Talking Shop: No quarters for this laundry

Skin Laundry, which opened recently at Fashion Island, offers facial treatments in 10 minutes.

December 19, 2013|By Rhea Mahbubani
  • Chris Carey, CEO, left, and Elson Lai MD, at Fashion Island's Skin Laundry, which offers 10-minute laser facials to clients.
Chris Carey, CEO, left, and Elson Lai MD, at Fashion Island's… (Don Leach, Daily…)

It can take anywhere from one to two hours for the smell of clean clothes to infiltrate your senses at a laundromat.

But Elson Lai and Chris Carey were determined to do one better. They established a company that completes a laundry cycle in just 10 minutes.

There's only one difference: the material in question is skin, not fabric.

The aptly named Skin Laundry offers facials that employ medical-grade lasers. It caters to on-the-go customers, providing an alternative to the beauty treatment that in some places can take 60 minutes.

"In the beginning, it was all speculation and spitballing, but we were confident we were onto something," Carey noted in an email.

The pair set out anticipating that their core demographic would be women 30-45. Many clients are mothers, Lai said, who comment that the time spent at one of Skin Laundry's three locations has been the most they've relaxed in days. But an increasing number of men, teenagers and retirees have been equally impressed by the treatment.


Both California natives, longtime friends Carey and Lai debuted the first store in Santa Monica in May. They anticipated opening another before the year's end.

The demand quickly surpassed the supply, prompting the duo to not only set up shop in West Hollywood in July but foray into the Orange County market in October.

"Fashion Island actually came to us," Lai said.

Customers arrived in droves on opening day, ensuring that the team was fully booked within an hour of opening its doors.

An eye surgeon who has frequently used laser treatment to correct his patients' sight, Lai covers the medical side while Carey functions as CEO. The two agreed to create a clean and hip image for Skin Laundry, a nod to Southern California's surf culture.

The Newport Beach location is outfitted in white and earth tones, with silver and wooden highlights. Glittery Christmas ornaments peek out from among facial products — including a cleanser, toner, eye cream and sunblock moisturizer — and custom-branded bottled water. A relaxed vibe can be found in the way attendees, dressed in jeans and matching baseball shirts, greet clients, many of whom turn out in hoodies or workout clothes.

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