to stay ahead of the aging curve," said the 44-year-old. "The payoff is that people can't guess my age."

Tricia Duryee: 206-464-3283 or tduryee@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company

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